Roger Crookes cites passion as key garden centre sales driver

Consultant urges garden centres to inspire their customers with plant ideas and colourful displays.

Horticulture retail consultant Roger Crookes has said a passion for products being sold is essential for garden centres and their suppliers.

He told growers and retailers attending a British Protected Ornamentals Association meeting at Meadowcroft Garden Centre in Essex that they had to think like their customers.

"If you lose passion for your product you have to get it back," he said. "That passion will rub off on staff and customers."

Crookes suggested that messages in the media about the benefits of single flowers for wildlife could increase demand for these plants this year and that Union Jackthemed products would also sell more.

Among his suggestions for boosting sales were colourful background displays, painting benches and demonstrating how plants could be grown and displayed in the garden. Endcaps sold seven times more products than other displays and so it was important to make them work well, he added.

"We need to be doing more than just selling a plant - people buy ideas," he said. "We need to show them what they can do. Gardens are getting smaller and the more we can show people how to garden in containers the better."

Crookes also pointed out that catering was now an important part of garden centre business.

"Good catering can mean people make visits once or twice a week, instead of once or twice a year," he said. "That's a lot of visits and catering is how garden centres have grown their business."

On the agenda - Sector advances

The British Protected Ornamentals Association event also included talks by LS Systems sales director Darren McDonald on water collection and storage equipment, ProVeg consultant Clare Dyson on new varieties of edible ornamentals and Seeds of Success commercial director Simon Whiteley, who presented his hardy petunia Vesuvio range that flowers from April to October and can overwinter for a second year.

There was also a tour of WD Smith & Son nursery, including its recently installed wood chip-fired biomass heating system.

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