Supermarket chain continues its gardening push

Waitrose is continuing its move into gardening with supermarkets to be built at three garden centres - Garden Centre Group's Northampton site, Notcutts in Bagshot and Garden & Leisure's Shrewsbury Percy Thrower premises.

Waitrose has also launched an online TV channel, is sponsoring The Daily Telegraph garden section and opening 150 outdoor "pods" to sell garden plants and products in 2014, up from 41 in 2013. Crocus is supplying the online offer and Verde the pod offer.

Former Waitrose and Haskins executive Philip Evason, who now runs Supply Chain Procurement Solutions, said Waitrose's move into gardening could help the industry. "Suppliers and growers will have more opportunities for placement of products with wider distribution.

"Both retailers and suppliers will benefit from consumers having greater awareness of gardening due to the marketing effort. This halo effect has driven many retail markets." Organics and fresh fish are examples of Waitrose's success in new markets, said Evason.

He added: "As well as having a strong following of middle England customers, Waitrose is a trusted brand and therefore likely to appeal to the younger, novice gardener, and a category of customer that has, in the main, eluded established garden centres. Bringing new people into gardening should be welcomed by the industry.

"My main concern is that the multiples tend to hunt in packs - where one goes, others follow. We are likely to see greater interest in the sector resulting in more distribution channels. When garden purchases make their way onto the regular food shopping list, longer term it may result in fewer visits to destination garden centres.

"With greater emphasis on product selection, inventory control and supplier collaboration, garden centres can increase revenue by investing capital to introduce new product categories."

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