Waitrose's online offer has helped to increase the turnover of plant supplier Crocus, which is the supermarket's online partner.
The companies got together this spring and Waitrose said it already has two per cent of the garden market, with plans to increase that to 10 per cent within the next two years.
Crocus co-founder Peter Clay said Crocus financial year-end retail sales are up 20 per cent. "Waitrose has been very good for us," he added. Retail turnover is up £1m- plus from £9.6m in 2012. "After very poor start it has been fantastic. Waitrose has been a contributing factor."
Clay said click-and-collect is a "possibility" with Waitrose, adding that the idea works well at Waitrose owner John Lewis Partnership and at Crocus's Surrey nursery.
Taking 10 per cent of the market is possible "because Waitrose is such an impressive retailer" and "because very few garden centres have moved on", Clay explained. "It seems to me they are very similar to what they have always been".
Waitrose is a threat to garden centres, Van Hage managing director Chris Roberts told the HTA Garden Futures event (16-17 October). "At Waitrose they're serious about online gardening. It's not like Crocus doing it on their own. It's concerning they're doing so well."
John Lewis accounts for £1bn of its £3.3bn turnover online, with £400m through phones and tablets. Company chairman Charlie Mayfield said horticulture is proving to be particular popular with Waitrose, while Waitrose head of fresh produce Simon Moore added that the supermarket's Alan Titchmarsh-backed gardening range has been successful since its launch in 41 stores. Waitrose now plans to treble its offer with 150 "pods" selling gardening goods in 2014.
Scotsdales managing director Caroline Owen said: "Certainly Waitrose are a concern because we could lose the visit. If they buy an anniversary rose outside Waitrose they might not then come to you."
Crocus is designing and growing for Del Buono and Gazerwitz's Daily Telegraph garden and Luciano Guibbelei's Laurent Perrier garden at next year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
Selling Plants Online: The Route to Success - Peter Clay, founder, Crocus
"Everything has to relate to the core of the garden centre's existence. If you struggle to articulate that, online will struggle. It all depends on the will of the retailer to mix the bricks and the clicks. Many people seem to struggle to combine the two and have issues of different pricing and range and the degree they can be e-commerce enabled. It's clearly not really happened much yet. There are two types of online buyer - the garden planner project person looking for multiple different plants they have researched who like being able to get everything from one place in one delivery, and someone looking for just one plant. That's where garden centres have an advantage but they must consider delivery costs."