WD Smith thwarted in charity initiative

Plans to donate poppy pack sales proceeds to Royal British Legion hit the rocks because of pre-existing commercial deal.

Mr Fothergill’s: poppy sale proceeds will help Royal Hospital Chelsea
Mr Fothergill’s: poppy sale proceeds will help Royal Hospital Chelsea

Bedding grower WD Smith has joined several companies keen to donate to the Royal British Legion who have been told that their money cannot be accepted because of an exclusive deal between the legion and B&Q.

Kings Seeds (HW, 10 December) and Mr Fothergill's wanted to donate through World War One centenary poppy promotions, but the legion turned them down because of a deal to raise funds via B&Q, which has been supplied by a UK seed company that is not allowed to publicise its involvement.

WD Smith director Michael Smith said: "I was going to grow a poppy pack to sell for charity and contacted the Royal British Legion, but unfortunately they told me they couldn't do anything because they had signed a deal with B&Q.

"I was disappointed. We wanted to do a poppy pack with £1 going to a veterans' charity. I was going to do green plants. The last thing you want is flowering poppies to be on garden centre shelves because they shatter and the petals go all over the place. They're not a bedding plant. Poppies are a nightmare as soon as they come into flower.

"Usually they wouldn't sell mainly because the seed is so cheap and you can grow them easily yourself, but this would have been a nice product to commemorate 1914. I thought it would be great. I'm sure it wouldn't have trodden on B&Q's toes. I hoped to raise £4,000 for charity."

Kings Seeds will now share a percentage of the proceeds from the sale of its Victoria Cross Poppy and Field or Corn Poppy, with children's hospice garden charity Greenfingers and the Victoria Cross Trust.

Mr Fothergill's retail marketing manager Ian Cross had the same issue, with the same Victoria Cross Poppy. The company is supporting Royal Hospital Chelsea with donations of 25p per £1.85 packet of 250 seeds from countertop displays that will be in garden centres at the end of January.

"We did approach the Royal British Legion early on and were told the same thing as Kings," said Cross. We've worked with Help for Heroes before but they said they had a gentlemen's agreement with the Royal British Legion not to do anything with red poppies, so we decided to work with Chelsea Hospital, where the Chelsea pensioners live." The fundraiser could potentially make £4,500.

Charity seeds - Supporting good causes

While B&Q wants to "carpet the country" in poppies, Suttons Seeds aims to create a 20-mile, 330,000-seed poppy avenue in memory of Northlew.

The Devon village lost proportionally more enlisted men than anywhere else in the UK - 24 out of 100 men.

Meanwhile, Unwins Seeds is helping a Poppies for Schools campaign in Peterborough, East Anglia and Yorkshire. Unwins Poppy Californian Superb Mix is its most popular seed at £1.99 on the company's website.

Thompson & Morgan's Wild Poppy is available for £2.69 with 10p going to Royal British Legion Industries - a separate charity to the Royal British Legion - for each packet of Poppy Flanders seeds sold. The proceeds will go towards providing work and support for disabled former servicemen and their families.

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