When will the For Sale sign go up at Wyevale GCs?
Woof! Newshound here…back and straining at the leash. So what’s cooking? The boss says people who’ve have had their ears to the walls at Wyevale GCs HQ reckon there’s something interesting about to break...
Woof! Newshound here…back and straining at the leash. So what’s cooking? The boss says people who’ve have had their ears to the walls at Wyevale GCs HQ reckon there’s something interesting about to break.
Well, I know and you know there’s always something interesting going on down there but given that the walls at Fortress Wyevale are notoriously sound-proof, news doesn’t often leak out, does it…yet, what if there’s a mole…?
Anyway, let’s rewind for a mo. It’s more than five years now since Terra Firma bought the 126-centre Wyevale chain for £276m. At the time, the group (then trading as The Garden Centre Group) was being run by Nicholas Marshall. Six months later, Marshall resigned after four years as chief executive. He will have got to know Terra Firma’s chairman, Guy Hands, during the run-up to the acquisition.
Fast forward to 2016: Terra Firma joins the bidding as Tesco puts the rival 34-store Dobbies chain up for auction…but loses out to Midlothian Capital Partners/Hattington Capital. Had it been successful, Wyevale would have had enough critical mass to excite the wider investment market, possibly even with a flotation.
Eight months later, Dobbies recruits Marshall as chief executive. Within weeks, Marshall brings a string of trusted former Wyevale colleagues who had been ousted in Terra Firma’s purge into the Dobbies fold in key positions. So the team that knew the Wyevale group inside out is now running Dobbies. Interesting, no? Some of them will have friends who still work on the inside at Wyevale…
Meanwhile, Wyevale Garden Centres is having a torrid time, forced to negotiate £100m of re-financing following losses of £122m reported in its 2016 accounts.
From now on, we are told, Wyevale Garden Centres, under its new-look leadership team headed by Roger Mclaughlan, will adopt a new strategy…dedicating more time to serving and advising customers. Like successful independents do, then? “We need to make the company more customer focused than it has historically been,” Mclaughlan is reported as having said.
So these are surely clear signals that a re-structured, re-focused and re-financed WGC is being groomed for the market – and it’s fair to assume that Terra Firma will not want to wait too long to get the business off its Hands once the financials improve.
Hence the ears to the walls at WGC HQ as we wait for the For Sale sign to go up.
Dobbies’ backers will be aware of this. Could they be tempted to make a move on WGC, a business of which Marshall and his team have a uniquely intimate knowledge?
It would create a group with full national reach from Cornwall to Invernesshire, capitalisation to attract further investment – and a management that currently appears committed to retaining plants and gardening as its primary raison d’etre.
At the age of 67, Nicholas Marshall could well be up for one more special ‘David and Goliath’ challenge.
November starts with a bang for Ponsettias
Poinsettia are poised for bumper sales right through to Christmas. GTN Bestsellers has seen the homegrown crop at Aylett Nurseries (pictured above) that are looking their best ever according to the Ayletts growing team, and Wyevale Garden Centres have announced their J’Adore pink poinsettia that is outselling the traditional red varieties...
Poinsettia are poised for bumper sales right through to Christmas. GTN Bestsellers has seen the homegrown crop at Aylett Nurseries (pictured above) that are looking their best ever according to the Ayletts growing team, and Wyevale Garden Centres have announced their J’Adore pink poinsettia (below) that is outselling the traditional red varieties.
As these great looking plants went on display, sales in the GTN Bestsellers plants chart increased by 925% to re-enter the chart at No 13, three places lower than the first week of November last year. In our year total analysis for 2017, Poinsettia were ranked No 27 in total plant sales. Will they reach a higher position in 2018?
With all these poinsettia purchases there are easy opportunities for extra sales. Poinsettia Drip feeders and Cover Pots are the obvious ones, but do make sure you have the right colour combinations. And how about adding a set of battery string lights to add another home decoration dimension?
GTN Bestsellers Top 50 sales volumes compared to the same week last year...
- Garden Products - down 4%
- Growing Media - up 5%
- Wild Bird Care - up 3%
- Christmas Products - 0%
- All Plants Index - up 14%
- All Items Index - up 4%
To subscribe to GTN Bestsellers email email@example.com
Residents at Great Sutton near Ellesmere Port in Cheshire have launched a campaign designed to prevent their local garden centre - the Klondyke Group’s Sycamore Park – from closing.
The centre, one of Klondyke’s smallest, is no longer regarded as commercially viable because of its size and the proximity of housing on three sides. Previous planning applications for housing development on the site have been refused.
Now the Liverpool-based Riverside Housing Association wants to build 52 houses and apartments there and has started consultation with the community ahead of a planning application.
In a letter to residents, it says 38 houses and 14 two-bedroom apartments are proposed, for shared ownership and affordable rent.
Residents have now started a “Save Sycamore Park Garden Centre” group on Facebook. “Considering there are many plots of empty land across the town that would make more sense for affordable housing, it begs the question why they would want to chose this site? There's no need for people to lose their jobs in order to build housing in the town,” says a statement from the group.
Previous plans were turned down because of concerns over a parking, access, loss of employment at the garden centre and protected trees.
Klondyke chief executive David Yardley told GTN Xtra the new plans had the group's support. Asked if the centre could be re-located to a more suitable site locally, he said: "We are always looking for centres or sites to invest in for the future of the business."
The new autumn/winter season saw garden centre customers stocking up on warm clothing and accessories during September, according to the Garden Centre Association’s Barometer of Trade report.
Total sales in clothing departments across GCA member centres was up 32.24% compared to the same month last year (2016).
Iain Wylie, GCA Chief Executive, said: “It’s no surprise that as the weather began to turn, customers at our member garden centres stocked up on cold and wet weather gear in preparation. These days it’s not just gardening attire that is sold, but customers can get their hands on lots of different brands and styles of clothing, shoes and accessories. Now they’re now all set for the colder weather to set in!
“Another good performer during the month was Christmas, with sales up 23.64% compared to the same month last year. While many think it may have been too early to start preparing for the festivities in September, lots of people do like to get prepared well in advance, as these figures show.
“We expect sales in this area to increase further in the lead up to December, especially as many of our member centres have begun launching their festive displays and special Christmas events.”
Houseplants sales also performed well, with sales up 15.59%. Catering was up 7.84% and pets and aquatics sales were up 3.69%.
Food hall and farm shop sales were up 1.9%, gifts were up 2.67%.
Iain added: “Due to the season, and as to be expected, furniture and barbecue sales were down -12.61%, garden sundries were down -0.91% and seeds and bulbs were down -2.38%. Hard landscaping sales were also down -4.57%, but outdoor plant sales were up 2.85%.”
The GCA BoT reports are compiled using actual sales figures and provide an up-to-date trading position statement. They are made available mid-month following the end of the prior month after all member garden centres have submitted their results.
Member garden centre sales showed an average overall increase for the month of 4.44% and a Year to Date growth of 2.87%.
Anthony Jackson, Partner at Bernaville Nurseries in Exeter, said: “September produced a mixed set of results for Bernaville Nurseries. Gardening departments including outdoor plants, seeds and bulbs and hard landscaping suffered while others such as catering, houseplants, and clothing performed really well.
“The overwhelming success for us was Christmas with sales increasing by over 76%. We hope this is a sign of a fantastic festive season ahead.”
German buyers at ‘Meet the International Buyers’ event
Buyers from a specialist German online retailer and mail order company that specialises in British products, as well as garden distributors from Germany and Romania (each with an online presence too) will be travelling to the UK on 30 November 2017 to meet with UK suppliers...
Buyers from a specialist German online retailer and mail order company that specialises in British products, as well as garden distributors from Germany and Romania (each with an online presence too) will be travelling to the UK on 30 November 2017 to meet with UK suppliers.
The Romanian company is not only looking to extend its offering in its home market, but also plans to extend online sales into some neighbouring markets in south-eastern and central Europe. The two buyers will be participating in the latest ‘Meet the International Buyers’ event which offers suppliers one-to-one meetings. The event is being organised by the Gardenex export association at its headquarters in Brasted, Kent.
The first German buyer will be from The British Shop, a large family run business that specialises in high quality British products in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Founded 27 years ago, The British Shop sells a wide variety of British products, such as seeds and bulbs, tools and practical accessories, clothing, garden decoration, containers, wildlife products and gifts. The products are also sold in the company’s store near Cologne and via a 300,000 catalogue distribution across Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The British Shop already works with some Gardenex member companies and is now seeking high quality UK items that will complement its current lines.
There will also be two buyers from Delgarda, a new German company which has been launched recently to serve the German market. It acts as a multichannel distributor and online retailer. Distribution is aimed at selling quality products to the DIY, garden, mail order and e-commerce retailers as well as other trade customers in the home and garden sector. The company is also launching a new webshop which will offer both a closed B2B facility for its trade customers as well as B2C opportunities. There will be a focus on Blog content giving news and practical advice to gardeners as well as marketing a wide assortment of garden products. The company is also looking to develop own–label products. Delgarda’s clients are leading companies in the German garden market, DIY and garden centres, including Hornbach, Bauhaus, Globus, Otto, Hagebau, Sagaflor and Dehner.
The main focus for Delgarda during the ‘Meet the International Buyers’ event will be to source products made or designed in the UK, with the emphasis on a wide variety of practical and decorative gardening products. The buyers will be looking for products that express the British garden lifestyle, such as decorative items, tools, garden equipment, seeds, garden buildings, greenhouses, landscape materials, outdoor furniture and seeds.
The Romanian buyer who will be attending the event is from Green Project SRL, a gardening product distributor and online retailer, which is also part of a central and south-east European buying agency. The company is seeking to source hobby gardening and landscape products for online distribution in Romania, Moldova, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria. Green Project SRL has participated in a previous Gardenex ‘Meet the International Buyers’ event as well as in International Buyers Connect meetings at Glee 2016 and is already buying from some UK companies.
During meetings with UK suppliers on 30 November, the buyer will be seeking practical garden products such as seeds, hobby lawnmowers, workwear, wild bird products, natural/organic products, exotic houseplants, protective fleece, garden buildings, plus miniature/fairy garden products, innovative gardening gifts and original gardening products.
Commenting on the forthcoming event in November, the Gardenex director general, Amanda Sizer Barrett said:”Our tried and tested format of pairing the visiting buyers with appropriate suppliers of the products the buyers are looking for has reaped dividends over and over again in terms of substantial new and repeat export business for the UK garden and leisure industry.”
To ensure that you don’t miss out on the opportunity to apply for 25 minute one-to-one meetings with any of the buyers on 30 November, or to find out more about future ‘Meet the International Buyers’ events for both the garden and pet sectors, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible.
SmartPlant app aims to lighten load on plant staff
London-based SmartPlant, whose digital app helps users to identify and care for their plants, has raised more than £200,000 in a crowd-funding campaign designed to help it further develop the technology - and is attracting interest from garden retailers...
London-based SmartPlant, whose digital app helps users to identify and care for their plants, has raised more than £200,000 in a crowd-funding campaign designed to help it further develop the technology.
“We shall be over-funded next week,” CEO George Williams, 27, told GTN Xtra as the Crowdcube campaing sailed past its initial target.
SmartPlant has unique features that could save retailers time and money while increasing customer retention and product up-selling. Longacres in the UK and Arboretum in Ireland are among a growing list of retail partners and celebrity garden designer Diarmuid Gavin has endorsed the product.
Customers who buy a plant at a participating retailer can use the app’s barcode-scanning technology to receive a free premium membership giving them monthly care advice for the plants they load into their ‘digital garden’, plus plant and pest identification and a chat service with more than 100 horticultural experts.
Once they scan a plant with the app, users are connected to their preferred garden centre and receive product recommendations. They can also input the plants they already own by selecting them in the SmartPlant library of more than 20,000 plants, all supported by monthly care information.
Longacres was quick to see the potential of SmartPlant for the garden industry, which has typically lagged behind in digital innovation. Beyond the benefits it provides to consumers, it can also reduce the workload of staff, all while helping Longacres to sell more products.
"Digital innovation like this in the gardening industry is long overdue, and we couldn't be happier to be working with SmartPlant,” said Michael Ainley, head of IT at Longacres. “SmartPlant's technology is already helping our customers to look after their plants and making it easier to keep in-touch with Longacres garden centres.”
In answer to those who might regard the “digitising” of the garden industry as undermining the position of highly-trained and committed planteria staff, George Williams stresses that SmartPlant is not a replacement for the human workforce. “We’re a plug-in,” he says. “We aim to make life easier for the staff
He also points out that the app brings “big data” into the garden industry, giving retailers an idea of who their customers are, crucial in an age of booming e-commerce. Due to a plethora of available purchase options, customer retention has become more difficult, yet more important than ever.
Significantly, SmartPlant’s 320,000 downloads are mostly by 25-35-year-olds, demonstrating how technology can foster an interest in plants in young. SmartPlant is currently developing its service for Amazon Alexa, so its jargon-free care advice can be delivered through the spoken word, a global first.
With a scope to allow communication between the app and Alexa, SmartPlant is planning to add a voice-recognition element to its plant care, which will allow Alexa to tell a user what plant care actions need to be taken in their garden. It will also help its users keep plant supplies stocked by asking Alexa to purchase the items they need.
SmartPlant currently offers users a free version of the app, which allows for up to three plants in their digital garden, or a full-feature premium service, both granting users access to speak to plant experts in their local area, and receive monthly advice relevant to their plants.
GTN Xtra has given it a try. It’s easy easy to understand and it works. We scanned a houseplant for an ID request and got an accurate common name identification from an expert within 15 minutes. We followed up with a request for the Latin mame and more information and this too arrived promptly.
The app should users with little knowledge of plants and gardening the confidence to know learn more and grow more – and it provides the garden industry with an invaluable link to a digitally-engaged generation.
The payment gateway at Stewarts Garden Centres crashed as 10,000 customers tried to book a visit to Santa – forcing chairman Martin Stewart to issue an apology in the local press.
After failing to book online, people swamped the group’s switchboard, and many visited one of Stewarts three garden centres as a last resort.
“What went wrong was completely out of our control,” Martin Stewart told the Bournemouth Echo. “ We increased capacity in our website but the payment gateway we use was unable to cope with the traffic.
“I know that many of you have had a really tough day,” the article continued. “We don’t host Father Christmas and work so hard to do something special for this to happen. Even if things went well we would be unable to satisfy everyone, we know demand outstrips supply.
“Everyone here has had a tough day too because they have had to cope with many very frustrated people. As always the vast majority have been amazing, understanding that what happened was beyond our control.”
(Pictured left to right): Colin Wetherley-Mein – sales manager at Vitax, Charlie Strawa – corporate account manager at ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, Paul Gooding – chairman at Vitax and Lt Col Stuart Wiles – regional director at ABF The Soldiers’ Charity
Vitax has joined forces with a national charity to become a horticulture partner for 2018.
Vitax Limited, which is based in Coalville, Leicestershire; will be working with ABF The Soldiers’ Charity to raise funds over the next 13 months through the sale of promotional packs of Q4 Pelleted Fertiliser.
Soon to be available at garden centres throughout the UK, for every 2.5kg pack of Q4 fertiliser sold, 20p will be donated to The Soldiers’ Charity.
Established in 1944, The Soldiers’ Charity is the National Charity of the British Army. Providing a lifetime of support to soldiers, veterans and their immediate families in times of need, the charity provides grants to individuals and to a wide range of specialist charities.
This is the first time Vitax has supported a charity outside of the horticultural sector, as Paul Gooding, chairman at Vitax, explains: “Historically, Vitax has supported a number of charities linked directly to our industry and we continue to do so.
“However, we have looked at other potential charity partners where we can continue to make a true difference. The Soldiers’ Charity is a fantastic organisation that has impressed with the work it delivers to serving soldiers and veterans, and we are very proud to support The Soldiers’ Charity during 2018.”
Supporting a charity outside of the industry is not the only first for the partnership as Paul says: “For the first time Vitax will be utilising the popularity of its Q4 product range to raise awareness.
“Q4 is one of our fastest selling products and popular with gardeners, which makes it the ideal product partner. It is also a simple, quick and effective way to promote The Soldiers’ Charity to the whole gardening community.”
The Soldiers’ Charity has worked with veterans of every conflict for over 70 years and takes pride in being responsive and making a difference at a critical point in peoples’ lives. It is able to do so through the work of its partners, whose funds really make a difference to its beneficiaries.
Brigadier Robin Bacon, chief of staff, ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, says: “We are delighted to be working with Vitax as a horticulture partner.
“The partnership is a perfect fit with our supporters and with our ‘2018: Every Soldier - Past, Present and Future’ campaign, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One.
“Since WWI, the use of gardening and plants has been used to aid soldiers and veterans and can be seen in our grants programme today.
“Beneficiaries of our charity have taken up gardening to improve their health and wellbeing, whilst others have pursued a career in horticulture, including the design of a garden for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
“There is a real synergy between the two organisations and we cannot wait to see how it will evolve.”
For more information about ABF The Soldiers’ Charity and how you can get involved in its wider event programme, visit: https://www.soldierscharity.org.
For more information about Vitax and its Q4 range, visit: www.gardenworld.co.uk
Everyone aspires to have a nice lawn, whether it is a beautifully manicured centre piece or simply a focal point for family social activity. It is no surprise that the combined sales of Lawn Seed and Fertilisers in the UK is estimated to be in excess of £100 million.
Although this is a huge and important category, how often do we see consumers visit a store for say a bag of lawn fertiliser and leave with just that, missing all the accessories that would help them to achieve the results that friends and neighbours admire.
Kent & Stowe are masters of space management and are experts at ‘stretching the basket’ by merchandising linked items alongside high profile product groups. This has the advantage of ensuring gardeners have all the right equipment to complete the job and most importantly creating incremental sales for retailers.
Natalie Searle, Head of Marketing commented “Customers often don’t know what they need, but help is at hand. The Kent & Stowe Lawn Care silent sales assistant display unit sited alongside fertilisers and seed provides clear pictorial guidance on selecting the right tools for the right job. Measuring only 85x120cm, this space efficient compact unit holds all 13 products in the Lawn Care range. It encourages consumers to spend more and to complete the task achieving better long term results.”
The range comprises essential products from garden rakes, cutting tools to specialist weeders including the traditional stainless steel daisy grubber. Beautifully handcrafted tools to make any job easier helping create healthier lawns all year round.
Bonnetts Garden Village opens for business
Bonnetts Garden Village at Brentwood, Essex – the first bricks-and-mortar garden centre from the owner of online retailer Gardening Express – was due to open its main store this week-end (11 November).
Bonnetts Garden Village at Brentwood, Essex – the first bricks-and-mortar garden centre from the owner of online retailer Gardening Express – was due to open its main store this week-end (11 November). Chris Bonnett has been selling plants from the site of the former Tomlins Garden Centre since late May.
Bonnett says he chose to call it a Garden Village to be different to other garden centres and to create a local hub with links to nearby businesses either as concessions or pop-up stores.
This latest phase includes a Scandinavian-themed Christmas display and a pop-up restaurant.
Subject to planning permission, the third phase scheduled for opening in late spring and will add another 25,000 sq ft, including a full restaurant offering and a bigger store with more departments and brands, plus space for local concessions.
Information: click here
A historic Christmas tradition is returning to Burford House Garden Store as they welcome back the UK’s largest and most popular Holly and Mistletoe Auctions for the third year.
The Tenbury Wells store, part of Hillview Garden Centres, will host the world-famous auctions which are held annually on the last Tuesday of November and the first two Tuesdays of December (28th November, 5th and 12th December).
Dating back to the Victorian times, the mistletoe plant is very important to the people of Tenbury for many centuries. Mistletoe is abundant on the many orchards around the market town with the plant having the perfect growing conditions in the many apple trees. Holly is the perfect companion plant for mistletoe and both Christmas staples will be available to bid on throughout the day.
The event will be hosted by local company Nick Champion, who has built up a strong reputation in property, land and auctioneering.
The auctions are open to wholesalers, garden centre retailers, florists, market stall holders and the public, with many buyers travelling to Tenbury from all over the UK to purchase the plants.
Burford House Garden Store Manager, Paul Benson said: “With Tenbury Wells being the English capital of mistletoe and it being engrained in the town’s history, it seemed fitting that the auctions should return to the beautiful setting of Burford House for another year. This year, we anticipate even more people in attendance for this traditional event, along with keen photographers from across the UK. This local Christmas tradition is not to be missed.”
For further details on the Holly and Mistletoe Auctions, please visit Nick Champion on http://nickchampion.co.uk/auctions/holly-and-mistletoe/
Santa's grottos at Squires raise money for charity
At Squire’s in Cobham, Hersham, Long Ditton, Reigate, Windsor and West Horsley entry to the grotto is free, and visitors can donate as much as they like to the local charities that Squire’s support...
At Squire’s in Cobham, Hersham, Long Ditton, Reigate, Windsor and West Horsley entry to the grotto is free, and visitors can donate as much as they like to the local charities that Squire’s support.
Entry to Santa’s grotto at Squire’s in Crawley, Milford and Twickenham is £5, and £1 will be given directly to the local charity that they are raising money for: The Olive Tree Cancer Support Centre, The Samson Centre for MS and Richmond Carers Centre.
Santa’s grotto will be open every Saturday 10.30am-4pm and every Sunday 10.30am-3.30pm from the end of November until Christmas Eve, as well as the week leading up to Christmas at some Squire’s centres.
For full opening times see www.squiresgardencentres.co.uk.
Hillier has announced the Christmas trading plans for its 12 garden centres, all themed around The Magic of Christmas.
The busy calendar launched yesterday (9th November) with each centre hosting an exclusive, invite only preview evening where guests got a sneak peek of the Christmas displays, products and offers.
Carol singers were at each centre to entertain guests whilst they tasted the new festive menu, drank mulled wine and perused the decorations, plants and giftware on display. Each centre also launched its ’tradition tree’, where shoppers are invited to write down their favourite Christmas tradition and hang a copper tag on a special tree in the centre – a spinoff of the popular Memory Tree which was part of Hillier’s award-winning Chelsea Flower Show garden in May 2017.
During the festive period, all garden centres will be offering workshops for people to take part in. During wreath making workshops knowledgeable centre staff will be teaching participants how to make their own festive wreath to take home with them. There are 1,200 slots available, a quarter of which were filled within days of bookings going live.
In November and December, Hillier’s Development Chef, Chris Search, will be hosting a cookery demonstration at five Hillier centres, showing guests how to make delicious party canapes and drinks. These are taking place at the Newbury, Horsham, Chichester, Sunningdale and Eastbourne centres.
In addition to this, for the first time at Christmas, customers are now able to reserve a table in participating Hillier restaurants for a special Christmas lunch.
Hillier has also announced two initiatives to raise money for its charity partner, Wessex Cancer Trust. Ten centres will be selling boxes of luxury mince pies, baked on site by Hillier chefs, with 50p from each box sold going to the charity. Shoppers at all centres are also invited to purchase a food or drink item in the centre and donate it at the drop-off points in store and Wessex Cancer Trust will use these as part of their support centre Christmas parties.
Throughout November, members of the Hillier Gardening Club will be able to enter a prize draw to win a 6ft Christmas tree, along with lights and £150 worth of decorations from Gisela Graham. There will also be the “12 giveaways of Christmas” on the Hillier Garden Centre Facebook page with a daily prize being revealed from 1st to 12th December.
Discussing the Christmas activity, Shelley Turner, Hillier’s Head of Marketing, who started with the company six months ago, commented: “There are three core values underpinning Christmas at Hillier this year – tradition, getting ready for the big day and bringing people together. These all come together and have inspired our Magic of Christmas theme. We spoke to our customers about what makes Christmas special for them and the overwhelming response was that it isn’t about presents and Santa, but is instead about traditions and spending time with loved ones so we wanted to incorporate this into our plans in the centres.”
For more information about #HillierXmas please visit www.hillier.co.uk, where you will also find festive news, inspiration and a series of Christmas themed “how to” guides.
Tong Garden Centre will mark the opening of Santa's grotto and its new Christmas Cabin with a two-day event which begins on Saturday November 18.
The team at Tong are celebrating the festive family fun weekend with a reduced price of £10 for the 30 minute magical journey through Santa's grotto together with a packed schedule of activities for families to enjoy, from festive entertainers and photo opportunities to face painting and food in the cabin.
Festive entertainers will be on hand from 11am on both Saturday and Sunday to engage visitors with Snow Queen sing-a-longs, Christmas cracker joke contests, quizzes and festive face painting.
The new for 2017 Christmas Cabin features free shows from Rudy the talking Reindeer, photo opportunities in the Snow Globe and Giant Festive Baubles and donkey rides in support of the Cellar Trust.
The team are anticipating a busy weekend thanks to the packed programme of activities and events, Marketing Manager Jo Dales said.
"We're delighted to invite families to help us celebrate the opening of the grotto and our special Christmas Cabin, which will be open right up to Christmas Eve.
"In addition to the special festive family fun weekend grotto price of £10, all of the children's grotto tickets will be entered into a prize draw to win a special Festive Afternoon Tea for Two in a restaurant - a nice treat for the grown-ups!
"This weekend is just the start of Tong's magical journey through November and December that includes Festive Tasting events in the Food Hall every weekend until Christmas."
Hot food, snacks and drinks will be available in the Christmas Cabin and the Restaurant throughout the weekend.
For more information about opening times and to book the grotto experience, visit www.tonggardencentre.co.uk/blog/category/events.
A retired couple spotted a lorry with a seemingly suggestive slogan on its side as they shopped for Christmas trees at Wyevale’s Barnett Hill garden centre near Stourbridge.
It said 'SEX GUARANTEED' in huge lettering, alongside drawings of two bunny rabbits…
Stunned by the innuendo, the couple, from Birmingham, captured the scene on camera.
"We were stunned to start as it was quite a shock, although we're open-minded, some people may get offended,” Clive, who declined to give his surname, told a reporter “The wife just said her first thoughts were ‘Is the driver advertising himself’?”
Because they could only to see the top half of the lorry, the couple did realise it was owned by Pets Corner and included an explanation for the suggestive slogan.
“Imagine driving down the motorway seeing this coming towards you,” Clive added.
On the Coventry Evening Telegraph website, a spokesperson for Pets Corner explained that they put the advert on their lorries as they believed they were the only pet store to guarantee the gender of their animals.
“We were acutely conscious of animals being sold in pairs, which for some species is important…only for owners to then find themselves with unwanted litters. Sexing young creatures can be difficult as you might imagine, so we embarked upon a training programme with all of the staff in stores that sell animals to teach them how to go about it," she said.
Check out the couple’s footage with this link
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Helen MacDonald appointed HTA Council representative for Scotland
Helen MacDonald of Merryhatton Garden Centre in East Lothian, near Edinburgh, has been appointed to the role of HTA Council Representative for Scotland. Helen replaces Simon Fraser who stepped down at the last meeting following his appointment to the Board...
Helen MacDonald of Merryhatton Garden Centre in East Lothian, near Edinburgh, has been appointed to the role of HTA Council Representative for Scotland. Helen replaces Simon Fraser who stepped down at the last meeting following his appointment to the Board.
Helen’s interest in plants began at an early age helping in her parent’s nursery, which led her to study horticulture at university. Before Merryhatton, Helen worked for Lauder College helping new business start-ups and then with Scottish Enterprise on the Investors in People programme. Merryhatton was a run-down market garden when Helen bought it in January 1997 and she says that developing it into the modern garden centre and café that it is today has been her dream job. Helen comments;
“I regard myself as exceptionally fortunate, I can’t think of many other industries where people are so friendly and – like me – seem to gain so much job satisfaction”.
Merryhatton has been developed with a strong focus on valuing people and the local community and Helen is particularly proud of her team who regularly win awards for their customer service.
Helen continues; “Having seen the industry gain widespread recognition for the important contribution it makes to society and to the economy, I believe that it is currently in an excellent position to move forward. I am encouraged with the direction the Association is taking to support the membership and to develop the industry. I am looking forward to joining the Council to represent Scottish member’s views.”
Christmas plants lead November upturn
After four weeks of plant sales being down year on year, the first week of November changed all that with a 14% upturn. ‘Christmas’ plants featured amongst the big movers with Hellebores, Poinsettia and Amaryllis all seeing sizeable increases...
After four weeks of plant sales being down year on year, the first week of November changed all that with a 14% upturn. ‘Christmas’ plants featured amongst the big movers with Hellebores, Poinsettia and Amaryllis all seeing sizeable increases.
This week’s highlights were:
- Helleborus sales increased by 91% to move up to No 9.
- Amaryllis were a re-entry at No 28.
- Lavandula were amongst a number of hardy perennials to see a sales increase.
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EU fails to resolve glyphosate issue yet again
but a UK company says thermal technology is the future of weed control
The European Commission and the 27 EU member states failed yet again last week to agree on the proposal for a five-year extension for glyphosate...and a UK company proposes thermal weeding as the ideal solution in a post-glyphosate world...
The European Commission and the 27 EU member states failed yet again last week to agree on the proposal for a five-year extension for glyphosate.
A vote on the proposal a meeting on Thursday of the Commission’s Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed failed to a reach a qualified majority.
A proposal will now be submitted to an appeal committee by the end of November. If there is no qualified majority this time, the Commission itself will be faced with finally deciding the issue before glyphosate’s license expires on 15 December.
Fourteen countries, including the UK and Ireland, were reported to having voted in favour of the extension, with nine against and five, including Germany, abstaining. At last month’s Committee meeting, 16 states voted in favour. France, which voted against and wants a total ban on glyphosate, said it would support a three-year extension.
Luxembourg’s Environment Minister Carole Dieschbourg tweeted that the result was a “good outcome for our health and environment”.
Meanwhile, a UK company is ramping up its campaign to promote electro-thermal weeding as the future of weed control in the absence of glyphosate.
RootWave technology from Warwickshire-based Ubiqutek delivers a high-voltage shock to weeds, killing them ‘systemically’ back to the roots by heating plant tissues to lethal temperatures. Because of the high voltages involved and need for safety training, the technology is designed for professional use only in agriculture and horticulture. It can be driven by a generator or from the mains.
The company had not responded by this week’s deadline to GTN Xtra’s enquiry about the suitability of the technology for development as a tool for the gardening market.
However, Hozelock entered the thermal weeding market earlier this year with something similar. The company’s mains-operated Green Power Thermal Weeder (pictured) delivers a thermal shock of 600C to control weeds on driveways, paths and patios via a push-button start. It carries an SRP of £119.99 but appears to be widely available from online retailers from around £60.
Wonderful boost for vertical gardening
There was a wonderful boost for vertical gardening with USP’s Wonderwall product re-entering the GTN Bestsellers Garden Products Chart at No 2, only being outsold in volume terms by Fito Orchid Drip Feeders...
There was a wonderful boost for vertical gardening with USP’s Wonderwall product re-entering the GTN Bestsellers Garden Products Chart at No 2, only being outsold in volume terms by Fito Orchid Drip Feeders.
Garden lighting continues to sell at a slower rate than last year. Compared to the first week of November last year sales volumes are down by 57%.
This week’s highlights were:
- Baby Bio Orchid Drip Feeders from SBM is the highest climber.
- Gardman’s Large Moroccan Candle Lantern is the highest new entry at No 22.
- Woodlodge Long Tom 10cm Pots saw the biggest percentage sales growth.
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Haskins is encouraging gardeners to make the most of National Tree Week with a new competition to win a tree for the garden, school or local community.
National Tree Week takes place from Saturday November 25 until Sunday December 3. First initiated in 1975, it is the UK’s largest tree celebration annually which launches the start of the winter tree planting season.
Haskins is celebrating this festival of trees by offering customers the chance to win their own Ornamental or Fruit Tree, up to the value of £50. The winner will be chosen the week before National Tree Week in order for the tree to be planted during the tree festival.
Lisa Looker, brand director at Haskins Garden Centres, commented: “We support the work of the Tree Council and their aim to inspire a quarter of a million people to get together and plant a million trees.
“We hope that with our competition, we will help encourage people to get their hands dirty and celebrate the value of trees. Entering is really simple – customers just need to visit the Haskins website and advise where they would plant their tree and why, if chosen as the winner.”
Haskins is offering 15 per cent off on all Ornamental and Fruit Trees during National Tree Week to further drive awareness about trees and their importance in a changing environment.
Alasdair Urquhart, in-house plant expert at Haskins Garden Centres, commented: “Trees are an essential element in a garden, creating interest, supporting wildlife and screening unsightly objects. There are lots of smaller trees that are perfect for modern gardens, offering multiple features such as autumn colour, interesting leaves or decorative fruits.
“To give a newly planted tree the best head start, remember to use a tree stake to help it survive strong winds and add a mycorrhizal powder to get the root system established. That way you can enjoy your tree for many years to come.”
Visit www.haskins.co.uk/win-tree-competition for details of the competition.
Haskins has centres in Ferndown in Dorset, West End in Southampton and Roundstone and Snowhill in West Sussex. For more information visit www.haskins.co.uk
Poppy feeder sales up by 57%
Gardman’s Poppy Feeder has seen another year on year boost in sales with the addition of the Boxed Poppy Feeder to the range...
Gardman’s Poppy Feeder has seen another year on year boost in sales with the addition of the Boxed Poppy Feeder to the range.
Combined sales of the loose and the boxed feeder were 57% up on sales for the first week of November 2016.
With one more week until Remembrance Sunday it would appear that customers’ love for the Poppy is holding up.
This week’s highlights were:
- Tom Chambers Half Coconutty Mealworm Feeder is a new entry this week at No 31, joining the full Coconutty in the GTN Bestsellers Chart.
- Large bags of seed are in demand as customers stock up for winter – Gardman Seed Mix 20kg is the highest re-entry at No 4.
- Gardman Hanging Giant Fat Ball is the other new entry this week – in at No 50.
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Hortipak has continued its support as headline partner for the HTA National Plant Show for the next two years.
The HTA National Plant Show is the only UK trade show dedicated to plants from British plant suppliers from seed, plug and liner suppliers to specimen plants and trees – providing the opportunity to see over 1000 plants from over 100 suppliers under one roof. With over 1400 visitors regularly attending the event is a milestone in the horticultural calendar bringing together UK growers and garden retailers.
Now in its 9th year the 2018 show takes place on Tuesday 19 and Wednesday 20 June at Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire. Hortipak have supported the show as headline partner since its inception and makes the most of the opportunity the event provides for them to showcase their products and ideas to attendees and exhibitors alike.
James Buffoni, Managing Director of Ryedale Group, Hortipak’s parent company, comments:
“The continued investment in the National Plant Show reaffirms Hortipak’s commitment to UK horticulture. Year after year we have seen new and exciting plant marketing solutions take shape around the National Plant Show, which has become a flagship event for both concept development and product launches. As a UK-based business, Hortipak is eager to continue their work with UK growers, retailers and the HTA to ensure that we all make the most of the upcoming opportunities.”
If you would like to book a stand or register for free as a visitor visit –
www.nationalplantshow.co.uk or www.nurserysupplyshow.co.uk
Alternatively, contact the events team for more information firstname.lastname@example.org
Personalised Christmas decorations and Christmas chocolates continue to dominate the GTN Bestsellers Christmas Products Chart.
Suki Angels increase their dominance at the top, outselling Chocolate Coins by Albert Premier at No 2 by 80%.
Traditional Christmas picks sold well last week with four product lines entering the Top 50.
This week’s highlights were:
- Lotus Imports Traditional Berry 3 Stem Pick is the highest re-entry at No 20.
- A Glitter Holly Pick from Jeno Floral is the highest new entry at No 27.
- Fastest climber up the chart this week is Konstsmide’s Water Filled Snowmen Lantern, up 25 places to No 9.
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Turnover up at Wyevale-owned Woodcote Green
Surrey garden centre Woodcote Green Nurseries, acquired by Wyevale Garden Centres in January 2016 but run by its former management on a semi-autonomous basis, increased turnover by 3.5% last year to £16.18m. Pre-tax profits rose to £1.55m...
Surrey garden centre Woodcote Green Nurseries, acquired by Wyevale Garden Centres in January 2016 but run by its former management on a semi-autonomous basis, increased turnover by 3.5% last year to £16.18m. Pre-tax profits rose to £1.55m, operating profit went up to £690,000 and EBITDA was £2.67m. Gross margin fell slightly to 45.8%.
Turnover at Poplars Nursery Garden Centre near Dunstable fell slightly from £3.8m to £3.77m in the year to January, with pre-tax profits at £175,000.
Polhill Garden Centre saw turnover drop from £11.17m to £10.82m in the year to December, reporting pre-tax profits of £601,000.
Briers have announced that James Worby, who has been an agent for them in the South East for 7 years, has decided to leave the Company to concentrate on his other agencies.
James has seen Briers grow from a small family business to the market leader in gardening gloves, boots and accessories.
Briers are actively looking for a Territory Manager to cover the South East.
The best of last week's
If you missed last week's GTN Xtra, below are the most-read stories...
"Garden Centre of the Future" planned for new outlet retail centre at Downtown Grantham
Oldrids & Downtown have submitted plans that include the development of a 107 unit Designer Outlet Centre; a purpose-built Downtown@Home store; a reconfigured "Garden Centre of the Future"; an indoor leisure complex; a high-tech hub / managed office space for start-up businesses; a tourist information & visitor centre and a new training academy alongside the existing Downtown and Boundary Mill stores at Gonerby Moor on the A1...
Oldrids & Downtown have submitted a planning application to South Kesteven District Council proposing an extensive and hugely exciting development of its site located adjacent to the A1 in Grantham.
The plans include the development of a 107 unit Designer Outlet Centre; a purpose-built Downtown@Home store; a reconfigured "Garden Centre of the Future"; an indoor leisure complex; a high-tech hub / managed office space for start-up businesses; a tourist information & visitor centre and a new training academy. The existing Downtown and Boundary Mill store will remain.
The scheme will deliver more than 1,700 new jobs as well as helping to secure the jobs of the 700 employees currently employed on the site. Downtown Grantham is the largest single-site employer in the area, with over 90% of employees residing locally.
Downtown say that the existing Garden Centre, which is one of the largest in the UK and a giant within the garden centre trade, presents significant potential. The design of the new store will take into account the needs and expectations of tomorrow’s customer and will look to deliver much more of an experience to its visitors.
Richard Broadhead, Managing Director of Oldrids & Downtown, is confident that the whole regeneration project can be delivered in a relatively short time-frame: “It is the right thing to do for Grantham, for Lincolnshire and for the whole region. Our project ticks all of the boxes in terms of employment, investment and economic benefit. We're in a great location with all the required infrastructure in place, so in terms of delivery we're ready to go. Included within the scheme will be an industry-leading and award-winning “Garden Centre of the Future".
Downtown hope to realise its plans as soon as possible, targeting the end of 2019.
Further details of the proposed scheme are available at www.downtowngranthamdesigneroutlet.com
RHS licensing a stepping stone to success for Kelkay
Kelkay’s highly successful licensing arrangement with the Royal Horticultural Society on the company’s range of horticultural grits and gravels has prompted both parties to explore other opportunities. As a result, that Kelkay has announcing the introduction of a range of wildlife themed stepping stones for 2018. We asked Kelkay’s MD, Antony Harker, to tell us more.
Kelkay’s highly successful licensing arrangement with the Royal Horticultural Society over the past two seasons on the company’s range of horticultural grits and gravels (which is being extended for 2018) has prompted both parties to explore other opportunities. As a result result, that Kelkay have announcing the introduction of a new range of wildlife themed stepping stones for 2018. We asked Kelkay’s MD, Antony Harker (left), to tell us more.
How successful has the RHS Gardeners range been?
We’ve established the range across more than 500 garden centres so it’s been a phenomenal success for us. RHS-branded grits and sand are appearing in growing media top sellers lists, so we know it is selling through well.
And what’s the new licensing agreement all about?
Stepping stones have been another great success story, but it’s a competitive market and we wanted to create something unique and distinctive to help our centres maintain sales and margin in this category. The new Endangered Species Stepping Stones (Bee, Dragonfly, Hedgehog, and Owl) will be launched with RHS branding for 2018.
Where did the idea come from?
The RHS already have an ongoing joint campaign with The Wildlife Trusts called ‘Wild about Gardens’. Its aim is to enhance the understanding of wildlife and celebrate the way gardeners are able to create havens for wildlife in their own patch. So when we approached them with our idea for endangered species designs for our new stepping stones, they were delighted.
What’s the financial arrangement?
For those products on which we employ the RHS brand endorsement – currently the horticultural grits and sand, and now the wildlife themed stepping stones – we pay a license fee directly to RHS. The precise nature of the agreement is subject to our confidentiality arrangements with RHS, but it is not dependent upon our sales, we make the full donation regardless of our own revenues from the products.
How long do you expect the licensing agreement to last?
We hope that we will continue to make a success of the products and that RHS will want to continue to work with us well into the future. There is no planned end date on the agreement at the moment.
So, is the license fee for the stepping stones going directly to help the endangered species?
We don’t put any conditions on payments we make to RHS, so the precise destination of the money is totally in their control. Of course, RHS work extremely hard to promote wildlife-friendly gardening through their events and online, so we know we are helping to fund those activities through the license. You can find out about their campaign by clicking here
How many RHS Wildlife stepping stones are you hoping to sell next year?
We were very pleased to get listings for the RHS gardeners range in over 500 centres, so if we could achieve similar penetration with the new range, we would be very pleased. Exactly how many depends on so many factors, but as we’ve explained, RHS will receive their license fee even if the weather is atrocious and the season’s a washout! It’s the kind of risk we are happy to take, knowing that the fee is going to support a good cause.
How are the products made? In the UK or overseas?
We have developed these designs ourselves here in the UK and they’re cast from concrete in our factory in Pollington, East Yorkshire.
Can you see further opportunities for RHS licensed product in the future?
We want to make sure we give the current ranges the best possible chance to create the desired impact first. But we are definitely not ruling out more developments in the future.
Do you think brand licensing is a force for good and will become even more important in the future?
There has definitely been an increase in this trend in gardening in the past couple of years. It’s hard to create and establish really strong consumer brands, so the licensing in of appropriate third party brands is a good option. The key is to choose the right brands with the most compelling and engaging values that appeal to our garden centre customers. For us, RHS fits our objectives and aspirations for the business and our quality range of products.
Are you talking to anyone else about licensing in other brands for your products?
No, we are focusing on the work we’re doing with RHS at the moment.
Smart Garden Products has expanded its Abingdon office export team following strong overseas sales growth.
Following her recent promotion, Elvire Beugin has recruited Silvia Staudenmaier and Sabrina Laloui to help promote and support the Smart business in continental Europe.
Smart’s MD Jonathan Stobart said: “We are always looking for talented individuals and I am delighted to welcome Silvia and Sabrina who are joining the business at a really exciting time of growth and opportunity.”
Information: visit the website
Pictured (left to right): Silvia Staudenmaier, Elvire Beugin and Sabrina Laloui
All the latest news from the world of garden centre catering
A new £1 million botanical-style restaurant at Groves Garden Centre at Bridport, Dorset is now just a few months away from completion.
Malcolm Scott Consultants’ plans for the structure ensured that it boasted an eye-catching design while remaining in-keeping with the designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in which it sits.
The restaurant is being built by Smiemens Projecten of Holland, working to detailed drawings prepared by MSC’s architectural technologist Alexandra Ginés Heiwegen.
MSC’s permission for the 176-cover facility and other site developments had to overcome a number of specific considerations in preparing the concept designs.
Chris Primett of MSC, said: “Groves Garden Centre is located within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so we had to ensure – and reassure planning officers – that our proposed structure wouldn’t have a negative impact on that.
“There were also strict height guidelines in place - the Environment Agency had instructed the centre to raise the internal floor level of its coffee shop to a minimum of 4.3m AOD above the existing ground level – meaning that our final design was going to be tall in order to fulfil those requirements.
“In other words, it had to be both eye-catching and sympathetic to its surroundings,” he explained.
The finished designs have been created to catch the eyes of the thousands of drivers and passengers travelling along the A35 - located just 10 metres away - and will utilise curved glass panes to complement and reflect the surrounding area.
Chris said: “We felt that a curved glasshouse would convey a horticultural message, both in the way the surrounding tees are reflected in the glazing and the fact that diners can see through it to the landscape beyond.”
Charlie Groves, of Groves Garden Centre, said: “We’re really pleased with the progress being made at the site now – the restaurant is really coming together and I can see it taking shape as planned.
“Catering is a huge revenue stream for garden centres, and with our existing coffee shop being such an important resource for us, we were very keen to enhance our customer offering while being sympathetic to the local surroundings.
“We’re satisfied that the finished building will do just that, and be a great attraction for locals when it’s unveiled in May next year,” he added.