Greenhouse Canada

Features Business Retail
On Tour in England

March 6, 2008  By Anja Sonnenberg.

Whether a garden centre is situated in Canada or in England, the main
objective is the same – to offer customers quality products, excellent
service, and a unique shopping experience that differs from the box
stores and mass merchants. 

A Glimpse into Retail Gardening

Whether a garden centre is situated in Canada or in England, the main objective is the same – to offer customers quality products, excellent service, and a unique shopping experience that differs from the box stores and mass merchants.  Hosted by the World Network – Glee International Buyer Programme, Canadian Garden Centre & Nursery Magazine had the opportunity to visit three very unique and successful garden centres in central England.  These retail garden centres offer a glimpse into what garden centres in England are doing to inspire customers to spend more time visiting, shopping, and relaxing at their stores.


Notcutts Garden Centre:

At a Glance:
Company Name: Notcutts Garden Centre
Location: West Midlands, England
Established: 1958

Notcutts Garden Centre is a family-run business that has been in operation for more than one hundred years.  One of the attributes of the original nursery established in 1897 was the seed and floristry shop.  By 1953, this small shop was in need of repair and was not meeting the customer demands placed upon it.  Despite concerns that customers might be unwilling to travel the half mile from the town centre to buy flowers, plants, seeds, bulbs, the garden centre was built on the Notcutts Nursery site in 1958 – which established this garden centre as one of the first purpose-built garden centres in England.  In the 1960s garden centre retailing blossomed, and eventually more locations were opened.  Today, there are 14 garden centres operating under the Notcutts name, all located in the West Midlands area. 

Birdhouses and other wildlife products like canned hedgehog food and toad holes are big sellers in England.

Many of Notcutts’ garden centres have restaurants.  Their aim is to provide tempting, well-prepared food, sensibly priced and served in agreeable surroundings. Refreshments are available all day and the restaurants place great emphasis on home-produced food cooked on the premises. Children’s meals and play packs are also available.  Not only are the restaurants for garden centre shoppers, Notcutts encourages the public to use their locations as casual meeting points – many of the garden centers are situated on the outskirts of many towns, making the free parking at the stores a pleasant way to start or finish a trip to downtown.

Notcutts Solihull is the largest garden centre in the group and has been in the same location for over 40 years.  Besides offering customers the essential products for the garden, Notcutts Solihull has various other departments to entice customers to shop. 

Their exhibition area creates displays to provide inspiration for home and garden décor with their extensive range of garden furniture. The gift and book shop has something for everyone to enjoy.  The food shop offers tempting tastes from around the world. A child-friendly play area is available for kids to enjoy, as well as a pet centre, which offers all the creature comforts and advice from trained and qualified staff.

Blooms of Bressingham:

 At a Glance:
Company Name:
Blooms of Bressingham – Worcester Garden Centre
Location: Worcester, England
Established: 1993

One of the great British plantsmen of the 20th century, Alan Bloom, bought Bressingham Hall in 1946, and founded a world-renowned gardening dynasty that has spanned three generations.
The development of Blooms Nurseries Ltd. during the 1950s saw many award-winning new plant introductions into the U.K.  In 1962, Alan’s sons – Robert and Adrian – joined their father in the business.  They added a retail and mail order business in 1964.  Now as president of the company, Adrian is planning a massive investment program, which will involve the redevelopment of a number of existing Blooms Garden Centres and the purchasing of more.

Located three miles north of Worcester City Centre, The Worcester Garden Centre is one of 10 locations of the Blooms of Bressingham Group.  Opened in September 1993, this 18-acre garden centre services the Worcester population of 150,000 people.  A parking lot that accommodates 120 cars, plus a 400-car overspill area allows for plenty of parking during the spring rush.  The garden centre employees up to 60 full-time and part-time employees each year during the peak season.

The new garden centre facility was opened in March of 1994, with 1.4 million pounds invested in the renovations.  New points of interest added during the renovation were a 2,000-square-foot play area, and a 1,750-square-foot outdoor plant area.  The Worcester Garden Centre’s restaurant, the Black Pear Café, offers customers an inviting place to have lunch or a quick snack before continuing with their shopping.  An extensive pet department, which includes salt-water tanks and a large selection of tropical fish, can be found at the back of the garden centre.  The gift displays are changed frequently to coincide with the changing seasons.  A large Christmas display is erected in late September, which incorporated the latest trends and gift décor for the holidays.

Customer satisfaction is extremely important at Blooms. Complimentary umbrellas can be found in the nursery for those rainy afternoons.  Burlap sacks are offered to customers purchasing pots to prevent damage on the ride home. Free container planting services are also offered to customers who may not want to do the planting themselves. These are all complimentary services offered at Blooms to ensure that the customers are completely satisfied with their experience.  In 2004, The Worcester Garden Centre’s turnover including the Café was 2.1 million pounds.  Today, Blooms of Bressingham continues to strive to find innovative ways to attract customers to its stores.

Webbs of Wychbold:

 At a Glance:
Company Name: Webbs of Wychbold
Location: Wychbold, England
Established: late 1960s

Situated in the heart of Worcestershire, the origins of Webbs can be traced to the middle of the 19th century, when Edward Webb was a successful agricultural seeds merchant.  By the end of the century, Webb’s seeds had become a household name and Webbs were appointed seeds-men to every monarch in succession from Queen Victoria to Queen Elizabeth II.  Webbs seed trial ground was established in Wychbold in 1937 by William Webb, with the thatched reception building becoming a local landmark.

During the late 1960s and early ’70s, the English seed trade was transformed by a series of mergers.  Webbs Garden Seeds joined with another company and moved to Chester, leaving the Wychbold site occupied by a fledgling garden centre started by William’s son Michael in the late 1960s.

In 1971, Richard Webb, great grandson of the original Edward Webb, purchased the site with his wife Marigold, and so began the development of Webbs as both a garden centre and nursery.
Webbs owns 56 acres, 30 of which are leased to the Bransford Webbs Garden Co. – the U.K.’s third largest producer of nursery stock. Webbs also boasts the title of the largest covered retail garden centre in the U.K. – 122,000 square feet in total.

The Webbs slogan ‘Lifestyle, Gardening, Leisure’ is true to everything they do.  Not only do they offer every product a gardener could ever need, they offer the average non-gardening customer something to entice them to visit.  The food hall offers a large selection of different types of cheeses, cakes, fruit juices, Belgian chocolates, the full range of Julian Graves products and much, much more.  The Webbs Restaurant is fully licensed, air-conditioned, and seats 400.  A delicious menu of freshly prepared meals, snacks, and beverages are available in a relaxing atmosphere.  A book department with a wide range of gardening books, a clothing and shoe department, an aquatic and water gardening department, a home accessories section, and a pet department complete with food, bedding, and various small pets such as rabbits, are a few of the non-traditional garden centre departments available at Webbs.

Webbs is also the home of several other retail stores such as Garden Buildings for Leisure, Cotswold (outdoor and travel clothing store), Hobbycraft – The Arts & Crafts Superstore, and Royal Worcester (tableware, gift and crystal collection).  This retailing relationship offers a win-win situation for Webbs, as customers often extend their visit at the garden centre to visit the other shops and have lunch at the restaurant.

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