‘What garden centres can offer is on hand expertise’
Glee 2017 keynote speaker Nick Bailey highlights some industry trends and looks ahead to his talks at Glee
After 27 years’ experience in the horticultural industry, what continues to inspire you about gardening? I am often described as an expert in my field, but I see myself still a student in it. You never stop learning. It's exciting to still be learning - every day, observing, even if not actually gardening. I enjoy plants and how the environment responds to them.
You have spent the last seven years modernising the design of CPG in London. What advice would you give to a garden centre who might be looking to modernise their store?
Horticulture has woken up to needing to be customer focused, being led by the direct needs of clients. I learnt at CPG that functionality needs to work for space and spatial design was key. When I was first at CPG, we welcomed some 2,000 visitors a year, so designing for seven years later with some 60,000 visitors the space was key. CPG is a very special garden, so it was crucial to ensure the spirit of the garden was maintained, holding onto the essence of the area, and yet making it accessible. Space changes need to consider other facilities too - gift shop, loos - so it is all about ensuring the fulfilment of customer experience is maintained and that the spirit of the garden is captured.
For garden centres looking to inspire their customers, what are your
recommendations with regards to finding new and unique products?
How plants are addressed at the Point of Sale. People love plants and gardens, but sometimes don't have the imagination for grouping/pairing them together. In my experience, for nurseries to have seasonal displays with plant combinations already set up will give people ideas. It will inevitably increase sales of plants and give people inspiration too. Plants - not just from big seed companies or breeders, but ones with a bit of magic. For example, at the same time Geranium 'Rozanne' came out to a big fanfare, a smaller nursery produced Geranium 'Lilac Ice'. Similar parentage and performance but with a pinky/white flower, so keep looking at the
GCU September 2017
peripherals, having contact with the smaller growers for different varieties and products. Artisan products e.g. pottery, timber and forged iron. Support the local community with locally sourced products.
What impact will online garden retailing have on traditional garden centres, and the horticultural industry as a whole? In the last 10 years online suppliers, for example Crocus.co.uk
, have grown enormously and have exceptional customer service. It’s a challenge to keep up with their quality and diversity of offerings. What garden centres can offer is the on hand expertise which will be unique - answering questions and managing events. Customers coming to the experts, the human touch is the key.
How should garden centres be engaging with the younger generation? There are lots of products out there to interest the younger generation, for example, sun flower growing kits, equipment, bug catchers. When I was seven years old, I spent my pocket money at the local nursery and they gave me a junior discount. It worked well! Gardening clubs supported by the garden centre for children after school - parents use the café and it brings many more potential customers into the retail environment. Great engagement with youngsters and overall spending will increase!
Is there anything you think the horticultural industry and garden retailers need to do differently?
Yes. No surprises here, but there is an issue with attracting younger people to work in the industry. It's seen too much of a vocation not a career and pay should be reflected accordingly. The industry should be made more appealing and be well supported with apprenticeships and recognised/supported qualifications. Pay should be increased to make it more in line with other comparable retail industries (e.g. fashion outlets and so on).
What's on your career bucket list? I would love to be more engaged with plant hunting aspects. There are parts of the world with new plants being discovered and I would
love to be in that environment. Places like Patagonia or China: I would relish the adventure and treasure hunting and finding something new.
You are presenting three 30 minute talks on Monday September 11 at Glee at the NEC, in Birmingham. Can you give us an idea of what you’ll speak about? Emerging trends: 1. Threat to bees/wildlife and wider environmental concerns is leading to an expanding interest in eco and organic growing
2. Broadening demographic of those engaging in gardening in its widest sense
3. The broader range of Mediterranean climate zone plants species being available
How to use garden shows to promote your garden centre: 1. Stands, Displays & Sponsorship USP 2. Branding, Giveaways and Discounting 3. Clubs, Membership, Benefits & Services
Ways to engage the youth in horticulture: 1. Make more of the rising trend of youth engaging in "chefing" - vegetables, sourcing, home-grown etc.
2. 'Young Hort' and other representative youth bodies
3. The HTA and The Garden Centre Association (and similar), career shows/events
• Glee 2017 will be held at the NEC in Birmingham, September 11 to 13, with Nick Bailey delivering three talks on Monday September 11
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