to bread and baked goods. There is a butchery concession run by Butchers & Sons, a deli, and rows of chillers brimming with premium ready-made meals from the likes of Cook and Field Fair. Rosebourne puts real emphasis on ‘local’ and ‘fresh’, even stocking locally- produced beers, ciders and wines. This ethos extends to the rest the business, which sources


locally-grown seasonal bedding plants, where possible. As well as providing a point of difference and creating a regional offer, it also helps build strong links within its local community – something Somerton CEO Carol Paris believes is the very essence of what a garden centre should be about. “I find that the garden centre is often the centre of the local community,” she says. “People take ownership and say ‘come to my gardencentre’.” As well as the food hall, there is a 180-cover restaurant providing table service and an extensive menu, with an array of breakfast items like eggs royale, and lunchtime mains, including slow-cooked beef chilli, smoked haddock and mozarrella fishcakes; even a Sunday roast – all made using ingredients sourced from local suppliers, including its own butchers. The

restaurant also offers a

luxury afternoon tea, complete with a tipple of choice – not to mention a gluten-free option. To summarise, without detailing the full menu, it’s clear the eatery has been set up as the star attraction.

A reason to visit Garden centres have evolved over the years to broaden both their offer and appeal, with many creating a destination centre, complete with homeware and gift departments, toy sections, clothing and fashion accessories, play areas and cafes – all with a view to weatherproofing a very seasonal business. And, naturally, the eateries have grown to become an increasingly important and lucrative part of the business for a lot of firms. But, rather than view its catering proposition as a welcome addition to the centre’s offer and a way to increase customers’ dwell time in store, the management team at Rosebourne describes the restaurant at the Aldermaston site as “the main and most important part of the whole place”. They are of the opinion that it will be because of the restaurant that people will choose to visit the centre, and the retail offer is there to tempt them to make impulse purchases afterwards. Ms Paris says: “Garden centres have changed over the years. Before

you used to shop the garden centre and plants, and the restaurant or café was ancillary. Here it is the place you choose to come to for lunch because the food is amazing and then you shop the garden centre afterwards.” That’s not to say that the horticulture side of the business has been neglected. Rosebourne director Jon Kitching insists a lot of focus is still put on ensuring the plants and garden offer is high quality and up to the standard its customers expect. And, the plants did look fantastic during the preview day DIY Week attended; well merchandised and visually appealing, ready to entice a well-fed or watered visitor to pick them up. “It’s about impulse buys, so it’s very much about what’s looking good at that time,” says Mr Kitching, adding: “but we do also have an ‘A-Z’ area if customers are looking for a particular plant.” Having knowledgeable staff on hand to advise customers is also a key part of the service Rosebourne wants to provide and it has worked hard to make sure it has the right people in place to support the horticulture side of the business. Customer shopping evenings

with special discounts and a loyalty scheme help bring people through the door and make them feel special, with plans

to start introducing

in-store workshops in the future. Far from the retail offer being an afterthought, as some might assume from the comments made about the food aspect of the business, the team at Rosebourne has worked at

building what it believes to be the perfect proposition for the centre’s target customer,

streamlining the

garden offer to focus on what Mr Kitching describes as the attractive side

of homewares, gift

gardening, as well as and, currently,

Christmas, which is also a big category for the business. “We are not a big garden

centre here, so we don’t do hard landscaping, garden machinery or aquatics, for example,” he says. “We leave that to the DIY retailers. We do more on the ornamental, attractive side of gardening – not too much of the hard-work stuff.”

Between the food hall and

restaurant, food accounts for 50% of sales. “That’s one of the reasons we didn’t call ourselves just a garden

centre,” says Mr Kitching. In fact, Rosebourne’s first site in Weyhill, which started trading towards the end of 2016, boasts a £1.9million turnover for the restaurant alone. The team has been very savvy about what will lure people through the door. But, equally, a lot of attention has been paid to getting the retailing right to get people to browse and spend once they are there. The garden shop offers housewares, kitchenware and gift lines, as well as clothing, birdcare, garden tools and outdoor living ranges. There is also a houseplant offer, although Mr Kitching explains: “we don’t do a massive range… we see it as part of gift really.” Aldermaston has a larger plant area than its sister centre in Weyhill,


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