“You have to create something that will make people want to visit you. We are giving them an experience.” Carol Paris

which has, in turn, afforded more space for horticulture. Currently housed in the covered plant area are autumn bedding and bulbs, as well as

imported specimens like

bonsai trees. Outside are shrubs and hardy plants, growing media, a big range of ornamental pots, and other decorative garden products.

Creating anexperience In an increasingly competitive market, Ms Paris believes the concept she and her team have created provides the business with a strong USP. “You find, with some garden centres, you all

end up

selling the same thing,” she says. “A big change has also come with internet trading. You can now buy anything you want online but you can’t buy an experience, expert knowledge, coffee and cake, and ambience online.” She continues: “You have to create something that will make people want to visit you. We are giving them an experience; somewhere people want to come and, if they pick up a few plants and gifts whilst they’re here, great…

You know

the things that will sell. There is nothing here that you need to buy but there’s plenty to inspire and get people spending.” Mr Kitching adds: “We don’t get too bothered about competitors because we are so different. There are a few Wyevales around here, a Hillier and some other local garden centres but there are not really any direct competitors.”

The location – the site of the former White Tower Nursery – provided the perfect demographic for the Rosebourne proposition, says Mr Kitching. The fact that the centre is also walking distance for a lot of locals, Ms Paris explains, will no doubt prove a further attraction


for customers – particularly given the cocktail and wine selection on the restaurant menu.

The business takes inspiration

from the Beckworth Emporium in Northampton, which has a similar food-led model and was founded by Mr Kitching and fellow director David Brown. However, he explains that Rosebourne has a stronger focus on horticulture, which coupled with the large restaurant, makes for a challenging operation to oversee. “It is quite a difficult model to run because all areas are important,” he says. “[The restaurant] is bigger than usual for a garden centre and it’s hard work to run. There are 30 members of staff employed in the restaurant alone out of a total of 80 across the whole site but we wanted to do something a bit better here and we know the reason people will come here will be the restaurant.”

Getting it right Merchandising has been used efficiently across the centre, with striking and enticing displays that showcase products effectively, and any opportunities for linked sales maximised, with clever placement of associated products that avoid looking too cumbersome or out of place. A great example is the houseplant area, with pots, relevant books,

food, watering cans and,

and other accessories merchandised either on the or under the fixture, or situated alongside in a stack of display crates.

Not missing a trick in the

restaurant area, shelving units have been used as a dividing wall between the seating area and toy department, with items on show for diners – all helping to generate an extra sale, rather than customers simply staring at the back of products or a blank wall. Some of

the seating used in the area is also for sale, giving an opportunity to ‘try before you buy’, as it were. The garden tools and sundries department is designed to look like a garden shed, with fake wooden panelling as a backboard for hanging items and on shelving units, whilst wooden crates are used to creatively display products like watering cans, daffodil bulbs, and even housewares items, in a rustic way in store. A host of pre-planted containers

are on sale throughout – from hanging baskets lined up along the edges of wooden bedding tables, to planted glass terrariums in the houseplant area – all geared towards providing shoppers with perfect pick-up lines and easy take away items. There is also a wooden fixture full of outdoor containers located outside the front door of the centre to catch visitors as soon as they arrive. These are all keenly priced, so customers also feel they are getting a bargain. With the next centre already in the pipeline, the team will be applying

what they have learned from Aldermaston and Weyhill, whilst working to tweak the format as they go but, Mr Kitching explains, it will be a slightly different project, given that Rosebourne will be trading from an existing centre in Solihull, rather than creating a new-build, as they have done so far.

He admits the new site needs investment to bring it in line with the Rosebourne approach, particularly in terms of the current restaurant, which doesn’t yet have the equipment and capability to provide the same catering offer as at Rosebourne’s two other sites. He anticipates

it could take

between 18 months and two years to get the new unit to where they would like and, meanwhile, although there are plans to grow the group further, Mr Kitching insists there is no rush. “When we get everything perfect, then we will consider another site,” he says. “We don’t want to run before we can walk; otherwise you are going to distract from what you are doing and not get the retail right.”

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