before because we don’t have the experience but I do think we need a consistent approach and could lobby together. We’re not prepared for or set up for lobbying the Government but it’s something that we’ve discussed in our council meetings.” The HTA’s Gill Ormrod added: “The HTA has a policy team. There’s lots of work going on and we’re having the right discussions with the right people. We also have a Brexit page on our website.”

Malcolm: I want to make exporting and trade as easy as possible. Friction is a buzzword at the moment. The amount of money in consumers’ pockets is lower and the higher petrol and food prices are having an impact. GCA figures show that plant sales are up but restaurant sales are down. As an industry we are very resilient to price increases. Price increases of between 6% and 10% are fairly typical but we are all competing for that pound and you’ve got to work that bit harder in today’s competitive market. The Government needs to look at that and not suck it out of the consumers’ pockets with higher prices and taxes.

Simon: I’m concerned about the downturn in retail. Are there going to be some retailers and wholesalers who are going to struggle? We all want stability and, if we find that, we can work towards the new norm but, if it is always doom and gloom, it’s going to be a struggle.

The changing route to market A show of hands revealed that 50% of delegates in the room at the conference sell direct to the consumer online via Amazon or Ebay. The panel were asked for their thoughts on the issue… Kate: I would say that 19% of my

produce is sold online and I have been doing that for a while. We’re in the 21st century and the traditional garden centre has already changed and adapted to sell things like coffee. It is a versatile industry and I’ve not had one garden centre come to me and say ‘we’re not going to deal with you because you sell on Amazon’. And, if you want to look at competition, it’s not just online retailers. We only recommend a retail price and then retailers, such as Longacres, Blue Diamond and Trago set their own. I think retailers need to jump on the bandwagon and sell online. They need to switch their mindset again and I’m sure they will. We’re the supplier, they’re the customer and it’s up to them to look at how they adapt.

Simon: We don’t sell to Amazon directly and we often supply online at a higher price but they still undercut the garden centres. We can’t start illegally engineering pricing, so how can we level the playing field? We only do 20% of business with traditional garden centres. Online is growing and catching up. We don’t want to sell to Amazon directly – it would put all of our big inline retailers off. However, I think it’s an area to look at for every supplier.

I get phone calls every week from garden centres saying that something is £2 cheaper on Amazon than we sell it to them for. We do get a reaction but we can’t do a lot about it. Our

customer can sell our products at whatever price they like. You look at someone like Trago, for example, who isn’t online, so people don’t notice that they are also slashing prices.

Darren: Two seismic changes in industry are discount retailers and online. If consumers are out there and they are going online and, if the garden centres are not capturing these customers, which means they go elsewhere, then we need to look at that.

If that customer is out there and wants my product, I want to be able to get that to them. Of all gardening, 10% of products

are bought online – that’s a significant amount. You can’t ignore that. Longacres garden centre sells

more online than any other garden centre. If they cut their price, then Amazon’s algorithm picks that up immediately and matches it. I don’t think we can be precious about it. The internet is there – we can’t ignore it and we need to get on board.

Malcolm: I would rather a third party do it. There’s no way we could do it as well as an online retailer. As suppliers, we couldn’t hope to be that efficient. We want to bring our products to as wide an audience as possible. We want mass market, high volume, good value.

In the United States, online is massive. Amazon seems to be a way of life. I think that’s the way we’re going. The change in people’s way of living is astronomical. It is going to accelerate and change.

Kate: Don’t take away what the garden centres offer as an experience and destination centre. Customers still want to touch and feel.

Malcolm: People talk about price but you don’t have to be the cheapest on Amazon.

Simon: If you all put your prices up, we will all be fine and make some more money.

Darren: Service is where garden centres can win big. You need some form of human interaction when choosing what plant to buy. It’s not just like buying a CD or something straightforward. Garden Trade News’ Trevor

Pfeiffer added: “What about mail order? The garden industry has always shad this elementof buying something remotely and we survived that,” as GIMA director Vicky Nuttall concluded the discussion. Addressing delegates, she explained: “Three years ago I probably couldn’t get anyone to stand up and talk about routes to market. It was the elephant in the room. I think now that garden centres could benefit from some of the methods that suppliers are using, such as drop shipping.”

28 APRIL 2017 DIY WEEK 21

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