Cultivating Retail, a joint conference held by GIMA and the HTA, took place on 13 November at the East Midlands Conference Centre, Nottingham. The day was hosted by Channel 4’s Cathy Newman, and gave retailers and suppliers of all sizes a great insight into upcoming trends, how to target millennials and Gen Z, and also how to improve the retail supply chain.

HTA Marketing & Market Insights manager, Dave Denny, opened the day by giving an overview of how 2018 has played out so far within the industry, with the freezing start to the year and then moving onto a baking hot summer. He discussed how Brexit poses uncertainty in consumer confidence, and the near certain disparing tone in the media will only increase this. There will also be uncertainty when it comes to logistics and supply and the effect that Brexit will have on this. Plant health may also come into play with potential stories in the media with plants being held in Dover. 

The environment and plastics will continue to be a key topic in 2019. There is also more a push from consumers for designing products to facilitate recycling, and a charge for single use goods. People want better recycling collection facilities, for the industry and retailers to reduce plastic packaging, and better education around plastics.

Dave highlighted how Waterperry Garden Centre promote to their customers that they can recycle their cleaned Waterperry plant pots at the centre to help the environment.

Xylella could be hugely disruptive if it comes into the country. Ferndale Garden Centre have been proactive in educating their customers about the risks of Xylella and not bringing plants back from holidays.

Technology development has meant that in excess of £1 billion is spent on garden products and plants online. Initiatives such as Amazon Go have meant that the gap between online and instore is being reduced and this trend will continue to grow. In order to continue to bring customer into store, businesses are offering more and more that moves away from their original purpose.

Health and well-being will also continue to be a key trend in 2019. The volume of Google searches regarding mental health between November 2014 and October 2018 has grown exponentially. There is also a trend in public parks for areas that are dedicated to being areas for mindfulness. 

The key points for 2019 include agility – rehearse and plan for shocks in terms of Brexit, Xylella, plastics etc. Ensure you have a communications and contingency plan in place. Technology – productivity vs the personal and experiential. Untangling and understanding the changing consumer journey. The need for a narrative – experiential, learning, environmental, and health will present opportunities and resonate.


Ken Hughes, consumer shopper behaviouralist, then joined us to discuss ‘Is your Supply Chain Millennial ready?’. He posed the question of‘What lies ahead?’ The pace of change at the moment is so disruptive that this is always a hard question to answer. There are six generations of consumers walking through the doors at any one time. Ken defined for the audience the difference in Babyboomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z, and gave the example of how the music industry has changed for each of these generations. The way that this has changed should be no different to how you should approach your retail strategies.

The change in technology has meant that even the way that Generation Z communicate with each other has changed. When asking how far away someone is instead of giving a time or distance, they give the definition in the price of a taxi or uber.

Urban development poses a massive threat to the gardening industry, but also a huge possibility in regards of how gardening can be brought into urban environments. The millennial generation do not see the value in buying a home. They want flexibility to be able to move easily. New housing developments for renting in London do not have any green spaces. We are moving in the generation where people want ‘access to’ rather than ‘ownership’. When you can rent something, why buy it? People want to be able to work in a way that works for them, not stuck in an office all day.

When Steve Jobs launched the Smart Phone, even he did not know the effect that it would have on society. Autonomous cars will have a bigger impact than the smart phone. The development of AI is only at the very beginning. Google Assistant is developing the intelligence to me able to make calls for you, such as booking hair appointments. Not only do there have to be B2B and B2C systems in place, you will also need to think about B2M, Business to Machine.

The old ways of working won’t open new doors. Think about relevance. Ethernet cables are still available in all hotels, but often there are no plugs next to the bed. Which is more important to your customer?

Don’t get to the point though where you have technology for the sake of technology. Make sure it is relevant and useful to your customer.

The ‘Blue Dot consumer’ will be the next generation. Instead of a traditional map where you need to know where you are and where you need to go before you do anything, the Blue Dot Consumer is now used to the world revolving around them.

Personalisation is more important than ever, and consumers want content that is personalised exclusively to them. Never treat your customer like a transaction. Make them feel like what you are offering them is made exclusively for them. To do this you need to know who they are, that they want, and what they might want and need next. Instead of ‘shouting’ at them like traditional advertising, start a conversation with them. Make sure as well that you think about when your customer wants to be spoken to. Get it wrong and its noise; get it right and its contextual.

There is also the need to give experiences now. You now are what you experience and share rather than what you own. We are no longer a possessive culture. Create a memorable and shareable experience with your brands. Make what you do highly shareable.

Capitalise on this and if you want to look like you are tackling plastics, let people pay for their coffee with recyclable plastics one weekend. Satisfying your customer is no longer enough. You need to climb up to exciting them and delighting them.

Ken finished his talk with the quote of, “If everything seems under control, it just means you aren’t going fast enough.”

Ken also gave his own write up of his session which can be viewed here.

Global consumer culture and futures analyser, Will Seymour, The covered ‘How is technology in the home, in the retail environment, and in the consumer’s hand changing expectations of shopping?’. Will said how we are now in the age of retail experimentation. A lot of the things that retailers are doing don’t expect a ROI, but instead are marketing and PR strategies. Engaging with latest haptic technology can take AR campaigns to the next level of interactivity. The Foresight Factory predict that augmented retail will also become more important, and 45% of 16-24 year olds will be using AR apps monthly by 2022. Thomas Cook have developed a store that includes Virtual Reality, and lets them experience the holiday before they book it.

New consumer demands means that the way that people shop is changing. There is an increase of people ‘wish listing’ for pleasure, not just because they have a birthday or Christmas coming up. The path to purchase is different for everyone now. People want to spend more time on this to make sure they make the right purchase. Visual searches are also becoming more important. 80% of smartphone users use their camera every week. Visual filters where people can choose visually what appeals to them changes the customer journey. 60% of consumers are interested in using AR to see how products will look in their home. Alp Stories have developed the personalisation of products to mean that a consumer can choose the ingredients you do and don’t want in your cosmetics, and then see a robot create it for you there in front of you. 68% say that entertainment should be about learning new things as well as having fun. Sephora have brought in technology that allows the consumer to learn about how to use the new products they want to purchase in store. This happens even before a customer interacts or asks a human being for help.

Paths to the future, how to respond to the likes of Amazon? Join them? This works well for a non-competitive sector. Ikea have responded by trying to do convenience better and offer a ‘farm on wheels’ that gets sent around your neighbourhood. Ikea may be able to do this better because they have more trust and a story than Amazon do. Leveraging brand trust where possible is more important than ever. ‘Waitrose Live on the Farm’ meant that they were live streaming what was happening on their farms and showing that they can be trusted and displaying this in areas such as train stations. Another start-up called ‘The Library of Things’ have created a borrowing centre for objects through setting up a shipping container full of donated things that people can borrow for a small fee.  Is it important to be more minimal or curational? Work against the paradox of choice and make things easier for your consumer.

Trewin Restorick¸ founder of Global Action Plan and founding CEO of Hubbub, a charity that makes environmental issues fun, talked

about sustainability and business inspiration in a new era of sustainability.

As part of the garden industry, although it means there will be more scrutiny about what businesses do, it does also mean that you are at the forefront of what can be done in the world of sustainability. Hubbub focuses on Food, Fashion, Homes and Neighbourhoods and making the public interested in the environment through these key four topics. Things are done in a fun and positive way rather than focuses on the doom and gloom. The actions were also made far more important than knowing who Hubbub were.

This year we have seen more weather warnings than ever before. The effects of Global Warming are becoming more and more evident and it is clear that something needs to be done. The path we are on is just not sustainable.

The public are a little skittish at the moment as there is a large mistrust in government and companies. This has given a far greater space to credible voices such as David Attenborough and Jamie Oliver. There is a cultural divide between urban and rural, and young and old. Social media creates a value/action gap, particularly amongst millennials. There was a social uproar regarding coffee cups, but coffee sales never went down. Austerity is still a harsh reality. There is an uncertainly creating a trend towards ‘nostalgia with a twist’ and move towards hyper-local solutions. This poses a great opportunity for garden centres.

Corporate Response has resulted in a mass of individual announcements. Iceland has ditched plastics, Wetherspoons have ditched spoons, and Waitrose have said you can no longer get a free coffee unless you bring a reusable cup.

Companies should respond by collaborating, creating strong narratives, consider the messenger, and go local – talk national, and be topical.

Trewin discussed the ‘The Plastic Pact’ – A commitment from 42 companies to achieve by 2050, eliminating problematic or unnecessary single use plastic packaging, and for 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable.

Can you make coffee cups recyclable? Hubbub collaborated to deliver cup recycling campaigns to Manchester and London. Six million cups were recycled. Three mills can now recycle coffee cups. Costa provide £70 per tonne to recycling industry for recycling cups.

Buxton Water have worked a way to give plastic bottles have a value. They collected 8,000 discarded bottles from the Ride Event in Green Park. Bottles were then used to make a boat from 99% recycled plastic. The boat is moored in Docklands taking children and businesses plastic fishing. A second boat was launched in September.

Community Fridges is another initiative maximising on the hyper local. A network 50 Community Fridge in the UK in the next 12 months. Enable community groups to easily share learning and experiences. A collaborative approach involving a wide range of retailers. Fridges are saving on average 0.5 tonnes of perishable food a month.

There was then a ‘Plastics in Horticulture Panel’ session, with panellists including David Chilvers (The Bransford Webbs Plant Company), Andy Merrick (Farplants), Adam Wigglesworth (Aylett Nurseries), Mark Portman (Evergreen Gardencare) and Nick Mathias (Floramedia). Discussing their thoughts on the issue of plastics, Adam Wigglesworth said that the biggest challenge that they face is the fact that the issue is so much bigger than they are. Nick said he believes that collaboration will be key to tackling the issues and the label and pot producers can help find the answer by talking to each other. Mark believes it is about finding the best alternatives available, especially when it comes to growing media packaging. Andy has said that they have already started on the journey, but disposing and recycling is most important to highlight where this can be done. Andy says it is all about looked at sustainable models to make sure the plans in place work for everyone.

Andy then continued to say that honesty is integral, and that a lot of garden centres thought that councils were previously recycling the plant pots when the reality was that they weren’t. Taupe pots are a start of the solution, but it is a long path that is only at the beginning. It is a huge step in the right direction however to ensuring that the plastic does not end up in the environment. Plastics will continue to be used as currently alternatives have been looked at and are not sustainable. Mark has said that although there has not been an increase from the public asking how they are using and recycling their plastics, it has become high on their agenda nevertheless. Andy said that they are looking at using taupe trays to transport trays moving forward, and David mentioned using cardboard trays. Returning trays does not seem an option due to costs and logistics, but ways that the trays can become recyclable or compostable may be a solution. Adam said that he has seen a huge increase in the publics interest in how they are dealing with their plastics and he thinks the solution lies initially with the manufacturers and growers. Nick believes that kerbside recycling is far more important than putting the onus back on the supplier or manufacturer, and an education on how the public can and should be recycling their packaging. Adam believes that if the public feel that they are doing the right thing by doing so, they would be willing to pay more for a product. David however believes that if this is the case, it wont be much.

Paul Pegg, Supply chain expert and Operations Director for Reynolds CS, then continued the afternoon discussing optimising the

retailer/supplier relationship. The points he covered where:

  • Challenges in the supplier and retailer relationship include seasonality, transport costs & driver availability, Brexit and e-commerce disruption.
  • Some of the challenges in the food service industry include food safety, traceability and security, shelf life, nutritional information, allergens & labelling and cool management.
  • Trends in food service - customers – de-skilling, customer time, sustainability and localising.
  • Assisting in store – Order portals, order proposals, merchandisable units and store room management.
  • Logistics efficiencies – Dynamic route scheduling, unattended deliveries, time/notified deliveries and in bound supply chain.
  • Sustainability – Reverse logistics, re-useable packaging and electric vehicles.
  • Technology -WHM, scanning, voice picking, telematics  and on board vehicle technology
  • And in the future… - connectivity, robotics & autonomous.

 There was then another head to head panel session including retailers and suppliers discussing the supply-chain issues. This included panellists Adrian Davey (Hozelock), Keith Nicholson (Westland Horticulture), Caroline Owen (Scotsdales), David Hibbert (Stax Trade Centres) and Boyd Douglas-Davies (Hillview Garden Centres). Boyd discussed how they get a better margin on Christmas stock, and a lower margin on gardening as the exit route is not as clear. ‘Just in time’ ordering is increasing.  Caroline says that sharing in data and data management is vital in keeping the supply chain running smoothly, and David agrees with this. Emailing invoices is also important so that they can be received in real time and there is no chance of them being lost in the post. David also mentioned how there are still issues within the industry regarding how the orders are received. There are still orders that are faxed through or written on hand written notes and this can cause delays in deliveries. Keith however backed the industry to argue that an order is an order, no matter how it is received, and the way that the customer wants to handle theirs orders should be respected. Keith feels that technology is something that will rapidly develop through the industry and the requirement for it increases from customers. Boyd says that great companies to them provide great advice, training in the products, and then provide what they need when they need it. When a supplier can offer them this, they give them an open view of their store sales and information. However, he feels there are too many sales reps who are only interested in going in and making the sales. There is trust needed between though who are meant to come in and help us, and those who need to get on with their jobs instore. Caroline agrees that the relationship is key in regards of the product knowledge and the merchandising that is provided when the product is brought to the store.  

Adrian agreed with what Caroline and Boyd say and they want staff who a understand both sides of the picture, and handle the relationship better because of this. He would ask the retailer to handle the relationship with the supplier by focussing on the consumer.

Claire Harper, leading business figure, then ran the promoting your business session on how to surprise and delighting customers.

The three points she wanted the audience to take away were:

  • Knowing your customer, Research the market, Go above and beyond
  • Your colleagues are the heartbeat of your business and make your business a success
  • Your brand – you have to be passionate, protect, and have a clear mission, vision and values of your brand

Listen to your colleagues and make sure they are feeling valued, empowered, and a vital part of your business. Without having stores during their launch, Ocado had the benefit over its competitors of not having stores to worry about or to bolt them down. They also wanted to ensure when it came to their drivers that they were hiring the best customer services representatives, and making them the drivers of their fleet, which in itself promoted what their brand was about. They gave their staff the tools and empowerment to put things right when they went wrong.

With family businesses there is so much passion it runs on a day to day business. Moving forward you need to be planning more for the future and planning strategically.

You have the great opportunity that a family can come into your destination store, instead of a shopping centre, and have a day out as a family.

Claire believes success looks like where she started – spend the time and invest in finding out who your customers are. Customers are incredibly savvy, but if you can give customers and experience that in consistent and exceptional, delivered by fantastic colleagues, it is a step towards gaining their loyalty.

Alan Roper, Managing Director of Blue Diamond Group, closed the day covering ‘Style, Emotion and Innovation for the Home and Garden’. He covered the traits that are needed for success which included:

  • Have a winning mentality – be demanding, relentless and challenging. This doesn’t have to be in a negative or a bad way, but you need to have the drive to succeed. You need to want to be the best and different from everyone else Be the sheep that goes off in a different direction and does something different. Refuse to be judged and influenced by conventions or the norm, otherwise this prevents you from innovating, reinventing, tearing up conventional approached and daring to be different. Even if you do fail, you don’t want to look back and wonder what would have happened if you had tried.
  • Strategic nous – common sense. Understand retail is a challenging environment and its evolution is faced paced. Be resilient in delivering your strategy. When you go into stores you want to feel comforted and nurtured by the merchandising, not overwhelmed and confused.  Understand the retail landscape that surrounds you. Understand your competitor’s DNA. Ensure you offer your customer a point of difference, thus avoiding head on collisions.

There had been a boom in room fragrance and foliage. When you walk around the store and you come across the room fragrance section following on from being in with houseplants and foliage, it doesn’t jar you.

  • Low ego. Ego is made up of the following traits. Self-esteem - good. Self-importance – bad. Use the first trait of ego to allow you to believe in yourself along with your belief in delivering a point of difference. Passion, not ego, should drive you.

Passion + Vision = Success

Look at going direct to the individual small business to stock. Not only are you supporting small businesses, but you are also offering your customer something they cannot receive elsewhere. This works especially well with books and greetings cards.

  • High EQ (emotional intelligence) – Develop a relationship with your team and your customer. That connection is important. A strong customer connection is vital. Alan looks at all the Google reviews and responds to them all. Deliver a retail experience that will relax and nourish the customer, raise endorphins and make them feel good in order to raise their spend, you customer profit and retention.

Developing staff within your store means that you can find people who fit your values, and develop their skills over time.

Inspire devotion. You need a passion and a strong vision. Appoint people that get it – don’t waste time arm wrestling. Don’t try and put round pegs in square holes.

In their cafes all the food is cooked in kitchens on display, so nothing is hidden away out the back. This helps to add to the experience of the store.

Be focussed. Set a benchmark. All commercial decisions must be anchored in analysis.

Cathy then wrapped up the day saying how agility is the watch world. Focus on trying to catching up with the ‘I want it now’ generation. As much as technology needs to be adopted, you need to make sure that it is done well. There is an agreement that there is some catching up to be done in the industry when it comes to the supply chain.

The day was then topped of with a fantastic dinner where Adam Taylor, HTA President, discussed the presentation of the Pearson Memorial Medal to Baroness Fookes. Greenfingers Ambassador, John Ashley, then discussed the current and upcoming projects for Greenfingers, also thanking the industry for their ongoing support. Rounding up the evening, GIMA President Richard Pyrah, the introduced the after-dinner speaker, James Golding, who gave a compelling, honest and uplifting talk of this life experiences and motivations including how he has survived cancer twice, had less than 5% chance of survival, re-learnt to walk, been hit by a truck riding across the United States, had two children he was told would never happen, raised over £3 million for Cancer Charites and is now a Guinness Seven Day Cycling World Record holder after riding 1,766 miles. He finished his speech declaring how he was going to win the Race Across America; we wish him the very best of luck!

Many thanks to the Cultivating Retail sponsors, Evergreen Garden Care, Glee, Dura-ID Horticulture, Hozelock,  MorePeople, Stihl, Swan, Corby & Fellas, Smart Garden Products and Lechuza.


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