What do retailers really want from UK growers?

Blue Diamond's Alan Roper, Newbridge Nurseries' Nigel Wait, Dobbies' Steve Guy and Ian Riggs from Jersey Plants Direct discussed how UK growers can exploit post-Brexit changes, at the Garden Retail Summit.

GR Summit Plant Supply Panel: Alan Roger, Nigel Wait, Steve Guy and Ian Riggs
GR Summit Plant Supply Panel: Alan Roger, Nigel Wait, Steve Guy and Ian Riggs

Guy said British growers were not coming to him with offers of extra stock: "I am not seeing British growers taking advantage of the situation. The opportunity is certainly there."

Alan Roper, director of Blue Diamond said: "We are trying to cut our import from Holland down from 17 per cent to 10 per cent this year. We believe the trend is about local."

However, it is difficult to reduce foreign imports when growers have not adapted to year round sales. Roper said: "I am keen to support UK growers, but they need to adapt. They haven’t adapted to a 12-month plantaria and we have that…the Dutch feed us when we can’t get it from UK growers."

Guy said he had a similar, if slightly higher, English-Dutch ratio. But he said: "If UK growers are not able to supply the range of products we need we have to resort to Holland to fill gaps."

He outlined three retailer needs from a grower base: Lower delivery values, longer ranging regional stock to meet demands, consistent quality.

For more highlights from the Garden Retail Summit, click here.

Riggs said: "Retailers should consider the three C’s [when working with growers], they are: collaboration, cooperation and commitment."

Nigel Wait, director of Barnsfold Nurseries, said: "Continuity is important, retailers need the same quality of produce throughout the centre.

"Since 1975 I have managed to grow the business to cope with the retailers' expansion."

While retailers demand growers to adapt with modern consumer needs, in practice it is more difficult. Riggs said: "Growers want to expand…but we can’t get planning permission. There is only one or two areas in the country where planning permission is permitted."

He added: "There are pressures on growers. They are worrying about overseas work limitations, they don’t know where their managers and technicians will come from now."

It is important to identify trends in customer spending in order for retailers to buy the right produce from growers. Roper said the trend is disposable colours and "you should listen to the consumer and follow the trends and communicate with growers to get them to do what you want".

Wait said: "Growers will grow to the specification from retailers. We are catering for different customers and adapting."

Customer needs will dictate what retailers need from growers. Roper said: "You have to get the
colour right…we should order by colour because people will buy the colour they want."

Wait emphasises the need to trial produce to the market before taking orders. He said: "I talk to customers before [my stock] even gets onto the bench. I don’t want 20 per cent waste or indeed any waste. We should all go into the season knowing what’s going to happen."

Roper added: "We can sell more, and if growers comply they will also sell more."

Garden centres could do more to showcase where the plant was grown, delegates suggested. Roper said it is something he is looking into as he believes it is a "great message, certainly for our demographic who like that".

Riggs said: "If you go into a Bunnings in northern Australia the plants are not branded as Bunnings, they are branded as per the local nursery and they carry their local nurseries brand."

For more highlights from the Garden Retail Summit, click here.

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