Specialist cookware and home-grown food present year-round sales opportunity.
GIMA director Neil Gow told The Housewares Conference in London's Grosvenor Square that garden centres are missing a trick if they do not take advantage of the grow-it-yourself 'phenomenon' and incorporate a cookware offer into their existing business.
Mr Gow was specially invited by the organisers – Housewares Magazine, and housewareslive.net – to share his knowledge and thoughts on garden centre retailing and cookware.
During his presentation he focused on the business value of grow-it-yourself (GIY), incorporating a 'specialist cookware' offer, and explained why cookware is a 'good fit' within a garden centre.
Mr Gow said grow-it-yourself was an opportunity too good to be missed – "once you grow it yourself, you will eat it," and supported the comment with analysis indicating growth of up to 60% (year-on-year) for the GIY category.
He added that one retailer recently reported substantial sales increases over the last three years: 2006 over 2005: 31% up; 2007 over 2006 28% up; 2008 over 2007 68% up.
He held up Webbs of Wychbold in Worcestershire, Armitage's in Huddersfield, and Dobbies as progressive retailers whom have a food hall/delicatessen type concept and ones who are "actively going out and making it happen".
Mr Gow said: "Housewares is a year-round category compared to gardening so the move – a specialist food offer with a local flavour and cookshop – is something of a natural progression; the two sit well together."
He continued: "The opportunity is there for a lot of other centres. This has huge potential and is something every garden centre in the country can buy into – those people who embark on growing it themselves will probably be cooking more than they have ever done previously.
"Those whom are not part-down the road should focus on a cookware offer; they don't have to stock the whole gambit, but look at the mid- to top-end of a specialist cookware offer."
Mr Gow described the day as a great learning experience and expressed his delight at the feedback he received post-presentation.
He also told diyweek.net he was surprised at the similarities between the two product groups.
He said: "I realised a lot of synergy between the two product groups – gardening and cookware – prior to my presentation, however this became ever more evident when I was listening to and talking to people; the similarities between how the two industries work, think, act, and share information are uncanny."
The Housewares Conference was attended by more than 120 guests from the world of housewares retailing: cookshop owners, suppliers, manufacturers, buyers from garden centres and multiple chains.
Speakers included Ben Philips, md of Steamer Trading Cookshop; Maureen Dunn, buying director for home, John Lewis; and Laurence Llewyn-Bowen.