Concessions: a great opportunity to expand your appeal

Garden Centre Retail talks to Emma Conroy, Head of ?Concessions at Wyevale Garden Centres, about how concession retailing can complement a garden centre’s core offering.

What are the pros of having concessions in a garden centre?

Our customers are drawn to us first and foremost for our garden offer ? plants, flowers, and horticultural expertise is our key differentiator as a retailer. But the garden centre is also a leisure destination, and concessions offer us a way to expand our appeal and give customers more reasons to visit us.

Concessions in areas outside of our core focus – like pets, aquatics and clothing – enhance a garden centre?s proposition and help put us on the map as true destinations, with great shopping in addition to restaurants and of course great garden and horticultural products. Overall, the concessioned categories help drive increased footfall, dwell time, and frequency of visits.

The uniqueness of the garden centre retail environment is also a good fit for concessionaires. The plants foster a positive mood and increased dwell time, and our customers tend to browse and buy on impulse, all of which makes a strong proposition for retailers interested in concessioning.

Is there a downside to incorporating them?

I think it?s all about setting parameters of why concessions are right for a particular centre and what the benefits of introducing them are. It?s important to understand how receptive the customer is going to be to a brand, and whether a particular brand complements the core offer of the garden centre.

How do they affect profit?

Concessions can deliver against different commercial models, across a mix of ground rent and/or a percentage of sales. Renting space to concessionaires helps smooth revenues and make the business more weather-proof.

Do you think concessions could have an effect on your brand identity?

Absolutely I do! It?s as much about understanding the customer and brand associations, as it is about securing profit for the business. A lot of our work over the past 18 months has been about really getting behind what our customers want to see and shop for in our centres, and then reflecting this within our concession placements.

How do you ensure they work well with the rest of your business??

For me this is the difference between good and great when it comes to concessioning. If concessions are introduced to a centre without engagement to help them understand how the brand fits our strategy and the benefits to the overall centre, the concessionaire will only ever been seen as a partner who trades a nominated space.

If, however, they are introduced to the centre teams and are involved with the overall centre by way of morning briefings and weekly meetings, the partners start to feel like part of the overall team and without doubt deliver a greater impact via both customer experience and profit.

Do you prefer point of sale or the renting of space as a model?

In an ideal world any concession model regardless of the commercial deal would run its partners on the same tills as the garden centres. You only have to look at the department stores to see this is a successful model, as it provides access to daily commercial data and provides a seamless customer experience.

Are there any departments in which using concessions doesn?t work well?

I think that all depends on how strong your own bought models are in each category.? Some categories are more labour-intensive, others are challenging from a supply chain perspective. It?s all about understanding strengths and weaknesses in your own business and looking at how concessions can support that.

Do you worry how using this kind of business strategy will affect things in the long-term?

Concessions will continue to be an important part of retail overall and in fact will grow as a channel. More retailers are getting on-board with working within a concessions model, and the demand to host concession partners is growing.

Long-term, the model is by its nature very adaptable, and can change with our strategy. This is one of the appeals of the model, as for the host and the concessionaire there is limited risk.

Is it possible to have too many in a garden centre?

I?m sure it would be! In our centres the key is to be certain we are providing an excellent gardening offer before any space is released for concession use. It?s also about having a clear strategy on concession categories.

What does the future look like for concessions and garden centres?

Its looks great! As store formats and customer journeys within garden centres are becoming much more aligned with the high street and retail parks, the sector will attract interest from many more mainstream retailers who may have previously not entertained or thought of garden centres as a channel opportunity. We are already seeing strong interest as retailers recognize the benefits of the dwell time and purchasing trends that garden centre shoppers exhibit.

As the growth of the gardening sector continues to evolve, I?m sure in five years? time garden centres will become much more of a destination and a mainstay in the retail world. They will be seen as a retail channel similar to the high street or retail parks, whilst retaining all of those fantastic horticultural specialisms along the way.

Customers? expectations of a shopping environment have never been higher and garden centres are in a great position to now maximise on this to become true destinations.

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