Published on 24 - March - 2010
Stick to smaller independents, says Which? GardeningShoppers should shun big brand stores in favour of smaller independent garden centres when buying garden products, according to a new Which? Gardening report.
Wyevale scored 49% in the Which? survey, just above bottom trio Tesco, Homebase and Focus
Wyevale, the UK's largest garden centre chain, was the worst rated specialist gardening retailer to feature in the survey, performing only slightly better than Tesco, Homebase, and Focus, who ranked bottom of the table. The report said the four were criticised by Which? members for having ill-informed staff who were difficult to track down.
In May and June 2009, 6,222 Which? members completed the survey, rating retailers they had bought plants or garden related products from in the last 12 months. They were asked to rate the quality, range and price of goods stocked; staff and store environment; how well retailers handled complaints; after sales service and café/restaurant facilities. Which? then complied the results to give 53 retailers a score out of 100.
Large, independent garden centres came out on top, with Coolings in Kent voted the best outlet by Which? members. The centre scored 89% and was rated five out of five for product quality, staff and eating facilities. Price was the only sticking point, but, according to the report, "the consensus was that you get what you pay for".
The top five also included RHS Wisley Plant Centre in Surrey, Aylett Nurseries in Hertfordshire, Chessington Garden Centre in Surrey and Scotsdales in Cambridgeshire. All were praised for the range and quality of their stock, although prices were seen as rather on the high side. The report added that helpful, knowledgeable staff at these centres were also much appreciated.
Coolings owner Paul Cooling said a key reason why Coolings is a hit with customers is the fact they have plenty of enthusiastic, knowledgeable and experienced staff on duty all the time.
He added: "We are known as plant specialists with a very wide range and large numbers of each variety on show. Being family controlled by the third generation we have our heritage that sits well with many of our older visitors. All profits are reinvested in the business and the team, to create a lovely experience for visitors. Most plants are home grown on the nursery which can be seen from the sales area and this gives confidence to our customers."
Which? Gardening editor Ceri Thomas said: "While it would be unfair to expect those working in a supermarket or DIY store to know much about plants, it's shocking that Britain's largest garden centre chain and its staff scored so badly in our survey. Supermarkets and DIY stores can provide value for money, but for the widest choice and staff who know about their products, head down to your local independent garden centre."
However, two big name stores still managed to achieve high ratings, despite their small ranges. Marks & Spencer was praised for the quality of plants and excellent after sales service, while those who had shopped at Morrisons appreciated the good quality seasonal bargains such as bedding plants and seeds, said the report.
The Garden Centre Group, which owns Wyevale, declined to comment.
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