Maximising growth and opportunity for independent garden centre operators

Company: Choice Marketing

Maximising growth and opportunity for independent garden centres.

If you run a successful garden centre business with a turnover of £1.7m or greater and you are looking for ways to maximise your trading potential, then joining a buying group maybe the answer. Choice Marketing is a very well-established, professional, dynamic organisation that can help you to improve existing trading terms with suppliers and increase net operating margins, whilst at the same time offering you a range of other benefits.

Who is Choice Marketing? - Founded in 2002, Choice Marketing has earned a well-deserved reputation for being one of the garden retail industry’s leading buying and marketing groups serving the UK. Choice is registered as a ‘not for profit’ limited company, and is owned exclusively by its members, with each member having an equal shareholding.

First and foremost, Choice is a collaborative group of like-minded, independent garden centre operators who have come together to learn from each other and to share their collective knowledge, experience and resources to maximise the individual trading performance of each member centre.

There are currently 29 members of Choice, operating 44 garden centre sites throughout the UK, with a combined gross turnover in excess of £150m.

What do we do? Our primary function is a buying group. We combine the significant buying power we have, to negotiate and procure competitive and advantageous buying and trading terms from suppliers and service providers, for the benefit of all Choice members.

We also have a fantastic partnership with Encompass, a professional marketing agency that our members can use to procure a full complement of bespoke marketing solutions such as direct mail, reward card management, PR editorial, web site design and management, social media engagement, e-mail marketing, brand & logo design, in-store pos, vehicle livery and so much more.

Our core aim – Is to maximise the profitability and trading potential of all members by negotiating and agreeing industry leading trading terms, rebate payments, stock availability and payment terms that far exceed anything that our members would be able to achieve independently. The flexible trading agreements we have in place, provide suppliers with the commitment they need, in order to offer us the best terms, whilst at the same time allowing members plenty of freedom to create a range plan that best suits their centre, their customers and their local demographic. 

Member benefits – In addition to the core benefits of improved trading terms and access to a professional marketing agency, members enjoy numerous other benefits, one of which is 24/7 access to the Choice resource ‘hub’. This web-based hub, enables members and their senior teams to access a wealth of information, including supplier price files, terms sheets, promotional information and a significant archive of marketing material that members have commissioned, produced and used.

It also features a sales data platform that members contribute to on a weekly and monthly basis. This comprehensive archive of sales data enables managers and business owners to benchmark and compare both their overall sales performance and sales achieved in each core department, with other centres.

Probably the most talked about and the most tangible benefit that Choice members enjoy, is a share of the significant financial rebate, which is paid to Choice by our suppliers, and is then redistributed back to the members on an annual basis, based on the individual turnover each member achieves with our suppliers.

The most recent rebate paid out to our members, totalled £1.71 million. You don’t need to be a great mathematician to work out that £1.71 million divided by just 44 centres, is a very significant addition to Choice members’ bottom line. The group return on investment from just the rebate payment alone (excluding all other discounts and member benefits) was 9.76 times the membership fee, or put another way, an 876% return.

Choice business structure – The day-to-day operations at Choice are run by a very small team of highly experienced staff that have decades of garden retail industry experience between them. As well as maintaining and updating the countless price files and financial information, they provide a vital supporting role to members, that includes supplier liaison, dealing with stock & delivery issues, queries with credits requests, co-ordinating Choice promotions, assisting with collection and dissemination of various data and the planning and execution of various member events throughout the year.

Barriers to membership - One of the main concerns that causes hesitancy with prospective members that are considering joining Choice, is the misconception that they will lose their independence and will be tied into supplier agreements that may prevent them from creating their own individual range plans or dealing with certain suppliers.

Whilst it is an understandable concern, it is worth remembering that every existing member of Choice is an independent garden centre and like you, they want full control and autonomy over the key decisions and choices that affect and impact their business. The trading arrangements we have in place have been negotiated and agreed by these same members, and not by anyone who doesn’t have a vested interest in their business.

All of us want what you want; a great range of products, that deliver a good return, from trusted, innovative suppliers. As good as any one garden centre is (and the people working in it might be) it is unlikely that they can outperform the collective experience and knowledge that a group of 44 garden centres working closely together, have at their disposal.

Choice has great working relationships with the vast majority of key suppliers in our industry. In our experience, when a new member joins Choice, the changeover regarding suppliers, brands and products is minimal, as we deal with the same suppliers that many other independent centres do.

There may be changes to a glove supplier, or a bird seed supplier or sometimes changes to a larger category such as growing media for example, but our trading agreements are flexible enough to enable members to complement core ranges with additional brands and suppliers to complete their own site-specific range plans. Despite these possible changes, the overall financial gains of becoming a member of Choice, far outweigh any minor amendments to suppliers or product ranges that might have to be made.

The other issue that causes some apprehension (and it is one of our own making) is that the financial returns and benefits look too good to be true and that there must be some sort of catch. We can reassure anyone considering Choice membership that there is no catch or any hidden costs. We have extremely low overheads, no loans and no dividends to pay, so all of the financial benefits, go straight to the members.

One last important point to note, is that from a customer perspective, Choice garden centres are unrecognisable from other independent garden centres. You are not joining an organisation such as a franchise or business model that requires any changes to the appearance or identity of your business. Your centre name, your branding, your shop front, your signage and your unique individuality and appearance, all remain the same. Choice is just an umbrella that allows you to access some great trading terms and services from a large number of suppliers.

We endeavour to make sure that our joining process is very relaxed and informal, from the initial point of contact, right the way through until the final signing up process.

We recognise that joining a buying group or other trade organisation is a big decision for any business to make and we understand that the process can take many weeks and can often involve several decision makers.

Please rest assured that by commencing discussions with us, or requesting more information, you are at no point under any obligation to proceed further and you can suspend or exit the process at any point if you feel that Choice isn’t right for your business.

Choice Marketing is recruiting new members now. If you are interested in finding out more about Choice Marketing and how we can help your business to develop and prosper, please give us a call.

Anthony Gould – Membership manager
07786 030181 – anthony.gould@choice-marketing.co.uk

Michelle de Lavis Trafford – Choice CEO
07961 136528 – mdelavistrafford@btinternet.com

We can send you more information by e-mail or post or alternatively we can arrange to visit you at your garden centre for an informal discussion.

We will also be at the forthcoming GLEE exhibition and would be delighted to meet with you to answer any questions you may have. We’ll even provide the coffee and pastries. Call us now to book an appointment. We look forward to meeting you.

www.choice-marketing.co.uk

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