According to an article published in Retail Week in June 2016 the top 100 garden centres in the UK are growing on average by more than 10% year on year and the market overall generates sales of £3.1bn a year. Continuing to outperform shopping centres and high streets on pivotal shopping weekends in the retail calendar, a trip to the great British garden centre is now seen as a top way to spend leisure time.
The space hungry garden centre is typically an out of town retail experience. This, coupled with the fact that city centre dwellers often have very limited access to outdoor space of their own, means that bringing the rural gardening feel to a dense urban area is a challenge.
So last week when we learned that high-end Richmond-based Petersham Nurseries had opened a green-fingered emporium in the centre of London’s Covent Garden, Innovation Researchers Harriet Cox and Matilde Ricon Peres went to visit the store to see how the garden centre retail experience has been translated for the inner city area.
Located on the appropriately named Floral Street, the new branch of Petersham Nurseries is a 16,000 sqft space featuring a homeware store, florist, deli and wine cellar.
Those who know of the family-run garden centre’s reputation – it is highly regarded for its award-winning glasshouse restaurant, its quaint tearooms and celebrity clientele – will notice that the Covent Garden store retains all the charm of the original but leads with homeware and lifestyle products more fitting for the inner city customer.
The main space – set in a grade II listed Victorian interior decked out with elegant chandeliers – is beautifully curated and immediately Instagrammable (as you will see if you follow GDR’s Instagram). Lush plant life is woven throughout the store’s visual merchandising displays of hand painted table linens, decorative glass and tableware and more functional, but aesthetically pleasing, products for daily life. A nice touch towards the back of the store is a potting service where customers can have window boxes created by staff dressed in stylish utility aprons – a nod to its garden centre roots while creating a nice moment of retail theatre.
Many of Petersham’s Nurseries strengths have been successfully adapted for its new urban location. Shifting its focus slightly towards a more lifestyle and homeware focussed offering, but retaining the look and feel of its iconic original outpost makes sense for the types of customer it caters to.
With many customers visiting traditional garden centres first and foremost for their cafes and restaurants, Petersham has continued to prioritise its food offering, which will no doubt encourage dwell time.
The deli, located a few doors down from the main store, stocks organic produce grown on the family farm in Devon and artisanal store cupboard basics. There is also a food-to-go counter serving made-to-order sandwiches, pastries and cakes as well as hot drinks. A standout feature in this smaller space is once again the fresh flowers, with a florist creating bespoke bouquets using seasonal British flowers, which fills the store with a lovely floral scent.
Later in the year two restaurants – British-Italian themed The Petersham and a small-plate and apperativo bar La Goccia – will fill the space in between the stores, completing the emporium.
Surely set to become a city centre destination for high-end homewares and gifting (as well as the likes this store will generate on Instagram) this is a unique retail experience for the area, creating a lush green escape in the city.