Dobbies upping its food game with store re-fits and local tie-ups
Dobbies Garden Centres is striving to make its branches more experiential and is developing local producer tie-ups to make its food halls destinations in their own right.
The 69-store group, which includes 31 branches snapped up from rival Wyevale in April, is working through several food partnership trials, including new ice cream parlours set up with local suppliers.
Archie Stewart, Dobbies head of buying, food & beverages, told FFD that, although the essence of Dobbies was plants and gardening, the business was evolving and customers were asking for more under one roof.
Food is one of the divisions that is seeing growth and would continue to grow, he said.
Stewart said the company had refreshed about 10 food halls in the past year and this had already had a positive effect on sales.
He added: “We are trying to create an exciting shopping occasion that engages our customers.”
Its Edinburgh store has linked with nearby S Luca, a “well-loved” ice-cream brand. “In the East of Scotland and East Lothian people go for day trips just to buy the ice cream, so we can bring that fun and enjoyment to Dobbies,” said Stewart.
Stewart wants to develop more local relationships. While S Luca might go into two or three stores, other areas would link with different ice cream brands if Dobbies decided to add them.
Its trial with upmarket retailer Booths, which started off last year in two stores, has now been extended to four stores in Scotland and a couple in England.
“We are starting to see some great results there,” said Stewart. “It’s a fantastic partnership because they are premium and a respected brand.
“We’ve got hopes of at least doubling the number. It’s about measuring the success before we expand it. We are selecting stores with the right demographic and desire for food hall products.”
Stewart said the 31 former Wyevale sites purchased did not have a huge food offering. He said some might be fitted out with food halls, including deli and butchers’ counters, but not all of them would.
He added that the degree to which food would be rolled out across the 31 sites would be confirmed within the next few weeks.
“We are trying to increase the number of butchers in our food halls and, with that, looking at other in-store experiences. We are trying to do it bigger and better and provide a sensory element within each of the stores.”
This story appeared in the June issue of Fine Food Digest. You can read more on the digital edition here.
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