Until recently, for many of the us, the words ‘garden centre’ tended to conjure up images of obscure, plant-filled labyrinths of elderly people, with the reward for making it through being a cup of tea and a bit of cake in an nondescript café. This, combined with the eclectic collection of products on sale, meant that garden centres were regulated to the realm of things that you must ‘grow into’ to appreciate. Not so long ago, gin also formed part of this category, however, as can be seen from the growing number of gin bars found in every corner of the country, targeted branding can produce market place success. Thanks to the popularity of the ‘Instagram interior designer’, the power of photogenic succulents and ferns, and some impressive innovation by garden centres and plant shops themselves, it’s now their turn in the spotlight.
A great example of this type of innovation is Urban Jungle; a new breed of garden centre that has repositioned itself to appeal to a younger, image-conscious, and well-being focused demographic. With two centres in East Anglia, the brand is the combination of a design-focused aesthetic, a great selection of greenery, and a trendy café set in a tropical greenhouse with a menu full of organic, gluten-free treats. The café’s jungle-like backdrop makes for a great Instagram shot, providing the brand with free publicity and creating an online buzz around it.
Urban Jungle also taps into a growing desire amongst younger generations for better health and well-being. These new era garden centres have repositioned themselves as peaceful urban retreats rather than DIY centres, offering an escape from fast-paced urban living and the pressures of a busy work life. Due to rocketing property prices, and a shortage of real estate space, many young people are unable to afford a property with a garden or outdoor area. The knock-on effect of this is the blurring of boundaries between indoors and outdoors, and the need to rely on different types of natural spaces (i.e. garden centres) to counter the effects of nature deficit disorder, of which there has been a steep rise reported in the past few years. Urban Jungle provides a solution to these problems by offering a well-thought out space, making gardening seem accessible and by positioning plants as desirable.
Other London-based plant stores have also tapped into this opportunity. Grace & Thorn offers weekly terrarium and flower arranging workshops, while Conservatory Archives, located in Hackney, has 68,000 followers on Instagram, highlighting the growing appetite for good-looking greenery. All three of these brands have also shown the power of understanding their audience. Rather than trying to cater to everyone, and selling all manner of wares like the garden centres of times past, brands like Grace & Thorn and Urban Jungle have benefited from narrowing their focus to appeal to their targeted audience. They stick to selling plants and pots, thus strengthening their brand.
The re-emergence of garden centres as the new cool shows the positive outcomes of brand innovation in the market place, and proves that no brand should write itself off as incompatible with a younger demographic.