I am becoming increasingly aware that a lot of Garden Designers either are employed by garden centres to act as their 'in-house' design service whilst others seem to have small independent concessions based within garden centres that they operate from.
I can see a lot of advantages of working like this as used to work part-time in a large garden centre and could envisage that if I had a small glass fronted 'shed' to work out of in a garden centre, of a lot potential customers would see my work/see me at work and be able to talk to me face-to-face etc.
Has anybody had any experience of working like this/know any designers who work like this and how do you think I should go about approaching prospective garden centres?
Also, do you think it sounds like a viable way of working?
A few years ago I was going to reopen a disused garden centre near Southampton but issues with land contamination put a stop to it!
Having spent quite a considerable time researching the business model, concessions was the way to go and having a landscape designer on site was very attractive financially to both parties (it has to be a win / win and if a fanily operated centrre rather than the big boys they should be only to happy to help sell your services in your absence).
We had four or five companies expressing a strong interest and if we done a deal we would of charged rent for the land used but a small commission off each client that was generated as a result of them being based at the centre (however this may have been hard to prove!?). The added bonus being that the landscaper would purchase stock at a trade price.
I advertised on the following web site http://www.gardenforum.co.uk/tradeforum/business/ looking for landscapers but you should get a good result if you advertised for local garden centres however there are usually quite a few offering concessions anyway.
The only thing I would point out is try to go for a centre that has a main road position with plenty of passing traffic rather than those stuck out in the sticks. Also consider security of the site particularly if you were investing in expensive displays and be prepared to spend weekends “sitting in your shed” so that you can be available for all those potential clients!
Graeme makes a really good point about the 'lost weekends' you will experience. The majority of people visit garden centres at weekends and bank holidays and you will need to be there to take advantage of that. Relying on people picking up your leaflet and remembering to call you in the week may be a problem.
Notcutts wound up their 'in garden centre' design business last year which may be a warning.
All the best, just look before you leap.