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In the garden with: Peter Botz (VDG)

Peter Botz - Photo: VDG
Peter Botz – Photo: VDG

The Association of German Garden Centres (VDG) represents the interests of owner-run garden centres. These are the leaders in their region. It is not the size of the garden centre that is decisive here, but indeed the competence. The aim of the umbrella association is to promote the members and their employees. Peter Botz is General Manager of the VDG.

Mr Botz you follow the developments of the green industry as part of your job and are informed about the trends and new products. Which theme areas play an important role in your own garden and how has your garden changed over the past years?

Botz: We have significantly changed our private garden over the last ten years. Our garden is becoming closer to nature and is purely organically managed. In the meantime, nature has played along so well that snails and other vermin hardly occur anymore. Our herb and vegetable garden has expanded, our terrace and greenhouse are liveable green spaces that resemble a potted-plant garden. We are lucky to live in the Eifel, a very rural district, we let our goats graze very close to nature in the wider surroundings of our big garden. Our direct neighbour is a beekeeper and his bees find plenty of nourishment in our garden.

Cooperation "Feed the bees" (f.t.l.): Werner Ollig (DGG), Peter Maske (German Beekeepers Association), Federal Minister Christian Schmidt, Peter Botz (VDG), Wilhelm Ley (Sängerhof Garden Centre) – Photo: BMEL
Cooperation “Feed the bees” (f.t.l.): Werner Ollig (DGG), Peter Maske (German Beekeepers Association), Federal Minister Christian Schmidt, Peter Botz (VDG), Wilhelm Ley (Sängerhof Garden Centre) – Photo: BMEL

Is close-to-nature gardening also an important theme for the members of your association?

Botz: Yes, together with the Federal Ministry for Food & Agriculture, we already pushed forward a campaign for the increased nature-oriented planting of bee-friendly plants years ago. Today, a good selection of bee-friendly plants can be found in every garden centre. Our VDG President, Martina Mensing-Meckelburg launched the second round of the bee plant campaign with the garden centres at the end of March in Berlin with Minister Christian Schmidt. Butterfly plants and bird nourishing woods are further interesting themes that are demanded more and more frequently by our customers. The nourishment-providing garden has a high standing. Hardly a garden without food crops can be found. Here a lot of knowledge has been lost, which offers the specialised trade new opportunities. In this connection, an ever-increasing group of customers want to tend their garden without chemicals, here the competence of our employees in pointing out the corresponding alternatives is also called for.

For the past few years, the owner-run garden centres have had to assert themselves against online competitors, who also offer a wide range of products for the garden throughout the season. Which strategy do you advise your members to take?

Botz: The food discounters have taken away some of our turnover, this has been noticeable over the past five years in the continually declining frequency of customers. However, this slightly negative trend slowed down considerably in 2016. The online sales in the green specialised trade will continue to increase strongly. This particularly applies for consumables that people prefer to order using this convenient method. At the same time, the online shopping offers a huge opportunity to draw the consumer’s attention to our garden centre. Our customer predominantly gathers information on the web, here we have to make sure we are the first to be found. A big task that an individual can hardly achieve alone. For this reason, a large share of the garden centres joined forces a few years ago and co-founded the online shop Olerum. A success story, particularly regarding visibility on the Internet. 1.2 million users in 2016 demonstrate the interest in good information, so far in 2017 there has been a 70 percent increase in the number of visitors. The nearest garden centre is recommended to all visitors as the source of supply for each product. Both the suppliers and the garden centres profit from this joint platform. We are not worried about the changes of the future, we can always impress the customers in the garden centre with our competence, the haptics and optical impression and the overall sensual experience. The continually rising turnover figures of the well-positioned garden centres document this success.

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