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Mr Fothergill’s Seeds supercharges growth wooing the world’s younger gardeners | City & Business | Finance


A stalwart of the Chelsea Flower Show and now 44-years-old, the leading UK supplier is renowned for the massive range it offers – some 900 seed varieties.

Hardy and stunningly beautiful wildflowers that help sustain biodiversity are the newest customer favourite, followed by the classics – sunflowers and sweet peas.

And if gardeners have the desire to make their fellow enthusiasts resentful, latest arrivals – the radiant Cosmos Mandarin, bee magnet Coreopsis Incredible Swirl, free flowering Rudbeckia amplexicaulis or the blooming Silene Sibella Mix – may perhaps do the trick.

A lot of the company’s seeds are hobby ones, sold direct to consumers and thru greater than 3,000 retailers, while also throughout the firm’s fold are seed brands Johnsons and DT Brown together with ornamental flower plant specialist Woolmans and garden equipment maker Darlac.

Annually billions of nature’s miracles, mini in size but beyond mega of their importance to life on earth, are sent from seed breeders from across the globe to Mr Fothergill’s manufacturing plant in Kentford, Suffolk.

That is run by 160 staff and here machines fill and despatch some 50 million packets of seeds annually alongside the corporate’s trials field for testing varieties and a high quality control science unit.

Some 35 percent of trade is international and Mr Fothergill’s also has offices in Australia and Recent Zealand.

The last 14-month period has been an enormous one for the firm which, after a management buyout backed by Harwood Private Capital, is pursuing a vigorous growth strategy.

This includes a significant digital upgrade with e-commerce platform Shopify, launching in July, that may transform scalability and customers’ browsing and buying experiences.

Covid brought home the importance of being omnichannel and doubling turnover to £100million over the subsequent five years is a key goal for chief executive David Carey, son of co-founder Brian, for whom the basics are quality and reliable germination.

“All our seeds must pass our 96 percent plus germination rate, we test twice with a yr in between and are obsessed because gardeners must achieve success, without that confidence they see no point,” he explains.

Our structure ensures now we have the manufacturing capability so now we have control, can support promotions and are experts at packing at scale which supplies us total flexibility.”

Windowsill Gardening, a latest social media campaign, reflects how the world of growing is changing. “We would like to demystify it, show it’s reasonably priced and that it will probably occur within the smallest spaces and doesn’t need a greenhouse,” says Carey.

“Our research shows persons are getting the gardening bug much younger, the typical age is 26 influenced by social media. Climate change is influencing alternative, demand for drought resilient plants is increasing, and feedback from our customers indicates they’d buy other product categories so there are numerous latest opportunities.”

After the upheavals following Brexit, trade with Europe can also be picking up again with Canada one other strong market.

Partnerships, similar to the one with the Royal Horticultural Society, are also central and Mr Fothergill’s has just launched a National Trust seed range with garden centre group Blue Diamond and a shopping trial with furnishings retailer Dunelm.

“All of them play a significant role in educating and provoking people,” adds Carey who sees one challenge the entire trade must urgently address – the shortage of a younger generation making horticulture a profession alternative.

“We support training and would love to see more incentives because not enough younger persons are being attracted into the industry, for instance we desperately need seed experts,” he explains.

“We now have certainly one of the last original seed masters remaining and now he’s retiring. All that expertise and knowledge must not be lost.”

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