Fashion and homewares retailer Next has today opened its first garden centre store, as it looks to expand its current range of products and services.
The high street mainstay has this morning unveiled the new 56,000 sq ft outlet in Shoreham, West Sussex, on a site previously occupied by home & garden specialist Homebase.
As part of a trial to identify whether there is the potential to roll out this concept nationwide, the Shoreham store will sell typical lines in fashion and homeware as well as drills, flooring & tiles and other garden and DIY products.
Home Design Consultants will also be based in the store, providing consumers with advice on decorating & making home improvements, and shoppers can either book an appointment or organise experts to visit their homes.
Nick Bubb, Retail Analyst at Arden Partners, views the new venture as a natural progression from the company’s current retail offering, but warned of previous mistakes made in this sector by Next.
“This trial move into light DIY is a perfectly reasonable extension of the furnishings range,” he said.
“But to those with long memories it is awfully reminiscent of the famously ill-fated move by Next founder George Davies to launch a Next Gardening Directory in 1989.”
Davies was sacked by Next soon after the move with reports at the time alleging that the founder’s actions pushed the retailer close to bankruptcy.
Now under the leadership of CEO Simon Wolfson, Next is on a strong financial footing despite a general slump in retail sales across the UK in the last 18 months.
A half-year trading statement published earlier this month indicated that its total sales rose 3.2 per cent year-on-year in the 26 weeks to July 30th 2011, with the Next Directory arm of the business, comprising home shopping and online channels, seeing a 15.1 per cent annual rise in trading.