When Flower Power was founded in 1968, there were family owned garden centres in most Sydney suburbs but with the rise of national competitors, these local garden centres began to disappear.

Over the last two years, Flower Power CEO, John Sammut has invested $30 million to create a new purpose-built store at Milperra in Sydney’s west. An Australian industry first, the new store is centred around technology, quality plants and an improved shopping experience, to ensure a sustainable future for Australian nurseries.

Part of the investment was in expanding the Flower Power product range to include homewares and outdoor furniture, as well as gardening accessories and landscaping supplies. “We are constantly trying to innovate and diversify our products to expand into new markets. By offering homewares and furniture, we can continue to strive during times of drought and water restrictions when Australians tend to garden less,” Sammut told Retailbiz.

Flower Power also lobbied the State Government to change the definition of a garden centre because it is more than a place to sell plants and gardening equipment. “We succeeded in this petition which has allowed us to include a café and pet shop as part of our garden centre, as well as fresh produce and a pool centre. This model is similar to that seen in Europe.”

Another area of investment was in the expansion of services. Flower Power established a Trade Card program for landscapers who will receive discounted rates and the ability to order quality plants from the 55-acre wholesale nursery.

“We now also provide a potting service in house at the Potting Factory at our Milperra store where customers who have purchased a plant can have it potted for free on the spot. We have also established a Preferred Services network as we work with garden designers and landscapers, rainwater tank installers, pool fencing, professional tree services, synthetic turf installation and more to provide the best service to our customers.”

Taking inspiration from garden centres in the UK, Flower Power Milperra now has a retractable roof controlled by a weather system to provide optimal conditions for plants, ultra-efficient watering systems with purpose-built tables and capillary matting for the indoor plant range. Recycled water collected in storage tanks is also used to irrigate outdoor plants. Further, the store has solar panels on the roof that produce enough energy to power 60 per cent of the building.

When it comes to the plants themselves, over 70 per cent of plants sold through the 10 Flower Power stores around Sydney are grown locally by the company. “At any given time, there are over five million plants on the 75-acre property which are grown from seeds and cuttings. Selling locally grown plants means that they are already acclimatised to local weather and have a better chance of thriving at home,” Sammut said.

He admitted that family owned stores can’t always compete with the buying power of national chains but growing 70 per cent of their own plants means they can win on quality and range.

“We also have in-store horticulturists who can give personal advice on planning and nourishing gardens. Another key point of difference is our Garden Lover’s Club loyalty program with over 510,000 members – it keeps shoppers returning to redeem reward vouchers and purchase Flower Power products.”