Carryduff-based garden and lifestyle complex Woodlawn has set up a new online shopping facility on the back of annual savings of £1,800 following grant aided LED lighting installation throughout its main showroom, gift and clothing shop and popular Maple Café outlet.
The centre is supplied by leading energy supplier Power NI, which advised on and helped facilitate a NISEP (Northern Ireland Sustainable Energy Programme) grant to part-fund the cost of installing LED lighting.
Woodlawn director Robin Wylie explained: “Not only does LED lighting help us save cash as bulbs use less electricity and have a longer lifespan, but the brighter and excellent quality of light creates a much more welcoming ambience in store and ultimately an improved customer experience.
“Interestingly the higher lumen rating of LED bulbs means that houseplants really thrive.
“During the installation phase we noticed the difference between those plants housed under the old lighting and others bathed in the new LED lights.
“So, as well as saving money, we have happier indoor plants.”
Founded in 1974 by Robin’s dad, Garvin Wylie, Woodlawn was Northern Ireland’s first garden centre and the family run business has continued to expand, develop and adapt to changing lifestyles, new technology and economic impacts – both anticipated and totally unexpected.
“Seventy per cent of our outdoor shrubs and plants are sourced from local growers located throughout Northern Ireland, including Seaforde, Katesbridge and Enniskillen.
“We have always bought local and that is helping us to navigate round the impact of Brexit to a large extent.
“However, you have to buy houseplants from Holland. We have a superb relationship with our supplier there and have worked with them for many years and are continuing to do so.
“There is extra paperwork, of course, but we need to look at ways of managing everything as best we can.
“During the first lockdown last Spring we concentrated on click and collect and local delivery services taking orders via telephone, online and through our own social media channels.
“When we were allowed to open our doors to customers, we were able to reap the benefits of people falling back in love with their gardens and wanting to create interesting outdoor spaces – particularly as travelling abroad was, and still is, challenging.
“During January, when nurseries and garden complexes are traditionally a little quieter, we spent the time working on a new online offering.
“At the moment, we are using an off-the-shelf system from the States and are only able to include core gardening products and some fruit and vegetables.
“Customers can also buy outdoor furniture, birdcare, BBQs, outdoor pots, lawncare and tools online.
“We hope to add in seeds, bedding plants and potentially clothing later down the line.
“Our strategy is to start small, review and evaluate customer needs and then develop further. Ultimately, we’d like to build our own bespoke online shop.”
Woodlawn’s USP is its more personal approach to online shopping. Now, contactless home deliveries are available to the centre’s main customer catchment area, including Belfast, Lisburn, Hillsborough and south Down.
“People like to see certain products in their own garden setting – outdoor furniture, for example, can look very different depending on the location.
“We can deliver a sample to a customer’s house to help them decide on a certain range.
“Our highly experienced team can also help with advice before a customer makes a purchase.
“I think it is all about utilising our digital channels as that is the way forward, but combining it with personal, localised support.
“Whilst online is important, people still want to see and smell plants and we’re delighted to be able to welcome customers back to our showrooms and outdoor spaces.
“We look forward to when we can re-open our well-liked Maple Café. We’re hoping for a busy year ahead both in store and online.”
Emily Fair, Commercial Marketing Executive at Power NI, said: “It’s fantastic that Woodlawn has enjoyed the many great benefits of installing energy saving technology, as well as being able to re-invest their savings back into growing their business.
“At Power NI we have a long-term commitment to sustainability, and we’re delighted to be able to offer NISEP-funded grants to businesses and farms in Northern Ireland.”
n For more information on Woodlawn’s online offering visit shop.woodlawn.co.uk and to register your interest for NISEP’s 2021/2022 grant scheme visit powerni.co.uk/businessgrants
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