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Confessions of a UK Hydro Store: Garden Alchemy

Garden Culture Magazine, Media Partners

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View the original article here.

Garden Alchemy (formerly Highlight Horticulture) operates out of Nottingham and is a pioneer in the UK gardening scene. Specialising in indoor and outdoor products, it was one of the first grow shops when it opened in 1994. Since then, Garden Alchemy has built a reputation for having profound gardening know-how and outstanding customer service. Here’s what they have to say about their time in the business. 

Entrance of a hydroponic grow shop.

Entrance of a hydroponic grow shop.

With over 20 years of serving the public, what has changed, and what hasn’t?

I have seen this industry grow, change, and become a monster. The new generation of growers has taken things to higher levels aided by new technology, new strains, and new laws. More people have entered the scene, and more companies have as well. The industry has changed a lot, but I believe for the better. The only thing I could say has gotten worse is the high price increase on most products we buy and sell. However, our clients seem to understand and keep spending, so we shall serve them as long as they do.

What are some of your favourite products?

The interior of a grow shop with shelves full of hydroponic and outdoor gardening equipment.

The interior of a grow shop with shelves full of hydroponic and outdoor gardening equipment.

Monkey nutrients rank high in my shop; Monkey resin has become one of our best sellers, and the Monkey roots also smashes it. All the Monkey Nutrients products work well, are easy to use, and are reasonably priced for me, as a retailer, and my customers. I would also like to mention Vege + Bloom from Hydroponic research. I’m more than happy with this brand; it’s selling more and more each week, and the smiles on customers’ faces say it all. And finally, San-Lite LED EVO series; these lights are, in my opinion, some of the best LEDs on the market. Thank you, San-Lite. You have converted me to LED for life.

What is your take on Nutriculture going out of business?

A woman tending to a bunch of sunflowers outside in the sun.

A woman tending to a bunch of sunflowers outside in the sun.

It’s never good to see a company you have known since entering this industry disappear. Nutriculture were a great asset to our business because they supplied many products and always had plenty of stock when you ordered. However, their track record for getting orders wrong was also well-known, and customers being told to keep it while the correct product was sent could have contributed to their closure. They were part of our future, and now they are part of the past, but they will forever be in our history books as massive contributors to this industry. 

What is the most common question asked by your customers?

“Do LEDs work, mate?” That’s a popular one. But, of course, other common questions are typically related to dying plants, so I usually tell them to sort their environments before buying anything unless I believe I have a remedy.

We all know service is essential. So what do you do to stand out?

We pride ourselves in service. When I entered this industry, I considered myself a non-grower and someone who could never learn. Mr David Oates, the owner of Highlight Horticulture, took me on board and ensured I got all the right training and confidence to smash it. We were always told not to sell the customer anything they did not need. We believe in helping people understand what’s going wrong and showing them that sometimes just a flush or maybe a temperature raise is all they need. Our advice is always free. Yes, we want customers to spend cash with us, but only if we think it’s necessary. We are lucky that thanks to Highlight, we are fully trained, we have scientists at the end of the phone, and we have grown most of our lives. In 1994, we fell in love with this industry; keeping it alive is our primary goal. So ensuring everybody can grow confidently is a top priority for Garden Alchemy.

How do you create customer loyalty?

The right advice goes a long way. Ensuring regular clients receive discounts and free samples is paramount. Most of our clients are ones we have had for years, and the new ones always stay. We constantly price match and inform all customers that if they call before they arrive, the products will be packed and ready to be loaded when they pull up. We are open seven days a week and will stay open late or come in early if requested. We love it!

Entrance of a grow shop with a lawn chair and open windows.

Entrance of a grow shop with a lawn chair and open windows.

What has been the biggest challenge of running the shop?

The biggest challenge is making sure we always have plenty of stock. I spend a lot of time in the evening re-ordering, talking to people in the industry, and generally catching up on things I would struggle to do when the shop is open. It’s a full-time job on my mind, 24 hours a day. There is always something to do and never enough time to do it.

Looking back, would you have done anything differently?

I don’t think I would have done anything differently. The road that led us here was built as we moved forward in the industry. We came into this field unqualified but eager to learn, and I believe we have achieved this and are proud of what we have done so far.

For more information, check out their website at or follow them on Instagram @gardenalchemy1994. 

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