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Leroy Merlin Garden, where the fifth room takes center stage

This page is also available in: Italiano

The sign’s direction is to devote itself even more to the garden through services such as planning and a broad assortment that spans from live greenery to machinery. An investment and strategy implemented in all in countries, as Gian Luca Carpanesi, product group director Building-Garden of Leroy Merlin Italy, told us.

From the outbreak of the pandemic onward, there has been no end to the passion for greenery, and more generally for the garden, that has overwhelmed people. A sentiment that has not stopped with the end of the lockdown months or with the purchase of a few outdoor plants and outdoor furniture.

Four years later, the gardening industry continues to reap the rewards, and large-scale retailers, some more and some less, are devoting square meters to garden merchandise.

Among these, a virtuous and curious case is certainly Leroy Merlin, which last year opened the first store entirely dedicated to the garden in Elmas (Cagliari). Gian Luca Carpanesi, building-garden product group director of Leroy Merlin Italy, explored in depth during the conference “25 years of greenup, stories of trade gardening between hobbies and green culture” this openness to the world of gardening, a trend that is reflected in new services made available to customers, deeper assortments and a common but differentiated strategy among the European countries where the company is present.

We are only a few months into the year: how does 2024 look for Leroy Merlin?
The result is related to the trend of the season: we are experiencing a climate that entices people to be outdoors and renew plants at the moment. I’d say he’s off to a good start. However, I would like to broaden the discussion to answer this question. As far as we are concerned, the pandemic has fostered the growth of the industry: the rediscovery of the outdoors as a fifth room is a factor to which we, as a company, want to try to contribute by offering everything for our customers’ homes. This growth I was talking about, in fact, we have not lost it. Despite the inflation that characterized 2022 and a 2023 influenced by rising prices, in an absolute sense this market has not lost value and still has great prospects for expansion. This is because those who invest in greenery and gardens do so because they believe in it even if it is more expensive. As Leroy Merlin we are moving in this direction, expanding the garden area-especially in larger stores-because it is a strategic market for us: not only the product market but also the outdoor design market.”

He mentioned the fifth room, a concept that has been heard often in recent years. But in concrete terms, what does it mean?
Our vision of the exterior as a fifth room comes about because the client in furnishing this area makes a substantial investment and decides how to use the space they have in an increasingly rational way. In the past, the garden was disorganized, but today it has a more precise layout because people themselves have clearer ideas about its function. In addition to the activity of eating outdoors and relaxing, another theme that is developing, relative to life in the outdoor space, is the act of cooking to which we respond with products such as barbecues but also real kitchens equipped with stoves and furniture, designed specifically for use outdoors. The fifth room, moreover, is materialized through the solar covers, which in turn can be enclosed, going so far as to create an outdoor area that, from time to time, is declined into an office for smart working or studying.

The fifth room and the products that gravitate around it, as is only to be expected, are directly related to the beautiful season and weather. Yet you have succeeded in deseasonalizing the fifth room with an advisory service.
The sale of garden produce is linked to good weather and good season. Good seasons when they are there help to increase turnover, but when they are not there-as was the case last year when there was a high level of rainfall from March to June-they negatively affect it. That is why, three years ago, we decided to offer outdoor design, giving us the opportunity to deseasonalize the garden and customers to prepare in time for the warm season. In this way, the company can become a benchmark for both seasonal products and outdoor furniture. In this regard, we are investing in permanent furniture showrooms, within the larger square footage stores, to offer a year-round 360-degree view of merchandise to make the fifth room.”

The store in Cagliari, Sardinia, Leroy Merlin Garden impresses with the depth of assortment not only of plants and furniture but also of machinery. One year after opening, how is it going?
The one in Cagliari is a store-laboratory that is making us learn a lot, also because it has allowed us to bring the brand to Sardinia. Not to mention that we also had the opportunity to explore product families that usually struggle to be displayed in our stores such as technical products. The operation is progressing well, despite opening in a year when the season was not kind and we could not fully enjoy the investment. This year we expect to reach our goals more easily since we are continuing to improve and refine the format. Another novelty is that from 2024 the garden design service by professionals will be extended to the entire network, after it was inaugurated in the Catania store.

In addition to Italy, you are also experimenting a lot abroad. Is the strategy common to all countries, or are there differences?
The strategy we are applying abroad is the same as the one we are pursuing for Italy: investing in the garden-also for France, Spain and Portugal-and design. Of course, each country has its own facets as needs and geographical location play an increasingly important role.”

Leroy Merlin’s approach to the garden, between design service and merchandise expansion, seems to be raising the bar higher and higher.
The inflation that has hit us has left customers dazed: while an average product used to be sold for 400 euros, the same is now priced at around 700 euros due to production increases from China. Leroy Merlin’s role is to democratize and bring back products at better prices while ensuring quality and savings. The work we are doing within the garden team and the team internationally is proceeding in this direction: finding quality and at the same time making it available at an affordable price. It should be kept in mind that designing a garden is expensive: from plants for the outdoors, trees and flower beds, to the lawn, irrigation system and possible pergola, the total price exceeds that of a bathroom area project, which is normally expensive. Unlike the latter, the good thing about the garden is that the work can be divided into several stages and start with the most urgent need. This step-by-step approach becomes an ongoing loyalty with the customer: those who have a passion for the outdoors are faced with an ongoing investment, and we are ready to fully satisfy this desire.

Read also:

Silvano Girelli, Flover: ” The Garden Center, experiential and aggregative.”

OBI: “Garden orientation has always been in our DNA.”

Roncador Floriculture, when the greenhouse opens to the world

and Thalia Taioli‘s comment on the (RE)GENEROUS blog.

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