Ten Questions Vanilla Magazine is asking Urban Jungle

Q: Let’s start with a brief introduction. Tell us about your business, when it was started, where are you based and what products or services you provide.

A: The original Urban Jungle opened in Costessey in 2001 specialising in exotic plants. For several years the owners also ran a market stall in the city centre which they used to advertise the nursery as much as to sell plants from the stall. In 2005 a small self-service tea area was added, and this grew to become the popular Urban Jungle cafe. We were thrilled to open a second Urban Jungle Plant Nursery and Café in Suffolk, in August 2017, offering everything Urban Jungle customers love about the Costessey location, and more. We began hosting events in 2018 such as private workshops, parties and we even have some wedding receptions planned for 2021.

Q: Who are your target customers?

A: Primarily our customers are people who have a passion for plants for their homes, both indoor and outdoors. However, we’re quite happy to see customers with only a mild interest in plants and gardening – we see it as our job to convert them into plant fanatics like us, and over the years we’ve achieved great results. We have customers who bought their first impulse plant from us nearly 20 years ago who now have a deep interest in horticulture – gardening has become their life. And we’re beginning to see more and more children who are discovering plants too.

Q: Can you rely on repeat business or do you constantly need to attract new customers? If ‘yes’ how do you try and attract new customers? For instance are you looking to change the way in which you engage new customers, e.g. print, digital, social…?

A: Our customers are genuinely very loyal and we’ve achieved that by ensuring everyone who walks through our gates has an enjoyable and memorable experience. We are constantly keeping up with changing trends in gardening and ensuring we can provide products that adapt to the demands of amateur or professional gardeners. Our site is very photogenic and customers often share photos of their visits on social media which helps to share e-word of mouth. We aim to turn customers into advocates; if we provide great products and service they’ll spread the word. It’s always worked in the past.

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Q: It’s impossible to avoid the question because the lockdown has impacted on everyone, but how has the pandemic impacted on your business and how did you adapt to survive?

A: We had to think on our feet as did everyone during lockdown. It couldn’t have happened at a worse time for our business. We found ourselves with 1000s of plants that we’d nurtured through winter and were ready for sale, but with no customers allowed through the gates to buy them. So, we created mystery bags of houseplants and garden plants to deliver to customers who ordered in the local area. It was a huge success! During lockdown, most people had a lot of time on their hands, and the horrible uncertainty of the situation compelled many people to seek solace in nature. Long country walks, and days on the beach were prohibited so many sought comfort in plants for their homes and gardens. We like to think we brought a little bit of nature’s healing to our customers.

Q: Did you have to put in place new measures to ensure the safety of your staff and your customers?

A: Just like every one else in the customer service industry we’ve made changes to ensure everyone visiting and working at Urban Jungle is safe. We introduced one way systems at both of our sites, there are clear signs around the sites ensuring people understand the measures they need to take to stay safe, there are sanitising stations around the site, all of our food and drink is served on compostable plates and cups so that we can dispose of items once used. There have been plenty of positive steps and we’re proud of our team and customers because everyone has adapted brilliantly.

Q: If business was slow throughout lockdown, has it started to pick up again? What are you doing to boost your business as we return to ‘normal’?

A: Since re-opening we’ve been busier than ever. People have fallen in love with their homes and gardens and are more willing than ever to invest in them. Lockdown has made people realise what an incredible healing asset a garden, a balcony, or even a bright window sill can be. Demand for plants is enormous – at times we’ve struggled to cope but we’re determined to maintain our high standards of customer service. Many of our newer staff have been enrolled in garden design courses so that they can give better advice to our customers. We’ve ramped up our propagation department at Beccles so that we can offer really exciting and unusual plants and keep up with demand. We’re offering new products – bulbs, seeds, gifts, and gardening essentials

We’ve had to adapt our cafes and we have a much reduced menu but everyone has been understanding and supportive. We’re taking our time with the cafes before deciding which direction they’re heading in.

Q: What, in your opinion, gives you an edge over your competitors?

A: Our staff’s knowledge and passion for plants puts us in a brilliant position in this industry as we can advise and assist customers with their purchases. We always stock a range of plants that you won’t find anywhere else. Not only do you visit Urban Jungle for the rare plants, but it’s also for the experience. With a koi pond and jungle gardens at our Costessey site, and Mediterranean borders bursting with colour at Beccles you really are transported to a different environment when you visit us.

Q: What aspects (if any) of your business do you need to develop or improve in order to be more competitive? For example, do you need to raise your profile, appeal to new markets, update your branding, etc?

A: There are always elements that every business can improve on to be more competitive, and we have big plans for the future and are excited for the progress of Urban Jungle as a whole.

We’ve just introduced uniforms so customers can easily identify our team members, we’re about to launch a new website, we’re building a shop so that we can offer gardening essentials like canes, moss, fertilisers, and seasonal items such as bulbs, seeds, and Christmas goodies.

Q: Do you collect customer testimonials? Do you have any samples that you are happy for us to quote?

Yes!

“Highly knowledgable very helpful and friendly, very good selection of plants, always arrived in excellent condition and well packaged to protect the plants” (web purchase customer)

“Absolutely amazing place. Lived in Norfolk for 14yrs and didn’t know it existed! What a find. Fabulous for a little wander round, could have easily come home with a lorry load of stunning plants! Stopped for lunch too, which was very tasty. We shall be frequent visitors to this little gem.”

Q: Finally, what gives you confidence for the future of your business?

A: We’re really thrilled about the great gardening revival that we’re witnessing, and ours is a growing business in more ways than one. We have a fantastic team who love what they do and each one contributes to our success. We feel very fortunate – it’s an exciting time to be in horticulture.

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