Here are a few things I like about shopping in Next: Friendly staff, Good edited range of trend based accessories, Good store layout, Creative room set styling, Affordable prices.
Here are a few things I dislike about shopping in DIY and garden stores in general: Unhelpful (or non-existent) staff, Vast amount of stock, Uninspired styling, Depressing room layouts, Bewildering amount of plants / outdoor stuff.
So…whoever it was that had the inspired idea for Next to branch out into DIY and garden products should be given a medal. Well, perhaps that’s a bit extreme, but at least a celebratory pat on the back. Because it is a winning combination.
On a sunny September day last week the press team at Next whisked me off to Brighton to take a look at their new concept store in Shoreham which does just that and in this vast space Next have not only managed to make DIY and garden products look exciting, but also totally inspiring.
As well as the usual home accessories and furniture that Next is already well known for, the new store also stocks pretty much everything you could possibly need to update your home, from flooring and tiling to carpets and paint, fitted kitchens, bathroom suites and an entire garden centre. And everything is presented and styled in the eye catching but accessible way that Next do so well.
I love the idea of growing flowers, but I love the reality less so – put me in a garden centre and I am totally lost – what plants work well together? when should I plant them? when will they flower? etc etc etc. The small, carefully edited selection of plants and garden equipment at Next makes the whole process a lot easier and the lovely friendly staff were well equipped to answer silly questions without making you feel daft.
But the best bit in my book was that mixed in with the real plants there were row upon row of artificial ones, so if it all looks like too much effort you can throw a potted silk orchid in your basket and be done with it. No shame involved.
Just like their home accessories, in the garden centre, products are grouped together into room sets, so if you are drawn to a particular look (this pastel, vintage inspired garden set for example) you don’t have to spend hours looking for all the separate parts to put the look together yourself, you can buy the lot right there, furniture, paint, birdboxes, probably even the bunting.
And finally, the humble garden shed; even this has been given a Next makeover and rather than skipping past this section of the store (after all, sheds are for boys and are usually filled with old bits of lawn mover and bike parts) I actually found myself lusting after this pretty little vintage styled shed.
So clever was the presentation and merchandising, I was ready to buy the entire thing, complete with the furniture, accessories and potted plants.
Because if there’s one thing that Next are good at it’s selling you a lifestyle. From paving, sheds and plants to row upon row of pretty accessories everything is beautifully presented, totally affordable and cleverly styled. I’m guessing that this first store is going to test the retail waters to see if the concept is a success, with an aim to open more branches across the country. Fingers crossed it will be and they will be rolling out more superstores very soon. I’ll be first in line.
Images: Victoria Harrison