Dobbies hires Phil Thomas as CMO to grow loyalty club

dobbies cmoThe Dobbies garden centre chain has appointed a new chief marketing officer just in time for the spring and summer rush as wannabe Gertrude Jekylls gear up for this year’s gardening bonanza.

Phil Thomas, who has over 30 years’ marketing experience, has been CMO at Costa Coffee for the past three years. Prior to that, he held the same role at Greene King and numerous marketing roles at Reckitt Benckiser and Procter & Gamble.

In his new position, Thomas will be responsible for all of Dobbies’ customer and marketing activity to create engaging communications and customer experiences.

This will involve heading up the teams responsible for all marketing activity and brand innovation, including developing the in-store and digital customer experiences, as well as ongoing seasonal campaigns and events. He will also lead both internal and external communications.

One of his key role will be to “supercharge” the retailer’s loyalty scheme, the Dobbies Club, which has over 1.3 million members. The company is the biggest garden centre chain, operating 77 stores across the UK, some of which it acquired from the previous biggest garden centre chain Wyevale, which has since been sold off.

Dobbies chief executive David Robinson: “We are building an incredibly strong senior leadership team and recruiting Phil is another positive step in achieving our ambitions.

“Phil is a very experienced marketing operator who will drive our goal of communicating our focus on garden living through all of our marketing. Phil’s extensive knowledge of UK retail and product marketing will be invaluable to delivering on our strategy.”

The appointment comes as Dobbies’ customer director Louise Niven steps down to go on maternity leave.

Robinson added: “I’d like to thank Louise for her ten years at Dobbies, including six years at the helm of the marketing team, building our brand; delivering award-winning campaigns, positive PR and community engagement; and outstanding growth of our loyalty scheme to more than 1.3 million members. Everyone at Dobbies wishes her all the very best for the future.”

The business was founded in 1865 by James Dobbie, who created a seeds business named Dobbie & Co in Scotland. After being awarded the Royal Warrant for Gardeners and Nurserymen to the Royal Household, the company expanded into a seed catalogue business, where it built up a customer base of 50,000 over the following century.

In 1969, the company expanded out of its Scottish base into England, and was floated on AIM in 1987. Up until 1984 Dobbies continued to operate principally as a seed merchant. It was then bought out by David Barnes, managing director of Waterers. Between 1984 and 1989 Dobbies opened five new garden centres in Scotland.

From 2007 to 2016, Tesco held a majority stake in the business but offloaded the company to a group of investors led by Midlothian Capital Partners and Hattington Capital for £217m as part of the supermarket’s “back to basics” strategy.

It now has deals with both Sainsbury’s and Waitrose to supply its food halls.

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