Dobbies currently only sells a limited selection of products online

Garden centre business Dobbies has signed a five-year deal with Ocado to offer a nationwide online delivery service.

The deal will enable Dobbies to sell its full range online early next year using Ocado’s general merchandise warehouse.

Financial details of the deal have not been disclosed but it will represent a coup for Ocado, which has actively sought partnerships with general merchandise retailers and last summer opened online makeup store Fabled in collaboration with Marie Clare.

Dobbies currently only sells a limited selection of products online and it usually takes six working days to receive the delivery after placing the order.

Despite the limitations, the garden centre business named online as a growing part of its business in its Christmas trading update, when it reported a 127% year-on-year increase in internet traffic over January.

Ocado currently stocks basic garden care products, seeds and bulbs, but does not list garden furniture or barbecue products on its site.

The move comes just under a year after Tesco sold Dobbies to a group led by Midlothian Capital Partners and Hattington Capital.

Dobbies chairman Andrew Bracey said: “In our first year of ownership of Dobbies, we are delighted to announce our partnership with Ocado and its general merchandise subsidiary Speciality Stores to take Dobbies online across the UK. Ocado has an outstanding reputation for service and quality. I am confident that together we can grow a very successful online business for Dobbies across the whole of the UK.”

Nicholas Marshall, who took over CEO of Dobbies in March, said he expected the online gardening industry to grow. “Online, excluding food, is now approaching 40% of UK retail sales and rapidly growing. Yet, online garden retailing is just a few per cent,” he said. “The garden centre industry is at least 10 years behind the rest of the retail world. The gardening market in the UK is worth £4bn. The potential is therefore enormous.”