Confessions of a UK Hydro Store: Kitbagshop

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Confessions of a UK Hydro Store: Kitbagshop

Kitbagshop Hydroponics opened its doors in 1999 and has been going full speed ahead ever since. The shop has helped pave the way for hydroponic growers in the UK, offering customers complete home-designed grow kits, lights, tents, and plant nutrients. If they don’t stock it, you don’t need it! We convinced the founder of Kitbagshop, Chris Jaques, to reveal his secrets in this edition of Confessions of a UK Hydro Shop! 

You’ve had your shop for 25 years; that’s a long time! What are some things that have and haven’t changed over the years?

When I opened my shop, I was stepping into the unknown, investing my hard-earned money into something that the UK high street had never seen before; it was risky business. Everyone I spoke to dismissed my idea. I was 19 years old, but I had that feeling in my bones that it would work. I made great contacts and friends in the UK and Europe, and I still have them today! When my customers started rolling in, it felt like we were starting a new adventure, changing the entire scene. Some of my clients are like old friends now, and that’s how I treat everyone who comes to our shop. Regarding what’s in stock, the transition from HPS to LED is the biggest change I’ve ever seen in this industry.       

You were one of the first shops selling online. How has that influenced/changed your business?

When eBay came along, it was mainly for selling second-hand stuff online for silly money. In 2005, my dad asked why we weren’t selling our grow equipment online. I didn’t think anyone would buy our products online and have it posted to their house. He encouraged me to create a listing because if you don’t try, you’ll never know. The item was a 4″ TT fan and filter kit for £79.99. The next morning, I saw the listing had sold out! We decided to list everything in the shop, which changed our business overnight. Over the next few years, we had containers, warehouses full of stock, and a large staff working with us. We didn’t have time to look back; the industry was changing as quickly as we were. 

What are some of your favourite products?

I love selling Scrog nets to my hobby growers when they are looking to improve their grow rooms. In lockdown, the demand for Hornet Coco A+B was unreal, and the final quality is 10/10; that’s my go-to feed for beginners and experts. And finally, Rope Ratchets, a simple product that came to the market about 15 years ago.

What makes your store unique?

We are a proper family business that is trusted and respected. We never dress things up or try to hit you with a big sale. We want you to learn and be successful, and we are a good old-fashioned, friendly grow shop that is always here to help. 

What is the most common problem your customers come to you with? 

This time of year, it’s heat; either too hot or too cold. With the lighting side of the business making such a big change to LED in the last few years, it’s affecting the temps coming up to winter, mainly for people growing in the garden shed or loft. We offer many heaters, timers, and controllers to solve this seasonal problem.  

What type of music do you play in the store?

You always need a bit of bass going off in the shop. It’s more relaxing and makes the customer feel at ease. We play a bit of old-school hip hop, 90s dance, Chase & Status; I’m easy. My sister covers my days off, and she likes peace and quiet. It drives me crazy! We now agree on Radio 2. LOL! 

Tea, coffee, or both?

We don’t do tea or coffee; if you’re drinking tea or coffee at work, you’re not working. I hate seeing people walking around with tea or coffee like it’s the holy grail, warming their bodies, or just standing around chatting. I’m sorry, it reminds me of school teacher breath or something. A bottle of water or pop is cool with me.  

What advice would you give someone thinking about starting their first grow?

Go at your own time and pace. Listen to friends, forums, and grow shop owners, but take it at face value. Growing is a skill that takes time. It can be as complicated or as easy as you want to make it; you need to make mistakes to learn. The key is good light, airflow, genetics, and nutrients.

What advice would you give to someone opening a shop today?

Think about it; read up on retail and how it works. Just because your local grow shop is busy doesn’t mean yours will be. Often, new shops are like lambs sent to slaughter, with some wholesalers forgetting where their bread is buttered. Know that there are better ways than undercutting other shops; you need to make a profit to pay your bills, rent, VAT tax, and wages. If there’s already a grow shop in your town, don’t bother; you’ll both lose money. But if you’ve got the investment, talk to the local store. They might want to sell, and then you have it all in one ready-made business. 

See what Chris is talking about for yourself! Pop into the shop in Nuneaton or check them out online at kitbagshop.co.uk

Garden Culture Magazine

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Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.