Home Bargains with Garden World opened its first week of trading and immediately polarized opinion – one family saying it was the “worst store ever” and another marveling at the money they had saved after walking all the way from Chelmsley Wood had driven.
The store, which had taken over part of the former John Lewis alongside a new Aldi, seemed a victim of its own success on its unexpectedly busy first Monday morning, when even the school holidays couldn’t be blamed for the rush. So many shoppers came out on a fine spring morning that once the parking lot filled up, only a few more people arrived and others tried to leave, causing mid-morning indigestion. sorry traffic jam
The biggest problem seems to be the fact that the entrance and exit are off the same ramp onto Ventura Park Road, meaning people are trying to turn in and out in competing directions at the same time. The traffic jams there make it difficult for people to leave or enter available seats, so you may end up queuing to get on or off, or even both.
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It’s a similar story inside the store, where the long aisles lead to the checkouts but don’t give a glimpse of how busy they are. People waiting for payment would have no idea if another checkout in an adjacent aisle had a much shorter queue and no member of staff seemed to be handling the situation.
This prompted mother and daughter Denise Watkinson and Emma Wraxton to say they would not be returning.
“Once we got in there with a trolley, we couldn’t get out,” Emma said. “We realized we didn’t want to queue to buy anything and then had to try to get past everyone else to get our trolley back outside to get our £1 refunded. It’s the worst store ever.
“We live in Tamworth but would rather pay to park in town and use the Ankerside shopping center and area. There is a smaller Home Bargains (on Market Street). Here you have long shelves with the same items, so there isn’t that much more choice. We didn’t even get into the garden center which we heard was small.
Despite having to queue for 15 minutes to exit the store before attempting to leave the car park, Philip Knight felt his trip from Chelmsley Wood would see him spend £79 on various garden items, including half a dozen large plastic planters was worth it.
Philip said: “I think it’s a really good place and I didn’t mind queuing for 15 minutes – it wasn’t too bad. We saved money.”
Mrs Janet found herself in a different aisle in line and decided to make her way to a different checkout rather than wait with her husband.
When asked if she yearns for a return to the old days where she could just shop softer at stores like M&S, BHS and John Lewis, she admitted, “Yeah, I’d prefer that!”
Garden world – first impressions
One of the main reasons people attended Home Bargains early in week one was to visit the Garden World Center. Before you head outside there are several shelves stocked with things like garden lights, animal figurines and basic tools – from a hedge trimmer to Spear & Jackson garden spades and forks for £14.99. Other products included weed killers and products to repel ants, cockroaches, mice and rats. Eek!
On the other hand, we couldn’t find some simple things like trowels. When we asked if they sell lawn mowers the answer was no.
Outside there are many more figurines to decorate your garden from plant holders to reading frogs to carved faces, one model of which bore an uncanny resemblance to The Who guitarist Pete Townshend.
There is wooden furniture including a rocking chair, benches and a wooden shed. Other garden design items include recycled rubber edging, or you can purchase traditional picket fences or half-timber rollers for edging.
Other planters were fired in a kiln. As for the plants, there was no sign of roses or conifers, but there are different types of flowers and trees, including magnolias.
The olive tree labels said they could live 2,000 years, but whether anyone will be home when the plant fails after 999 years is unlikely.
As for the store itself, there seems to be a lot of discounted prices compared to traditional supermarkets.
But you’d have to work hard to find out if you’re saving money compared to shopping at other value stores like Poundland, Wilko and B&M.
Many of the shelves were lined with the same products – for example, different sizes of Fairy Liquid bottles appeared to be 20 feet long. Another shelf had hundreds of pot noodles.
The fresh fruit and veg was in a corner but prices again seemed super competitive with carrots at 59p per kg, five Fyffes bananas at 79p and Lurpak at £3.25 – another good example of the price – money.
But is it cheaper than the Aldi next door or the nearby Sainsbury’s? Taking time to compare could mean playing in the parking lot with the two hour 15 minute time limit.
Bargain at home, remember once you head towards a checkout in an aisle you can’t see if other aisles have shorter queues. Generally the store is bright and bright and the staff is super friendly.
Outside at the garden center we asked if the furniture could be delivered. Two members of staff were unsure but one of them went to inquire and quickly came back to explain the process about availability and the fact that items could be delivered when they were in stock – they weren’t disassembled, but ready assembled.
Sacks of various types of stone chippings were as cheap as £2.99 – but one of Philip’s snapped just as he was ready to lift it out of his car, so its lovely engine might have turned into a messy trunk when he got it did come home!
I wondered if it had a plastic trunk liner. And if not, whether there was one for sale anywhere in Ventura Park. There’s always something, eh… and if the price is right, you imagine there’s always people dropping by.
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