Bookings up at GCA Plant Area Forum at Ball Colegrave with more places now available

The Garden Centre Association (GCA) is hosting its second annual GCA Plant Area Forum for plant area managers and plant buyers at Ball Colegrave in July (July 20, 2017).

The event on July 20 will once again be facilitated by GCA inspector, Roger Crookes, who is also the organisation’s Ruxley Rose plant area competition judge this year and believes passionately in the power of plants.

Iain Wylie, GCA Chief Executive, said: “Our first Plant Area Forum last summer was a big hit with all those who attended. It was a highly motivational day and this year’s event promises to be just as inspiring. Bookings, so far, this year are ahead of last year’s, but we can now take more people if others would like to join us.

“The day will give delegates the chance to see the Ball Colegrave trials grounds and the opportunity to network with like-minded people from garden centres across the country. The event includes a comprehensive agenda covering ways of maximising plant sales, stock management and benchmarking sales.”

Delegates will be asked to share ideas and information, discuss the challenges they face, as well as analyse sales and profitability and discover potential opportunities.

There are still some places, which cost £79 per person, available for the event and members can find a booking form on the GCA website www.gca.org.uk or contact the GCA office direct on 01244 952170.

“All the delegates will be asked to carry out some pre-Forum homework because part of the day will include a session to benchmark key performance indicators to help people assess their own centre’s performance against others. They’ll share information and come away with new ideas and

be challenged to think differently.

“Using the information they bring, delegates will analyse the space occupied by a category in relation to the value of sales for that category. So, it might be that we find some plants occupy a great deal of space but that doesn’t justify the sales they generate or vice versa. It promises to be an enlightening and profitable day all round.

“It’s also a wonderful opportunity to see the Ball Colegrave trial grounds in all their summer glory, be one of the first to see their new introductions for 2018 and the day offers the chance to network with colleagues from centres from all around the country.”

GCA Plant Area Forum for plant area managers and plant buyers takes place at Ball Colegrave in Oxfordshire on July 20 from 10am until 4pm. Food and refreshments will be provided.

To book you place, please call 01244 952170 or visit www.gca.org.uk.

HOORAY FOR HASKINS WHO HAVE RAISED A STAGGERING…

Adrenaline junkie Conna Powles, buying director at Haskins Garden Centre, will be attempting a wing walk to raise money for Greenfingers Charity on Sunday July 2. Initially setting out to raise £1,000 to help build gardens for children spending time in hospices across the UK, Conna has been overwhelmed by support and is currently set to donate £4611.69!

Talking about her forthcoming Greenfingers Charity challenge, Conna said, “I like to complete a challenge or host an event every year for a cancer charity, having lost my brother recently and my sister is in remission. To date I’ve completed a parachute jump, an abseil and The Moonwalk and I now just need to tick off wing walking. After watching a video about the benefits children and families get from having a beautiful space to go to, Greenfingers Charity seemed the obvious choice to support.”

Greenfingers Charity are also delighted to receive a further £5,945 from Haskins Garden Centres, of which £2945 was donated from the stores 5p carrier bag tax. Head Office cake sales and raffles across all four centres topped the figure up.

To support Conna and her ambitious wing walk please visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/

Food to appeal to all the senses at HTA Catering Conference

This year’s HTA Catering Conference, sponsored by Compass Group UK & Ireland, was once again a great success, with lots of positive feedback delegates taking away some valuable insights from our fantastic speakers.

Our Keynote Speaker for day one was Peter Avis, UK Restaurant Manager of the Year. He shared his inspirational story of how he went from a dishwasher to Restaurant Manager at the prestigious Babylon Rooftop Gardens. Through being encouraged by his managers at the beginning of his career, he was able to see how that company culture helps to empower staff and make them feel like they can achieve, and this is something that he has ensured he has continued with his staff today.

The evening played host to our annual HTA Catering Conference dinner where we were graced with the presence of 2016 MasterChef Winner, Jane Devonshire. Jane shared with us her down to earth and inspirational story of how her son convinced her to apply for MasterChef, and how no matter what the competition threw at her, she enjoyed every minute. By cooking dishes from her childhood and family favourites throughout the show, it echoed the sentiment highlighted by many speakers at the conference, that the atmosphere and feelings that you are able to create in your cafes and restaurants and the food you serve are just as important as the food itself. The dinner was followed by the Greatest Catering Awards, presented by Trevor Pfeiffer from Garden Trade News.

Over the past few years the National Trust has rejuvenated their cafes and restaurants, and Matt Drew, Head of Food and Beverage, talked us through the strategies that they used. When they first started to look at the redevelopment plans, the first point of call was the menu. They discovered there were 40,000 recipes in use throughout the business, so they narrowed this down to a range of central recipes that individual outlets can choose from to suit their customers. The ingredients that each outlet choose to use for these recipes though is not prescriptive as they are encouraged to use local produce where possible.

The full HTA Catering Conference report, including details of all the speakers workshops can be viewed atwww.hta.org.uk/cateringconference

WYEVALE GARDEN CENTRES CELEBRATE GOLD & BEST IN SHOW AT BBC GARDENER’S WORLD LIVE 2017

Wyevale Garden Centres were yesterday awarded the prestigious ‘Gold’ as well as ‘Best in Show’ for their scented courtyard garden designed by award-winning Garden designer Claudia de Yong at this year’s Gardener’s Word Live.

The winning garden, entitled ‘Romance in the Ruins’, is a scented courtyard garden featuring two tumble-down turrets in the style of an old fairy tale castle as well as enchanting crumbling walls enclosed on two sides by hedging. Water cascades prettily into a small pond from the back turret and a rose covered pergola takes center stage as people are encouraged to wander through the garden or to sit quietly and enjoy the peaceful space on two wrought iron benches.

Mark Sage, Head of Horticulture at Wyevale Garden Centres, commented:

“With Claudia we have managed to create something really magical this year for Gardener’s World Live. Her mix of more traditional flowers such as roses, nepta, salvia ‘love and wishes’ with wildflowers in the ‘ruins’ of an English castle is both visionary and highly skilled. This is a garden where you can lose yourself and the best thing is anyone can easily recreate the tranquil spirit in their own garden, large or small. We’re sure that by using our tips on what to plant, ‘Romance in the Ruins’ can inspire both experienced and aspiring gardener’s around the country to create something joyful in their own outdoor space, whatever the shape or size.”

Claudia de Yong comments, “I am thrilled with the result and that the judges were so blown away by our garden. A huge amount of hard work has gone into this garden over the last few weeks and months from its conception to realisation. My vision was to create a really poetic garden that transports visitors to another place, inspired by fairy tale castles as well as real English ruins. Using a mixture of wild flowers and traditional flowers together has helped to evoke the gentle romance of English ruins. I hope visitors to Gardener’s World Live enjoy seeing and smelling Romance in the Ruins as much as I enjoyed creating it with the Wyevale Garden Centres team.”

BUNNINGS WAREHOUSE OPENS NEW STORE IN HEMEL HEMPSTEAD

The third Bunnings Warehouse store in the UK and Ireland opened its doors to customers on Friday 9 June in Hemel Hempstead, Buckinghamshire.

The new store, on the site of the former Homebase at Apsley Mills Retail Park, continues the momentum of establishing the Bunnings Warehouse format in the UK’s £38billion-a-year home improvement and garden market.

The Hemel Hempstead store is over 64,000 square feet and employs 111 people – including 53 in newly created full and part-time roles.

It also stocks more than 27,000 different home improvement and garden lines, including paint mixing services from Johnstone’s Trade, Crown and Dulux and a new tool shop offering world-leading brands such as Ryobi and DeWalt.

The company, part of Australia’s Wesfarmers Group, plans to invest up to £500million rolling out Bunnings Warehouse stores across the UK and Ireland over the next three to five years.

To celebrate the opening, Olympic gymnast champion and Hemel local Max Whitlock MBE hosted a welcome breakfast for team members.

Max said: “It’s great that Bunnings has chosen Hemel Hempstead as the location for its third store in the UK. Hemel is where it all began for me so I’m delighted to be back opening the store. I’m sure it will be a huge success.”

The new store’s Complex Manager, Darren Reid, added: “Our team members have worked really hard to get the store ready for opening and are looking forward to sharing their expertise and enthusiasm with customers in Hemel. We’re ready to welcome people to the new store!”

And the fun doesn’t stop there. The new store will also be hosting two grand opening weekend events with a raft of free family activities on 17/18 and 24/25 June. Customers can enjoy face-painting, balloon modelling and even join Peppa Pig & George for a Story Time session (see in store for details).

About Bunnings UK and Ireland

Bunnings is the leading retailer of home improvement and outdoor living products in Australia and New Zealand. As of 12 December 2016, in Australia and New Zealand, Bunnings operates out of 357 trading locations (of which 248 are warehouse stores), employing over 40,000 team members.

In February 2016 Bunnings acquired Homebase, the second largest home improvement and garden retailer in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Bunnings Warehouse opened its first two stores in St. Albans in February/April 2017, with additional stores confirmed in Hemel Hempstead, Milton Keynes and Folkestone. As of May 2017, it also operates as Homebase out of 252 trading locations, employing over 12,000 team members in the UK and Ireland.

Is Stratford-upon-Avon ‘to be or not to be’ home to GCA’s January 2018 conference?

The Garden Centre Association (GCA) has announced that the location of its annual conference is to be Stratford-upon-Avon (January 21 until 24, 2018).

The GCA’s annual event will be held in the birthplace of William Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel from January 21 until 24.

Iain Wylie, Chief Executive of the GCA, explained: “It will be hard to top last year’s annual conference, which took place in the picturesque St Andrews in Scotland, as it was such a success but this year we have chosen a location that is steeped in history, Stratford-upon-Avon.

“We are thrilled that the conference will take place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. It is set in beautiful landscaped gardens next to the River Avon and for the entirety of the conference we will have the usual mix of top quality speakers, analysis of inspections and garden centre best practice and announcements of competition and awards.

“We will be announcing more details shortly and information on how to book in due course via our website www.gca.org.uk, but for now, be sure to keep the dates free in your diary.

“Briefly, the schedule for the conference will be as follows:

  • Sunday – Greenfingers Challenge Cup
  • Monday – inspection and competition round ups plus keynote speakers – based around operational issues. A themed evening dinner, networking event for garden centres and associate members.
  • Tuesday – a day of strategy with keynote speakers on subjects such as the economy, challenges facing business and direction of future market trends with an emphasis on maintaining and enhancing profitability. In the afternoon there will be the supplier exhibition. In the evening we will host our Annual Gala Dinner and awards presentation.”

Extension Opens at Hillier Eastbourne

Hilliers have opened their extension at Eastbourne Garden Centre. An additional 20,000 sqft of space has been added as a result of the major project, allowing room for five additional concessions, as well as giving even more room in our Centre to offer a great range of quality plants, garden accessories and home items.

Chris Francis, Hillier Wholesale and Retail Director, comments: “We are delighted this extension project is now open. Eastbourne is well-loved by the community and the largest of our 12 garden centres. With the extra space and concessions, we hope to offer an even better destination for our customers.”

Notcutts Wheatcroft unveils spectacular Display Garden

A special ribbon cutting event has been held at Notcutts Garden Centre Wheatcroft in Edwalton to mark the opening of the new ‘Notcutts Garden’. The garden was officially opened on 2 June by Garden Centre Manager Nic Perrett, alongside customers, local gardening groups and the Notcutts Wheatcroft team.

The Notcutts Garden, which is split into two zones, aims to inspire visitors with creative ideas for their own outdoor spaces, featuring over 350 plants from 45 different varieties which have been carefully selected to suit different areas of the garden.

Zone A includes an impressive water feature table in which culinary kitchen plants and herbs are the star of the show, whilst Zone B is inspired by a vintage country garden. The main feature of Zone B is a corner arbour seat, which is framed by large multi-stem birch trees and overlooks a sea of soft white, pink and purple blooms. The two zones are linked by a pathway which is covered by a wooden venetian pavilion.

The garden was designed by Notcutts’ Head of Visual Merchandising, Marco de Jongh; Plant Buyer, Stuart Andrews; and Chairman Nicky Dulieu. Alongside the local Notcutts team of horticultural experts, the garden took just over two weeks to complete.

Nic Perrett, Garden Centre Manager at Wheatcroft said, “We’re delighted with the beautiful Notcutts Garden and we’d like to thank everyone who joined us at our official opening event. The garden celebrates the best of what we do at Notcutts – to provide expert advice and inspiration to customers with all levels of gardening experience, and with outdoor projects of all sizes. Over the years, Notcutts has won 50 Gold medals at RHS Chelsea Flower Show, so we’re pleased to bring our expert experience to Wheatcroft with a stunning garden design to inspire our customers.”

The Notcutts Garden is open to visit for free all year round at Notcutts Garden Centre Wheatcroft and is the second of Notcutts’ 18 garden centres across the country to have a garden of this kind. Throughout 2017, which marks Notcutts’ 120th anniversary year, further gardens will be created at other centres.

GCA announces regional award meetings

The Garden Centre Association (GCA) members will find out who has come out on top in its annual inspections this year at regional award meetings taking place this July (2017). Garden centres are encouraged to attend the event in their area and to bring as many of their team members along as possible.

Iain Wylie, Chief Executive of the GCA, said: “Our annual inspections are drawing to a close and early feedback is looking positive, but if members want more information on how they fared they will need to go along to their nearest area awards meeting. “During each meeting the inspector for that particular area will present their findings from the area, highlighting best practice and new ideas, and will announce all the category winners.”

The Wales & West region award meeting will take place at Monkton Elm Garden & Pet Centre near Taunton, Somerset on Thursday, July 13 and the inspector attending is Andy Campbell. Roger Crookes will be presiding over the North West/North East regional meeting on Wednesday, July 19 at a venue still to be confirmed. The Midlands region will meet at Planters, Tamworth on Tuesday, July 25 with inspector Alyson Haywood, while the South Thames region will meet with Michael Cole at Castle Gardens in Sherborne, Dorset on Wednesday, July 26.

Staff from Brimsmore Gardens with their awards during a previous Wales & West regional award meeting.

On Thursday, July 27, Gordon Emslie will present his findings at the North Thames meeting at Ayletts in Hertfordshire. The Scotland and Northern Ireland area awards meeting will follow later in the year on September 7 at Klondyke Mayfield with inspector Gordon Emslie.

Iain added: “Our round of annual inspections started in March. Many GCA members have said that the unique annual inspections and constructive feedback sessions are one of the biggest benefits of membership. It is a fantastic motivational and management tool and really keeps staff on their toes, making sure they are always doing their absolute best.

“Garden centres receive no advance warning about when their inspection will take place and they do not have the option to turn away the inspector. It is all about making sure they are offering a consistently excellent service and improving their customer service standards, which is what all GCA garden centres must do to remain members.

“The results of the inspections form the basis for many GCA awards, including Destination Garden Centre of the Year, Garden Centre of the Year, Area Winners, Highly Commended and Most Improved Garden Centre. The top 10 centres will receive a Garden Centre of Excellence Award and all centres scoring 75% or above receive the Highly Commended certificate.”

For further information, please call 01244 952170. Alternatively, please visit www.gca.org.uk

Garden centre customers geared up for good weather in April

Customers at garden centres across the country prepared themselves for the good weather by buying furniture and barbecues for their outside spaces according to the Garden Centre Association’s (GCA) Barometer of Trade results.

Furniture and barbecue sales in April were up 37.46% compared to the same month last year (2016) with outdoor plant sales close behind at 33.22%.

Iain Wylie, GCA Chief Executive, explained: “We love nothing better than when the sun is shining. Lots of householders have been busy getting their gardens ready in order to enjoy the sunshine. They’ve been purchasing garden furniture and barbecues, so they can make the most of their outside spaces as possible and this has been reflected in the figures recorded by our members. “Garden sundries sales were up 27.65% and hard landscaping up 20.88%. Smaller garden centres showed a greater increase in plants as they make up a greater percentage of their sales.”

Clothing was another good seller with sales up 17.36%.

Iain added: “All that shopping must have made customers hungry, as they spent time in our members’ food halls and farm shops too, where sales were up 13.74%. Catering sales were also up 7.40%. “The results are reasonably consistent across the country, but we expect it will be a completely different story with May’s results.”

Pets and aquatics sales were up 6.68%, seeds and bulbs were up 3.27% and houseplants were up 9.70%.Sales showed an average overall for the month of 21.86% and an average overall Year to Date increase of 11.07%.

The GCA BoT reports are compiled using actual sales figures and provide an up-to-date trading position statement. They are made available mid-month following the end of the prior month after all member garden centres have submitted their results.