The Garden Centre Association (GCA) has recently (September 2021) revealed that a record number of members have received Highly Commended awards after its annual inspections, which have helped drive standards and profitability.
One-hundred-and-two garden centers were Highly Commended, which is awarded to those that score 75% and above in their annual inspection. Iain Wylie, GCA Chief Executive, said: “Each year standards are getting better and better, and our members have continued to focus on improving their already high standards, despite a very difficult last 18 months. We are absolutely thrilled to see so many of our members receiving this award as a result of their excellent performance in our 2021 inspections.
“Our members tell us how beneficial the annual inspections are for them. The process itself sees an independent inspector visiting each year, and as they don’t know when the inspections will be held, it means they are always ‘on their toes’ to ensure everything is running to the highest level at all times. This guarantees that customer service and retail standards are always top-notch throughout the important spring, or in this case, the summer trading period, as inspections were delayed due to Covid.
“If garden centers are scoring 75% or above, as well as having increased standards, members will also see increased turnover and profitability, which is a huge asset in being part of the GCA. They can also benefit by using these awards to market their centers – in advertising, publicity, social media, and on their websites – and this helps generate greater awareness and additional footfall too.
“It is great to see more of our members receiving these awards, and this is a clear indication that GCA membership is helping centers to improve year by year. Additional benefits between members include the sharing of information, ideas, and best practice, as most recently demonstrated in our regional awards. Being an award-winning garden center offers assurance to existing customers and helps to attract new customers too.”
One of the GCA Inspectors for 2021 was Gordon Emslie, who visited centers during the summer. He said: “This year, we saw 102 centers achieve the Highly Commended certificate. This is the highest number of centers achieving this certificate in any one season, which is outstanding. This was purely down to the hard work of center teams in delivering excellent consistency standards throughout all the categories.
High level of protocol execution
“The one thing that did stand out was the high-level execution of Covid-19 compliance protocols across all centers, which set an exemplary example to others in the retail industry.”
Perrywood Tiptree in Colchester was one of the Destination Garden Centres (DGC) to receive an award. Hannah Powell, HR & Communications Director, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have been awarded ‘Highly Commended’ in the recent GCA Awards.
“It was also wonderful to pick up regional awards we haven’t won before – for Outdoor Living, Garden Care, and Environment and Sustainability. We’ve put a lot of effort into encouraging customers to garden more sustainably, particularly in switching to peat-free. We are extremely proud of everything the entire team has achieved over the last 12 months.”
Another center to earn the accolade was Cowell’s Garden Centre in Woolsington, Newcastle upon Tyne. Director Martin Cowell said: “After such a difficult 18 months for everyone, it is wonderful to have something to celebrate and receive recognition for the continued hard work and enthusiasm of our fantastic team here at Cowell’s.”
The top 10 scoring centers will receive, in addition, a ‘Centre of Excellence’ Award, and these will be announced during the GCA’s annual dinner at the 2022 Annual Conference on January 23 – 26, 2022, at the Mercure Blackburn Dunkenhalgh Hotel and Spa in Blackburn, Lancashire. Members will be able to book in October 2021 for the event.