Column: GCA Chairman, Tammy Woodhouse

New Garden Centre Association (GCA) Chairman, Tammy Woodhouse, shares the trading update and sets out her plot for the season ahead.

What a whirlwind few months it has been in my new position as GCA Chairman. Chairman Elect, Will Blake, and I have been working hard on strengthening our relationships with our member centres and we are already busy making plans for the various events that we will be hosting this year. We also have early plans in motion for our annual conference, which we hope will go ahead in person next year.

It has been a positive start to the year for our member garden centres as revealed in our Barometer of Trade reports. Catering sales were through the roof in January. Sales were 5,804.29% up compared to the same month in 2021. Sales in catering in February were also up 5,458.63%. It is great to see some recovery in this department and we’re hoping now that we’ll see many more improvements for everyone this year, across the board, as we go through the post-pandemic phase.

At the time of writing this, our members are ramping up for one of the busiest weekends of the year, Easter. We have everything crossed that the great British weather will be on our side this year, and everyone can get out into their gardens or onto their plots and get lots of jobs done.

There is also an extra special event happening this year in the form of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in June, which we hope will give people even more impetus to get out into their gardens and party this summer.

Many of our member centres are currently in the planning stages and are hoping to bring people together to celebrate after a turbulent two years. This is an event that all departments in garden centres can make the most of – restaurants and cafés can host afternoon tea and street party style celebrations, while gift departments will be brimming with bunting and souvenirs. Any centres with craft departments can really go all out making decorations and hosting classes, and plantarias can give it their all with their displays and advice to help customers create their own red, white and blue bedding plant extravaganzas at home too.

Our inspectors have started their annual visits to our member garden centres and initial reports are very positive. These inspections are integral in ensuring our members are offering a consistently excellent service to consumers and improving their retail standards, which is what all our garden centres must do to remain in our association.

Each centre is assessed across all its departments and scored accordingly. The scoring system is very detailed with more than 200 separate criteria for the inspector to assess. This includes everything from the website, telephone answering, and then when they arrive on-site how they are greeted, through to roadside signage and car parking and on all the way through the various retail departments.

Many of our members say the annual inspections are one of the most important reasons for joining us, as they can learn so much from them and use the inspectors’ comments to help them keep on improving year after year.

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

Tammy Woodhouse was officially named as GCA Chairman for 2022 – 23, with Will Blake becoming Chairman Elect, during the GCA’s virtual AGM meeting, which took place on February 10. Tammy, who is Managing Director of Millbrook Garden Centres, which has centres in Gravesend and Staplehurst in Kent, said: “I am thrilled to have taken on the role of GCA Chairman for 2022 – 23. I look forward to working closely with the GCA Executive and full Board of elected directors. I hope together we can continue to expand our membership and strengthen those all-important relationships between centres”.

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