Column: GCA Chairman, Tammy Woodhouse

Can you believe it’s nearly the end of 2022? What a rollercoaster year it’s been once again.

It very sadly started off with the passing of one of our honorary members, Peter Seabrook, who died in January. He was a huge supporter of garden centres and an integral member of our industry. Peter was in at the very beginning when our organisation was formed and has supported us throughout. He is sorely missed and will be fondly remembered for generations to come.

Covid was unfortunately still around at the beginning of year and we decided to postpone our annual conference once again. This time due to the ongoing spread of the Omicron variant.

We were thankfully able to host parts of the conference online, including our AGM, which was a huge success. We were also able to announce our award winners virtually too, which paved the way for us to host more virtual meetings during the year.

I was also thrilled to be officially announced as the GCA Chairman for 2022/23 alongside my Chairman Elect, Will Blake. I have thoroughly enjoyed my role so far this year and meeting our members has been one of the highlights.

We dipped back into the virtual world in July this year, hosting a sustainability webinar and a catering one, with members, and experts from the respective industries speaking at these. Overall, the webinars were extremely interesting and it was great to hear everyone’s opinions. It was a wonderful opportunity, albeit remotely, for our members to get together and discuss such important issues in depth.

As per usual, the great British weather was very up and down this year. We saw a very wet June, which affected garden centre sales. However, by contrast, we saw one of our hottest Julys on record, with temperatures exceeding 30°C and, as much as we love the sunshine, it meant that a lot of gardeners couldn’t spend as much time on their plots as they would have liked to. This meant a decline in sales in traditional categories within out member garden centres.

Things have now calmed down a bit. But, at the time of writing, we are seeing one of our warmest Novembers on record too. It will be interesting to see how this affects our members’ sales when it comes to our Barometer of Trade figures being released for the month.

In September, one of our former Inspectors, Ian Boardman, sadly passed away. He was a huge part of the horticultural industry, with a fantastic knowledge, which he shared with many of our members.

In happier news, we officially announced the return of our annual conference at the Mercure Blackburn Dunkenhalgh Hotel and Spa in Lancashire from January 22 until 25, 2023. So far, speakers Linbert Spencer OBE and Casper Craven have both been announced and we have more exciting updates to release details of in due course.

We’re now bracing ourselves and looking forward to a busy and successful Christmas period for all our members. I can’t wait to see as many of them as possible again face-to-face in January at our conference.

We’re all also wondering how we’ll fair in 2023 and our conference is always a good place to share ideas and best practice. And to hear from experts who have insights and specialist knowledge of the areas where we’re likely to face challenges in the coming 12 months including the economy, sustainability, recruitment and encouraging diversity in our industry.

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