GCA expands membership portfolio

The Garden Centre Association (GCA) has seen several new members join in the past year, with nine garden centres and 22 associates signing up and approved so far this year. These garden centres include Hillmount Garden Centre, Belfast, The Hertfordshire Garden Centre, Yarnton Home & Garden, Oxfordshire, Rutland Nursery and five Hilliers – Newbury, Three-Legged Cross, Weyhill, Aldermaston and Lechlade.

Peter Burks, Chief Executive of the GCA, explains: “We’d like to welcome all our new members. I am pleased to report that we now have 210 garden centre members in total and, between them, they’ve produced more than £1 billion of trade during the past 12 months. “It’s been a bumper year for membership at the GCA, as we also have a further 13 associate members and three garden centres who have applied recently, and to be approved as members, to add to these too.”

The new approved centres have already received visits from their GCA regional inspector. These visits differ from the GCA’s annual inspections, as the date is pre-arranged, rather than unannounced. This gives new members the chance to meet their inspector and be talked through the inspection process.

Peter continues: “Now these garden centres are members, they will benefit hugely from our inspection process, as well as our annual conference in January, where they can network with others in the sector. “Our members say our unique annual inspections and feedback sessions are one of the biggest benefits of membership. The inspections are a fantastic operational, management and motivational tool, which helps towards improving standards within a business, as well as helping colleagues develop their skills. These combine to keep everyone on their toes and ensure they’re always striving towards achieving operational excellence.

“We always aim to help our members achieve the highest standards across all areas of their businesses including customer service, merchandising, plant quality and marketing.” GCA members are also able to access the Association’s e-learning initiative Garden Retail Online Workshops (GROW), which helps member garden centres keep their customer service at the highest standard.

Managing Director of Yarnton Home & Garden, Glen Sheldrake says: “We felt that as an independent home and garden centre we would benefit greatly from membership of a trade body. The GCA gives us the opportunity for active discussion with our peers, routes to improvement through the assessment schemes, a great training programme and much else besides.”

Through sharing information and its inspection programme the GCA helps members to achieve high standards in customer service, plant quality and reliability. Peter adds: “There are so many benefits for centres to join an organisation like ours. We’re a friendly and inclusive bunch and membership enables businesses to easily share best practice, experiences and ideas, which helps them make positive and proactive decisions. We use a system called Mighty that allows members to communicate with each other privately too. “We also help members to achieve high standards in areas like customer service and plant quality, which are important in ensuring they stand out from their competitors.”

Other benefits include access to the GCA’s Barometer of Trade results, this allows members to compare their trading positions with other member garden centres. Peter concludes: “It’s a real pleasure to welcome these new members. If anyone is interested in joining us, we accept applications at any time of year, so if there are any centres or associates, who supply our industry, out there thinking of joining us, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.”

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