GCA Column: CEO, Peter Burks

The year has started off very well in our Garden Centre Association member garden centres with the warm, but mostly very wet, weather driving customers into the restaurants and giving generally good sales across all categories. The recent Mothering Sunday weekend was also very strong, which has given a great start to the spring peak trading season.

There is currently a lot of discussion around the carbon footprint of the products on our shelves and this was well discussed in a recent members’ webinar about sustainability.

Planetmark, a company that several members have engaged to help look into their carbon footprint, presented an interesting piece concerning the difference between net zero and carbon neutral, and how we could begin engaging with these challenges.

Then we had a marvellous range of presentations from delegates on the call who all shared great examples of things that they are doing or have planned. It was interesting to hear that most contributors considered engaging their team in this process as one of the most important first steps, as they come up with so many great ideas and are very passionate about seeing them through. We also heard how the first steps are often the biggest wins and contribute the most significant cash savings too. 

It is easy to see that transporting any product over long distances is going to be costly from a carbon point of view, so it is heartening to hear of a lot of encouraging stories of members trying to source good quality products closer to home. Clearly this isn’t possible with everything and there are some great recycled products, such as the BosilunLife range of ceramics, made completely with recycled ceramic waste, that may travel a distance, but are a great addition to any range.

We recently held our annual conference, which was very well attended and, as usual, produced lots of great ideas to be taken back to centres and put into practice. This came from many avenues, such as the Inspectors roundup of their spring inspections. The winning centres of the Indoor Lifestyle Award, sponsored by Merzario, were two Perrywood centres – one at Sudbury, Suffolk and the other in Tiptree in Essex (pictured above). They clearly know how to source and display great products for the home and as gifts. Visual merchandising standards have improved so dramatically in garden centres over the last few years.

It was great to launch this year’s Talent Store programme, organised by the team at GLEE, at our conference too. Once again, they will be producing the results of their training at the GLEE show in September for all to see.

The Outdoor Living Awards, sponsored by Woodlodge, went to Canterbury Garden Centre, for the Garden Centre category and Garsons of Esher for the Destination Garden Centre award (pictured top). Their use of terrific backdrops to create that stunning display was very evident, as well as great attention to detail using accessories, cushions and colour in the overall offer. There was even furniture made from recycled fishing nets! The GCA represents more than 200 garden centres nationwide.

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