Awards inspire confidence

What an uplifting and inspiring night Monday's Garden Retail Awards 2011 proved to be.

This year may have proved tougher than we might have hoped, but the confidence and imagination behind so many of the projects submitted for this year's awards suggest the sector's best are up for any challenges to come.

In the same week that retailers were on their way to Parliament to highlight the work they play in serving their communities, several of Monday's awards - including the hotly contested prize for community involvement won by Woodcote Green Garden Centre - drew attention to the stunning amount of work going on around the country into getting school children into growing.

Meanwhile, Best Planteria award winner Planters Garden Centre showed how to meet adversity head on. Following the loss of its biggest supplier in spring last year, the centre went all out to source as many plants as possible from local nurseries, working with them to secure competitive prices on key lines, while getting the story of their "local hero" producers up in lights.

Just one of the many examples of great creativity on show, and in this case particularly well planned and executed, was Millbrook Garden Centre's revamp of its planteria that saw it dump the gridiron layout for curves and planting "cameos" designed to relax and inspire its customers. And Scotsdales' brilliant creation of a team of "angels" dedicated to seeking out customers who need help has seen significant payback and earned it the best customer service award.

More highlights will be in next week's Horticulture Week while a full rundown will feature in our sister magazine Garden Retail later this month. Congratulations to all the winners.

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