He added: "This year has been a very good year. The financial year to the end of September ended nine per cent up and we’re 13 per cent up since then. This was a good result after the wettest winter ever in 2015/16 and the coldest spring until the end of April. But we had the best ever May by a long way and that carried on into June, July and August."
Purchasing head Andrew West said he was "well aware of inflationary pressures in the market" which Hillier is resisting, adding: "Companies should not increase prices just to reassure their investors."
The 12-centre group has a 20,000 sqft, five concession extension is to be built at Eastbourne, for completion in May 2017. Hillier has applied for planning permission for a restaurant similar to Newbury’s at Botley, which will add an extra span and take the catering back in-house.
Francis said in 2017 he sees houseplants as home accessories and the "return of the British nursery" as trends: "We’ve got to capitalise on Brexit in the UK and think about how to appeal to the market."
He said Hillier is now the largest customer of its own nursery, with 25 per cent of stock going to its garden centres.
Francis said nursery stock, bedding and restaurants still make up more than 50 per cent of sales in the season.
He said Hillier’s Chelsea Flower Show stand would be in the same place as 2015 in the pavilion but not next to the monument. Sarah Eberle is designing and Caitlin Mclaughlin, the RHS young designer of the year, is also involved.
The second annual Hillier garden centre awards, held in Southampton, saw representatives from suppliers Westland, Burgon & Ball, New Place Nurseries, Gardman, Bramblecrest. Woodlodge, MIPT Landscapes, Briers, Kapiteyn, Fordingbridge, Print Pace, Corby & Fellas, Meon Valley Nurseries and Beanworks presenting the awards.
- Contractor of the year: MJT Landscapes
- Plantarea of the year: Newbury (up 24 per cent)
- Plant category supplier of the year: Meon Valley Nurseries
- Garden shop of the year: Botley (27 per cent up)
- Gardening Category Supplier of the Year: Westland
- Home Category supplier of the year: Bramblecrest
- Restaurant of the year: Sunningdale (up 20 per cent like-for-like)
- Garden centre head office employee of the year: Gill Mayo
- Garden centre manager of the year: Paul White (up 21 per cent like-for-like and 24 per cent profit)
- Overall garden centre of the year: Eastbourne
- Garden centre employee of the year: Steve Harrison