Francis says Hillier can turnover millions through trading on its name, made famous with 70 Chelsea Flower Show gold medals, to customers who may not live in the grower-retailer’s southern heartland.
Francis, formerly of John Lewis and Wyevale Garden Centres, said: "We have got a head start on some because of we can sell plants through our nursery operations and logistics.
"Turnover would be the same as one of our larger garden centres, which is 20-25 per cent of our turnover. A virtual garden centre same as a garden centre.
He added that click and collect is also being considered: "Click and collect is part of an online shop and you don’t have to have a national presence for that. It adds an extra opportunity to bring someone into your centre."
Francis added that Hillier has refitted nine of its centres so far including an extension and partial refit at Chichester. Winchester is next for a refit and then Hemel and Banbury are to be looked at though they have "more challenging" sites to revamp.
He added that "restaurants are the next thing we have to develop" because customers now "absolutely expect" a café and catering offer at garden centres. I won’t openly say we will acquire and we wouldn’t be aggressively looking to do that, but never say never.
‘If an opportunity comes it would be silly not to consider it because we have the size and strong name."
Francis is ready to employ a head of marketing for Hillier Garden Centres, a role which will include the tasks of developing the website and the gardening club.