Robert Hillier reaches half century milestone

This year, Hillier chairman Robert Hillier, OBE VMH, celebrates 50 years at the company.

Robert Hillier Picture: Michael Butters
Robert Hillier Picture: Michael Butters

Since he joined in 1967, the company has progressed from a primarily mail order business to being a large scale grower and garden centre group.

Despite being the fourth generation of Hillier to join the family business, he worked his way through different roles like everyone else, starting as an office assistant.

He said: "When I joined, my father, Sir Harold Hillier, was still very active. He was passionate about plant conversation and passed that joy on to me, but was rightly insistent I needed to experience all parts of the business."

With later roles taking him from office to field to road, one of his many milestones came in the 1970’s when he became the first salesperson for Hillier, working with the local authority market: "I spent my time loading lorries and driving up and down the country, offering our bare-root trees. Our sales team grew and we became known as ‘The Mobile Gang’. This was really theabeginning of our Amenity team today, which goes from strength to strength."

The growth of the garden centre side of Hillier business began in the 1980s when he put a keen
focus on its development; progressing from two plant collection points to a group of 14 centres by
the end of the 1990s. With two divested, Hillier Garden Centres today includes 12 centres – in 2017, an extension project was completed at Eastbourne and there are more plans in the pipeline.

He said: "I am immensely proud of what we have achieved with our garden centres. Looking
at the business today, I hope and expect Hillier to enjoy more success in the decades to come. It has
every chance when I look at the incredible teams and commitment behind it. With the fifth generation
now actively involved and 17 grandchildren in the next generation, I hope we can continue to be a
thriving family business, offering many more people the opportunity of long, happy careers."

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