Seabrook On... Garden centre inspectors

No apology for writing in praise once again of the Monday programme at the Garden Centre Association (GCA) conference, even if the return taxi fare from Edinburgh Airport to St Andrews did cost me £250.

Where else can you sit comfortably and hear reports from four experienced, well-qualified inspectors and see their photographs of 170 garden centres from across Britain carefully assessed?

Roger Crookes made his selection from 2,000 photos taken during his spring and autumn inspections for the best plants/Ruxley rose awards. Our best centres do now stock plants of unbelievably high quality and they are very professionally presented, compared with 40 years ago.

Three of the inspectors have now retired, with Ian Boardman being the longest-serving and having 17 years in the role. What a wealth of knowledge they have and it is to be hoped their experience continues to serve our industry.

I speak from personal knowledge as the first field officer back in 1970, when four centres a day from Lelant in Cornwall to Aberdeen in the North East were inspected - 80 in four weeks. That productivity was in no small measure due to my then boss at Bord na Mona, Michael Oliver, who did the journey plan and made all the appointments.

Three newly appointed GCA inspectors come with considerable retail track records - Gordon Emslie, ex-Sainsbury's; Michal Cole, ex-Notcutts; and Hedley Triggs, 25 years with Trelawney. It looks to me, however, as if the selectors missed a couple of tricks by not including the female touch and a relatively new entrant to our industry.

There are more women customers than men, ladies generally have a good eye for colour and design, and when it comes to selling things their input is invaluable.

The presentations by the five Rising Star finalists at St Andrews were really impressive, not least when everyone clearly demonstrated how focusing attention on either one product or product range brought increased sales and profitability.

They are excellent examples of the bright, hard-working and enthusiastic young people we have in the garden centre industry. Thanks are due to Edward Conroy and Westland for sponsoring and backing this initiative.

A young person of such calibre, doing inspections alongside older people, would be great training for them and bring in social media and other modern attributes. After a day at the GCA and the next at IPM Essen, it was of note to see how plant producers are becoming much more attuned to retailers' needs.

Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Read These Next

Is garden centre pricing becoming more competitive?

Is garden centre pricing becoming more competitive?

Plants, furniture and food are under price pressure.

Hedging - what are the alternatives to box?

Hedging - what are the alternatives to box?

With box blight and box tree moth both posing problems, Miranda Kimberley looks at alternative planting choices.

What are the benefits to garden retail businesses of multi-channel selling?

What are the benefits to garden retail businesses of multi-channel selling?

Gardening Express has become the latest online operator to buy a bricks-and-mortar garden centre, showing how multi-channel selling is developing fast.

Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google +
Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs

Horticulture Week Top 100 GARDEN CENTRES

Our exclusive ranking of garden centre performance by annual turnover. 

Garden Centre Prices

Peter Seabrook

Inspiration and insight from travels around the horticultural world

Read more Peter Seabrook articles

Neville Stein

Business advice from Neville Stein, MD of business consultancy Ovation

Read latest articles