Spotlight shines on the garden industry

Once again the Garden Retail Awards, held in London earlier this week provided an opportunity to showcase the best in innovation, creativity and best practice across the industry.

There were glimpses of the future, including Dobbies' carbon-neutral Garden World, Aberdeen, the group's shot at an entirely new retail concept that will provide a blueprint for future growth, earning it on the way the award for best business development.

But there were also plenty of examples of more traditional values on display, such as great customer service, exemplified by Sidmouth Garden Centre, which won the best customer service award. Sidmouth caught the eye of the judges because while it gets the basics right - such as ensuring every single customer is met with a warm welcome - it continues to push the boundaries.

Deliveries do not just take place when customers want them, furniture is assembled for free and any packaging or old items are helpfully taken away on the return trip. Free garden design is all part of the deal, while staff will hunt down any plant wanted by a customer - with eight out of ten plants not stocked by Sidmouth found within 10 working days. And they don't rely on one customer satisfaction survey a year - they do three.

Back to the future again with Garden Centre Group's brilliant mixed media e-learning solution to the problem of training 5,500 employees spread across the UK. For the first time in the firm's history, training is available to everyone - a feat that earned the award for commitment to training. This was just one of four earned by the group, which also picked up the prize for best planteria for Bridgemere Nursery & Garden World. Here the planteria radiates out from a fully lit 215m walkway - the ninth longest in Britain. Which goes to show even a planteria already known as a showcase for plants can still create a whole new wow factor to drive business forward.

Congratulations to all of this year's 18 winners and thanks to everyone who entered the awards, which were organised by HW's sister magazine Garden Retail in association with the HTA. Full details of the winners will be published in November's edition of Garden Retail. For a copy, email rebecca.batty@haymarket.com.


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