Unlike most garden centres, Coolings has retained an extensive A-Z section for trees, shrubs, herbaceous and climbing plants. Category growth of 18 per cent for hardy plants proved the worth of this system when coupled with bed and hot-spot displays enabling experienced and novice gardeners to find what they want with ease.
The centre in Kent has an on-site nursery where the majority of stock is home-produced, ensuring the garden centre is never without plants at peak times. Where Coolings does buy plants, it favours British grown from trusted suppliers. The emphasis on plant quality is backed by a five-year hardy plant guarantee.
Coolings also recognises the main obstacle for people is lack of knowledge and has striven to help develop staff who are knowledgeable and approachable and that informative POS is present with every plant subject. At peak periods, 20 full and part-time planteria staff are employed. The average transaction is £26.35 (up 2.81 per cent in 2011) and is one of the highest in the industry because Coolings gives customers the confidence and inspiration to buy.
The company also delivers educational courses such as RHS level 2 and it is a policy that staff are encouraged to join the courses at the company's expense.
Coolings has been moving forward making changes for customers' benefit, including a new impulse area next to the main walkway to provide a porous free-circulating shopping environment with many hot spots.
A new plant pavilion has been built by resident plant doctor Mark Reeve, who has been at Coolings for more than 20 years and where expert plant knowledge form an important destination for customer inquiries.
New show gardens have been built to demonstrate best-selling plants as they would appear in customers' own homes, which informs them in their buying decisions.
Coolings also has two plant showcases every year. Summer is a mini Chelsea and autumn is a themed feature, with a Japanese garden this year.
- Judge's comment
"With an emphasis on plants, gardeners are sure to discover someting different" - Adam Pasco
Frensham Garden Centre
Melbicks Garden & Leisure