Garden Centre Landscape Service of the Year

Winner: Tendercare Nurseries

Tendercare is an award-winning specialist plant nursery with an unrivalled range of mature and specimen trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants, for both trade and retail clients looking to create immediate impact at planting.

Horticultural expertise underpins all parts of the Tendercare service. To date this has included on-site consultations to advise customers on the right shrubs and trees to achieve a desired effect or provide an immediate screening solution, a written report with visuals to illustrate the recommendations and complemented by a visit to the nursery to select suggested plants.

Clients can often find it hard to visualise the effect that new planting will achieve, both in structural terms but also on the quality of atmosphere it will create. To address this, the company recently trialled using new software that overlays proposed new planting on top of existing photographs of the client's garden to illustrate the effect in situ.

The number of garden consultations increased during the year the service was revamped, as did retail sales. Consultations were offered to customers visiting the nursery by the nursery-based sales team. Design services are sold as a separate offer and, if identified as needed at the visit, the customer is refunded the garden consultation visit charge should they go ahead and place an order for design services. The Tendercare sales team were all briefed on the change to the presentation service that the company was offering to clients.

Copies of schemes prepared for other customers were laminated and used for demonstration purposes in the sales office. This led to a significant increase in site visits booked and the technique has improved conversion rates.

Sales staff's performance in selling visits was monitored. The service has been very popular with site-based sales staff and the increase in site visits sold has mostly been achieved through the sales team's efforts on site. One of the key office/nursery-based sales staff increased revenue from site visits sales by showing customers examples of the visuals they would receive after the visit.

Tendercare has been developing the sophistication of the visuals since it started the service in June 2015 in an experimental fashion. The company is working on a further development of the service offered using different software to allow it to do quickly produced concept visuals for customers needing new bed layouts, paths and changes to the garden that cannot be illustrated in photorealistic visuals based on existing spaces. This will allow Tendercare to demonstrate its design flair and offer quotations for CAD-based design services.

The added advantage of developing this service alongside the plant offering at the nursery is that customers get the correct advice when selecting mature plants for their gardens. It is a one-off investment and the "right plant, right place" solution is paramount. Also, Tendercare has developed a database of images of the plants on the nursery, many of which it is able to restock as it sells out of a batch.

This service will help the stock-buying department focus its range of specimen plants and improve stock turn, while still allowing Tendercare's designers the ability to offer a bespoke solution for clients that is right for their needs.

Tendercare now has three designers offering this service, one of whom has been taken on to help develop it to the next level. It aims to sell the sales technique and software training to other centres that would then be able to offer the service through local designers on a freelance basis linked to selling plants from their centres.

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