Garden Centre Outlet of the Year Destination - Winner: Tong Garden Centre

When childhood friends Mark Farnsworth and Tom Megginson acquired Tong Garden Centre in Yorkshire back in May 2015, the new owners knew that investment and a clear vision could turn it back into a top garden centre.

Garden Centre Outlet of the Year Destination - Winner: Tong Garden Centre
Garden Centre Outlet of the Year Destination - Winner: Tong Garden Centre

Within a short time the new owners have doubled turnover, created 90 additional jobs, doubled footfall and succeeded in making Tong a destination centre by appealing to new demographics.

They have achieved this by putting the customer first - through training, rewarding and recognising staff to move them from a task-focused team to a customer-focused unit (see p41).

Tong was lacking in investment but had many positives. These included its location between Leeds and Bradford, the 17-acre size and the potential to develop further.

The centre underwent £1m of improvements, from flooring and lighting to new fixtures and fittings, an extended and remerchandised planteria, a food hall, bakery and butchery as well as concessions Bonmarche, Maidenhead Aquatics and Mountain Warehouse.

The garden centre also ran an 18-month "Tong is back" marketing campaign, involving strong social media engagement.

Younger families have been attracted by the new Grass Hoppers outdoor adventure playground and cafe, featuring bouncing pillows, a zip wire, sand area and climbing frame, and Christmas sales have rocketed thanks to a new grotto.

Catering has been transformed with a new homemade menu and 208 more covers, as well as the Grass Hopper cafe, and Tong celebrates its location with Yorkshire produce from more than 100 local suppliers.

The owners have made a huge personal and financial investment to make Tong great again.

Highly commended

Garsons Garden Centre

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