Garden Centre Outlet of the Year: turnover £2m-£5m

Winner: Old Railway Line Garden Centre

Redevelopment at Old Railway Line Garden Centre in Brecon more than three years ago added a restaurant, farm shop and new retail space, and turnover increased significantly as expected over the following 12 months. Over the past 24 months the business has managed to sustain and improve on that growth, demonstrating its desire to continue to grow and excel. Last year was by far the most successful to date in terms of turnover.

Staff training is provided to merchandise products attractively, push link sales and upsell where possible. Monthly departmental targets are set and regular staff meetings are scheduled to make employees aware of current performance and offer help and guidance to continue improvement and development of sales figures.

A high level of customer service is what Old Railway Line believes brings customers back again and again. Staff receive regular training and understand the importance of high levels of customer care, from a customer and a business perspective, to increase turnover. Old Railway Line offers all of the expected services such as local delivery, car loading and plant identification, but likes to offer a little extra to make the customer feel special.

This year, Old Railway Line has been heavily involved in the campaign against the proposed closure of a local high school. It raised £2,842 for a fighting fund through a quiz and curry night and promise auction hosted by the local MP. Its charity of the year was Usk House Hospice in Brecon, with £1,000 raised so far, as well as almost £2,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support.

Old Railway Line invests a lot of time and effort in events and has a dedicated team responsible for organising and implementing them throughout the year. Evening events generate revenue when the garden centre would usually be closed. One of the highlights this year was the "Christmas Preview Evening", which attracted more than 400 customers to the garden centre and generated a turnover double the previous Friday (when no event was held). Old Railway Line has also hosted a selection of charity events including an annual Greenfingers fundraising day and Macmillan coffee mornings as well as its quiz and curry nights. These events generate invaluable publicity through local press and customer enjoyment as well as raising incredible amounts of money for national and local charities.

Garden-related events have included an orchid day and rose day, which promote the fact that gardening and plants are still the core of the business. "Wild Wednesday" workshops for children (winner of last year's Best Garden Centre Event) attract families to the garden centre every Wednesday of the school holidays - between 90 and 150 children attend each session.

The closest city is 45 minutes' drive away and people often travel between 30 minutes and an hour to visit. Marketing changes include restructuring the reward card, launching a new website (incorporating e-commerce facilities), improving email marketing efforts, advertisements and leaflet distribution. This year, however, Old Railway Line has broadened its marketing strategy to attract customers from outside the catchment area by targeting people in specific geographical areas.

It used reward card member data to identify specific postcodes with few members, such as Hereford, Abergavenny and Crickhowell, and targeted them through leaflet drops using the Royal Mail's Door to Door Service. This saw a rise in reward card members between February and September 2015, with the greatest increases in the targeted postcodes.

Highly commended
Glendoick Garden Centre

Finalist
Longacres Garden Centre Shepperton


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