Horticulture Week Business Award - Garden Centre Group/Multiple Retailer of the Year

Winner - Hillier Garden Centres

The year 2018 was another successful one for Hillier Garden Centres. Following poor spring weather, the business saw fantastic growth through to the end of the year, from a successful May when sales were up 26% to a superb autumn selling 23% more, through to a festive period that grew 11% on an already successful 2017 season. Sales in the planteria increased by almost 10% on 2017 during the year.

Overall, the business saw a 3.3% increase in turnover during a challenging year for the industry, with extreme weather resulting in changes to the traditional buying pattern. Hillier was agile in changing purchasing, merchandising and marketing plans in response to customer demand and behaviour, leading to growth across several categories.

Stihl tools were introduced for sale in 2018 and contributed to 10% of total tool sales during the year. Other new products such as cast-iron sculptures, metal garden ornaments and water features were added in selected centres, resulting in 26% incremental growth.

At the heart of the company are its 12 garden centres and considerable developments took place in 2018 to further strengthen them. A significant extension was added to the centre at Botley to build a "Mulberry & Thyme" restaurant, offering an additional 150 covers. Since opening in spring 2018, it has generated sales growth of 70%. Hillier restaurants achieved 8% like-for-like growth and record Christmas lunch bookings built on the success of the 2017 Christmas period.

Playing a role in communities is very important for Hillier and in 2018 events were enhanced to create more of an experience, including workshops on hanging baskets, terrariums, bulb planting and wreaths as well as cooking classes, evening events and rose festivals. More than 3,000 people attended and 93% rated their event as very good/excellent value for money.

In 2018, Hillier undertook its biggest community project yet with the Hillier Great Garden Makeover and charity partner Wessex Cancer Trust, with product donations from 50 suppliers and more than 100 volunteers transforming a two-year-old cancer sufferer’s garden.

Hillier is committed to supporting its customers digitally and driving growth through reaching new audiences. Yearly website visits increased by almost 30% year-on-year and social media followers grew by 26% in 2018. More targeted emails have resulted in open rates rising from an average of 33% to 44%.

Category Sponsor: Cocogreen

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