Horticulture Week Podcast: Hillier's Chris Francis speaks about Syon Park and the future for the renowned retailer/nursery

Hillier Garden Centre & Wholesale Nurseries director Chris Francis has spoken about the group's new garden centre, Syon Park in west London, as well as the Hampshire-based garden centre and growing group's plans for the future and how 2021 has gone so far.

Hillier Garden Centre Syon Park's point of difference is to target a higher-end customer, says Francis, who has used his connections with Peter Jones and the John Lewis Partnership, bringing David Morley, who ran the Sloane Square department store, on board. 

At Syon Park there are two different catering offers and the podcast is recorded in the main restaurant, as staff prepared to open.

In 2019, Hillier decided to concentrate plant production towards its own garden centres and Francis jokes how that unwittingly "amazing decision" was absolutely the right decision for the business during the pandemic and Brexit.

"We have been growing the business and we have a nursery that was probably concentrating on supply to other customers more than our own garden centres, and actually in the nursery we have such a unique proposition — a very high-quality product that if we worked on it properly we'd be able to fill our planterias with a unique, high-quality product that gave us a real point of difference to any other garden centre group.

"That's going to be very important as the supply base rationalises and there are fewer suppliers and potentially every business has the same range, we have the opportunity to have a range of products that's different to everyone else, which works for us and works for everyone else.

"We're making sure the product that comes off our nursery is A1 quality. It's not about value engineering. It's a really high-quality product where we're not afraid to charge the right price for the production of that product."

If you are interested in producing a podcast with Horticulture Week, contact matthew.appleby@haymarket.com or roisin.kennedy@haymarket.com.

Listener feedback - please email hortweek@haymarket.com with "Podcast" at the beginning of the subject line.

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