Over the course of just 12 months, Hillier Garden Centres has transformed its business. Turnover has increased, as have profits, average transaction value and nursery stock sales.
Nine of the 12 Hillier garden centres have been stylishly refitted, placing plants at the heart of the customer journey. The newly relaunched Hillier Gardening Club has reached 140,000 actively engaged members.
Hillier has established a new full-time training department, training schedule and management trainee programme, and its re-energised workforce is delivering outstanding plant quality and customer service.
Determined to bring the garden centre division in line with the award-winning standards of the rest of the group, the Hillier family took the decision last year to invest in both people and sites.
Chris Francis was appointed Hillier Garden Centre Director in March 2014. He set about transforming the way Hillier Garden Centres does business with remarkable speed, and with a vision to create not destination centres but outstanding gardening centres with plants at their heart. The four key steps have been:
Business Development refits
Charlotte Speculo joined Hillier Garden Centres in June 2014 as head of merchandising. She went through each garden centre and layout to develop best practice designs for customer flow, comfortable layout and a classic, natural, rustic and consistent look with a nod to Hillier's heritage. The customer flow has been re-imagined so visitors enter through the planteria beneath stunning new timber-framed roof spans.
Andrew West, Hillier's new head of purchasing, introduced new purchasing systems to streamline the customer offer, improve margins, stock availability and stock turn. The relationship with Hillier Nurseries has been strengthened still further with almost all of the hardy stock plants coming from Hillier and most of the herbaceous range. As a result of the Hillier Shrub Collection innovation, sales of Hillier-grown lines are up hugely. The existing Hillier Gardening Club was relaunched in October 2014.
Driving Plant Quality & Range
The policy is that display plants should look as though delivered fresh from the nursery, and are well tended and watered. As plants go over, they are sold through separate clearance areas to make way for fresh stock.
Investing in People
Hillier is on track to reach Investors in People silver level, having introduced a full-time training department and training schedule to continue to develop the team and make them feel they belong. A new management traineeship programme has been introduced to develop people over a two-year period.