Sales Team of the Year - Sidmouth Garden centre

It goes without saying that this is the strongest asset at the centre, says Sidmouth Garden Centre of its sales team. It is not just a 9-5 job for staff - they put in 60-hour weeks when required and are the face of everything the centre stands for.

Sales team of the year - Sidmouth Garden centre - image: HW
Sales team of the year - Sidmouth Garden centre - image: HW

The centre team has eight full-time staff and five part-timers, who mainly work only one day a week. The team has not changed for four years. In the past four years, it has received two HTA customer service awards and three garden centre of the year awards. The team was born 11 years ago when Ian Barlow took over the centre. Three staff members have been there ever since.

The strongest part of the centre is customer service. The team works to cerate a friendly buzzing atmosphere. The centre does not claim to be the cheapest and positions itself as a high-end destination. This attracts a customer that is not so price sensitive, allowing margins of 55 per cent.

Staff spend time with customers to make sure every need is catered for and all staff are highly trained and work on a profit percentage bonus. The one rule is that if you are talking to a customer, you don't need to do any real work. Staff have taken only five sick days in 2012.

The staff have a biggest sale of the day completion, with pride only at stake. Customer feedback questionnaires are overwhelmingly positive. Each staff member, based on 10 full-timers, take more than £150,000 each in sales a year. Wage bills as a percentage of sales are as low as 8.92 per cent. Total sales area is just 2,500sq m, but sales per square metre are £65.97.

Owner Ian Barlow is on the town council and the garden centre is now a key part of Sidmouth in Bloom.

The staff say you can have the biggest, cleanest, newest centre in the country but without atmosphere you have nothing.

- Judge's comment

"A hard-working sales team that is appreciated by the local community" - Martyn Cox

Briers is a specialist gardening gloves and footwear designer, distributor and manufacturer and the licensee behind the Gardening Industry Manufacturers Association award-winning Gruffalo(R) range of children's gardening clothes and accessories.

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