This year’s ‘Westland Challenge’ competition offered by Westland Horticulture to find the garden centre that best optimised Garden Re-Leaf Day 2013, has been won jointly by Aylett Nurseries and Simpsons Garden Centre.
The centres impressed judges with their all-round combination of well marketed special events, fund-raising success and retail results surrounding Garden Re-Leaf Day.
Both garden centres will share the first prize of Westland Gro-Sure All-Purpose Compost, worth £6,000.
It is the second year running that St Albans-based Aylett Nurseries has come top in the competition, having won the Westland Challenge outright in 2012.
Uniquely amongst the entrants, Aylett appointed a group of ‘Garden Re-Leaf Day Champions’ to organise and promote the day.
Its many activities included a ‘design a T-shirt’ competition, a Goodwill Coffee Morning, a Silent Auction, a ‘Guess the Weight of the Cake’ competition, a staff raffle to win an extra day’s holiday, a tombola, the Garden Re-Leaf Day celebrity quiz – hosted by Matt Biggs - and the HTA’s ‘Find the Winning Plot’ competition.
A raft of marketing activities also promoted the events, helping to raise more than £2,000 for Garden Re-Leaf Day’s designated charity Greenfingers.
Aylett Nurseries’ operations manager Geoff Lucas said: "The Aylett Nurseries team worked extremely hard to organise an inspirational range of Garden Re-Leaf Day activities, and raising money for Greenfingers was our goal. However being awarded top spot in the ‘Westland Challenge’ twice in a row is much more than we had hoped for."
Simpsons Garden Centre in Inverness also got into the full spirit of Garden Re-Leaf Day’s joint fund-raising and retail boosting aims, running its events across a full week.
Staff arranged a highly successful ‘£1 Primrose offer for every reader’ that gained extensive local newspaper coverage; resulting in 213 redemptions.
A 10 per cent donation to Garden Re-Leaf was made on every outdoor planter bought, selling an unprecedented 197 items. Themed cupcakes were also sold through the restaurant and colourful Wellington Boots placed at till points collected extra donations.
Press releases, point of sale in-store, customer emailers and social media all boosted awareness of the events, resulting in increased footfall and raising £830 for charity.
Simpsons Garden Centre Manager Andy Howard confirmed: ''This was a great challenge to be involved with and a fantastic charity which benefited from the proceeds. We're delighted that Westland chose our multi-level fundraising campaign as their joint winner and put the success of our campaign down to great teamwork and the support we have from our fantastic customers.''
Around 500 garden centres and suppliers participated in the second Garden Re-Leaf Day in March, which provides retailers with a promotional platform to get the gardening season off to a flying start, while raising valuable funds for children’s hospice garden charity Greenfingers.
Westland Horticulture’s ‘Westland Challenge’ laid down the gauntlet for participating garden centres to demonstrate how their Garden Re-Leaf Day activities were a cut above the rest; not necessarily in terms of funds raised, but also taking into account effort and originality.
Westland marketing director Keith Nicholson said: "We are passionate about encouraging people to get gardening, so it has been really encouraging to see so many garden centres up and down the country giving their time for such a worthy charity. All the entries were impressive, but the winners of our Westland Challenge really bought into the cause with innovative ideas that raised a fantastic amount of money for Greenfingers, so we’d like to congratulate them both."
The competition was judged by Keith Nicholson, Westland Horticulture marketing director, Boyd Douglas-Davies, founder of Garden Re-Leaf Day and CEO of Hillview Garden Centres, Sue Allen, former MD of Millbrook Garden Company, and Michelle Whitefoot, MD of Whitefoot-Forward PR.
Monies raised by Garden Re-Leaf Day’s events are being donated to Greenfingers. The inaugural Garden Re-Leaf Day in 2012 raised more than £55,000 for Greenfingers, helping a specially designed, family garden to be built at both Robin House Children’s Hospice in West Dunbartonshire, and Donna Louise Children’s Hospice in Stoke-on-Trent.
Monies raised by Garden Re-Leaf Day 2013 will be announced at the GIMA Awards event in Leeds on 18th July 2013.