In 1987, a group of garden centre owners decided to source some of their products jointly and share best practice,a s well as market collectively through Beautiful Gardens and Beautiful Christmas magazine. They included Otter Nurseries and Ruxley Manor who are still members of the group today.Richard Evans of Ruxley said: "From its inception at the Gateshead festival to the present I have always found the Tillington Group to be hugely supportive, forward thinking, with a wealth of ideas and knowledge from likeminded garden centre owners. The group has certainly had a great influence on the growth of Ruxley manor, now safely in the hands of the next generation Andrew and James."
Jacqui Taylor of Otter, whose father Malcolm White was an original member and her daughter Sabine is now a regular at meetings, said: "‘Otter Nurseries has been part of Tillington since the very beginning. We have seen our business grow alongside other members and established many long lasting friendships. New members have been welcomed over the years and always bring a fresh perspective and new energy to the group."
She added: "Tillington allows members to maximise their strength as a group across common activities whilst retaining their own personality and individuality."
Bents MD Matthew Bent said: "Although there is a strong focus on collaboration we have also been able to retain our independent values, which make us who we are."
A Frosts representative said: "Being part of Tillington has given Frosts the opportunity to benchmark performanis thatce, exchange information, seek advice on new suppliers and to generally compete with much larger companies on an equal footing."
Ed Webb of Webbs of Wychbold, another very longstanding member, considers Tillington brings the confidence to stock products that "ensure we remain fresh and innovative year after year; everything from new plants to exclusive furniture and eclectic Christmas and gift lines, all marketed in Beautiful Christmas & Beautiful Gardens magazines."
Jacqui Taylor added: "We have maximised our combined buying and marketing power and built genuine partnerships with many trusted suppliers. We can reflect with pride over the last 25 years that many suppliers have shared our success."
Scotsdales Garden Centre of Cambridge joined the Tillington group five years ago and MD Caroline Owen said: "The exchange of ideas within the sub committees, comparing sales by product sector and being part of a friendly organisation are just some of the positives."
Squire’s have been members for 14 years and Sarah Squire said: "We value the very open, honest, and sometimes challenging discussions we experience at Tillington meetings. This is built upon mutual trust and respect. After all when you are in discussions with some of the best and most energetic operators there are in our industry you have to listen."
The Tillington Group comprises 11 garden centre companies with a combined turnover of approaching £200 million, over 3,000 staff and 36 centres.
North West: Bents Garden Centre and Hayes Garden World
Midlands: Webbs Garden Centres
East Anglia: Scotsdale Garden Centre
South East: Alton Garden Centre, Frosts Garden Centres, Ruxley Manor Garden Centre, Squire’s Garden Centres, The Van Hage Garden Company
South West: Otter Nurseries Garden Centres, Whitehall Garden Centres