The GCA has seen a record number of new members join in 2019 – with 10 signing up so far this year.
These include three centres from the Klondyke Group, an additional centre for Perrywood Garden Centre, as well as six other independent garden centres from across the country.
Iain Wylie, Chief Executive of the GCA, explained: “We’d like to welcome all of our new members, Bellis Brothers Farm Shop & Garden Centre, Buckingham Garden Centre, Dunbar Garden Centre, Haddenham Garden Centre, Parkers Garden Company, Waresley Park Garden Centre, Klondyke Garden Centres in Edinburgh, Livingstone and Polmont and Perrywood Sudbury.
“It is a real pleasure to welcome a record number of new members joining us within a year. We accept applications at any time of year, and we have already received interest from other centres which will increase this record total even further, so if there are any centres out there thinking of joining us, then please don’t hesitate get in touch.”
The centres have already received visits from their regional inspectors. These differ from the GCA’s annual inspections as the date is pre-arranged, rather than unannounced, in order to give the new members a chance to meet their inspector and be talked through the process.
Michael Cole, one of the GCA’s regional inspectors, said: “I recently visited five of the new centres and they are already doing great, and now that they are members, they will benefit hugely from our inspection process as well as our annual conference, where they can network with other centres.
“Our members say our unique annual inspections and feedback sessions are one of the biggest benefits of membership. They are a fantastic motivational and management tool, they keep everyone on their toes and make sure we’re always doing our best.
“We always aim to help our members achieve the highest standards across all areas of their business including customer service, merchandising, plant quality and marketing.”
GCA members are also able to access the Association’s e-learning initiative Garden Retail Online Workshops (GROW), which helps member garden centres keep their customer service at the highest standards.
Mike Burks, Chairman Elect for 2020/21, said: “There are so many benefits for centres to join an organisation like ours. We’re a friendly and inclusive bunch and membership enables businesses to easily share information, experiences and ideas, which helps them make decisions.
“We also help members to achieve high standards in areas like customer service and plant quality, which are important in making sure they stand out from their competitors.”
Other benefits include access to the Barometer of Trade results, this allows members to compare their trading positions with other members garden centres.
Elizabeth Bellis-Marks, Director at Bellis Brothers Farm Shop and Garden Centre in Wrexham, said: “We have been planning to join the GCA for a while and decided now was the perfect time to take the plunge. Our management team have lots of ideas to improve our site and we thought the annual visits would give us the incentive we need to support moving the centre forward.
“Our staff work incredibly hard to offer our customers a unique and memorable shopping experience and being able to promote our centre as GCA approved reassures them that we are a quality garden centre.
“We have already benefited in many ways from our membership. Inspector, Gordon Emslie’s introductory visit and feedback proved incredibly informative. He offered us thought provoking advice regarding our unique selling points and we felt reassured that we are on track with our ideas.
“We also attended the recent regional awards meeting at Bents Garden & Home and were delighted to realise that networking wasn’t as frightening as we had thought! The other members were incredibly welcoming. We are looking forward to our journey as a member and our staff have renewed enthusiasm to improve their departments with next year’s visit in mind.”