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vie w fr om the t op

a year now, and we had a huge number of enquires at the conference from members who are very keen to become involved. The project only came about because of the nature of our organisation, when two of our members stood up at the 2012 conference and proposed it. They put a lot of money into an idea, and without that money we couldn’t have got it off the ground. Within 12 months we had that launched under budget, and it’s growing – we’ve got more modules and more people joining. Within the year we’ll have double the amount of modules that we had when we first started. There’s an additional cost, which is relatively small when you take into account what you’re getting, especially when you look at training costs for staff in garden centres. It’s a benefit available to all our members who wish to join. More than half of our membership are actively involved.

What’s the retention of members like? It’s pretty good. Once people are in, generally speaking, they see the value and stick with us. It’s very stable in that respect.

I understand the

problems and issues they face on a day to day basis, and

therefore get a feel for what they

want out of the association

The conference is an important annual event; is it a challenge to make sure each one meets and exceeds the standards of the one before? This year we’ve been amazed by the positive comments received saying how fantastic the conference was, which is brilliant, and by Thursday morning I was already thinking about how we can top it next year. The members love it, and you have to learn

what’s precious to them and don’t mess with the ethos of it, but as with everything, you won’t know you like something until you try it. In this respect, we weigh up the benefits of adding something new to the conference, and whether the members will appreciate it. We strive to make every year better than the last. I wouldn’t get up in the morning and just be average, because that just wouldn’t work for me. I apply that to my work here.

With your top rated members, do you notice a trend in terms of products or services that they offer? There have been a number of trends over the years: plants and garden sundries, then gifts, then we saw coffee shops, clothing, fish and aquatics appeard. The businesses that are doing best are

the ones that realise what they’re good at and stick to it. Why would you take something that you’re good at and lower the standard to make room for something else? If gifts and home, for example, are where you really excel, don’t be ashamed of that. It doesn’t mean plants and gardening aren’t at the heart of

GCA Inspectors Ian Boardman, Andy Campbell, Roger Crookes and Liz Hutson WWW.GARDENCENTRERETAIL.COM 27

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