January 15, 2010
Garden Centres Canada (GCC) plans to bring back its inspection program across Canada during the summer of 2010.

This past summer the GCC commissioned Eve Tigwell to carry out inspections on 18 garden centres. The pilot project was carried out (three in Nova Scotia, three in Ontario, two in Manitoba, three in Saskatchewan, four in Alberta, and three in B.C.) during the months of June and July.

It is hoped more garden centres from Ontario will sign up for the 2010 program. With Ontario having over half of the Canadian garden centres, the GCC feels that having only three of the 18 taking part last year wasn’t a good

Chas Lawton CHT, CIT, of Taylor Nursery in Milton, owns one of the three garden centres that took part in the inspection program. “We at Taylor Nursery believe the inspection program is a great asset to any independent
garden centre.”

She went on to say, “Taylor Nursery is very proud that our customers congratulated us for being one of 18 garden centres across Canada to participate in the inspection program.” She notes one comment by a customer, ‘You must be very excited to be one of 18 garden centres.’

Taylor Nursery did well on the scoring and also received an achievable to-do list. Lawton reflects, “Our staff worked really diligently to keep the centre up to par, not being sure when the inspection was taking place. Each and every day, they did more and more to ensure their areas were topnotch. When the inspection report arrived by email, all our staff members were excited to see where we did the best and what they needed to work on for the following 2010 season, in order to ensure we achieve high scoring.”

The GCC became involved in the inspection program, because it felt Canadian industry standards would improve, and benchmarks would result for garden centres in order to become better businesses. The association looked at the U.K. industry, and felt that Canadian retailers would have great opportunities to grow through the use of strong management tools and practices.

Tigwell has over 20 years experience as a retail consultant, specializing in garden centres around the world. She has carried out inspections in the U.K., Germany and Denmark for many years. The GCC says it considers itself very fortunate to have Tigwell as Canada’s inaugural inspector.

The inspection process takes three to four hours, examining every part of the garden centre and awarding scores and taking photographs. Following the inspection, owners and staff take part in a short consultation session with the inspector. A follow-up report, including a CD with up to 100 pictures, is sent by mail to each garden centre to review the suggestions put forward in the report.

Once the inspection is completed, it is followed by consultation with each centre’s management team to identify and discuss what can be improved, and a report including grading in many areas of the operation will follow each site visit. Some areas of operations evaluated include, front entrance, accessibility, parking lot, customer service, safety, checkout area, garden care, outdoor/indoor living, bedding and patio plants, hardy plants, growing media, outdoor ornamentation, website, and many more.  

The final report, based on the inspections of the 18 pilot garden centres, showed that the overall highest score for Canadian garden centres across Canada was achieved in the ‘people’ category. The lowest scores were for safety, design of the website and accessibility to the garden centre.  

The inspection program in the summer of 2010 already has bookings coming in. Any garden centres interested in taking part in the 2010 program may find more information, or register by going to CNLA’s website at www.canadanursery.com. Look under the heading Garden Centres Canada.