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How High Are Your Standards?

April 16, 2010  By Canadian Garden Centre & Nursery

Have you ever wondered what your garden centre looks like through the eyes of your customers?

Have you ever wondered what your garden centre looks like through the eyes of your customers?

Photos from the 2009 Garden Centres Canada Inspection Program. Feedback was more than positive.


Well now’s your chance to find out. For the second year, Garden Centres Canada (GCC) is offering its Garden Centre Inspection Program to help retailers discover what works – and what doesn’t work – on their retail floor.

How the program works
The pilot program kicked off last year summer with much success. GCC commissioned Eve Tigwell to carry out the inspections – she has 20 years experience as a retail consultant and has done similar assessments in the UK, Germany and Denmark. A total of 18 garden centres from across Canada were inspected last year and Tigwell spent three to four hours on site at each operation examining every part of the garden centre, awarding scores and taking photographs. Following the inspection, Tigwell sat down with the owners, and in some cases their staff, to do a short consultation session. A follow up report was sent out by mail to each garden centre, which included a CD with up to 100 pictures (depending on the size of the centre) to review along with the suggestions put forward in the report. Some areas of the operations being evaluated include the 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 and website, to name a few.

What 2009 participants had to say
The feedback from retailers who took part last year was more than positive. Staff from GardenWorks in Vancouver told GCC: “The process was valuable. We have already taken action on a number of points raised by the inspection to the delight of guests in our stores. We are confident that paying attention to the detailed points raised through the inspection will positively impact our overall profitability as a company.” Those at Swan Lake Nurseryland in Vernon, B.C. also support the program. “With an inspection and another view, it makes you more aware to do things better and helps us to get things done…To get an independent review by a professional from within the industry is worth much more than any money you may spend on anything else.”

Looking at the 2009 results, the final report found that, based on the inspections of all 18 garden centres, the highest score for Canadian garden centres was achieved in the ‘people’ category. The lowest scores were for safety, design of the website, as well as accessibility of the garden centre under the ‘approach and car park’ category.

New changes for 2010

The Garden Centre’s Canada 2010 Inspection program will once again be conducted this summer, but interested retailers (garden centres have to be a member of your provincial green industry association) must sign up before the April 31, 2010 deadline. This year, GCC will offer two inspection options: a half-day and a full-day inspection and spaces are limited. Participating centres may also be entered into a national garden centre awards program, sponsored by JVK, based on scores received during the inspection program.

So why should you take part? Participating in the program will help raise the industry standards and will provide benchmarks for garden centres to become better businesses. Looking at the UK industry, there is no doubt that Canadian retailers have great opportunities to grow, with the use of strong management tools and practices.

Greenland Garden Centre takes home top honour
inspection_3 The Canadian Nursery Landscape Association has awarded Greenland Garden Centre of Sherwood Park, Alta. as the winner of the 2009 Canadian Garden Centre Inspection Program. The centre received top marks in Eve Tigwell’s detailed evaluation.

A family owned business for the past 50 years, this successful operation has not looked back since the second generation opened their destination location in 1991. Greenland attributes its success to several factors including superior customer service, attention to detail, their unique product lines from across the globe, and constantly striving for excellence in every area.

Owners Deb and Rod Sirman, Tim and Wayne Chichak led an energetic team of 60 staff in winter and up to 150 in spring and summer. “There is no time for complacency in retail,” Deb Sirman says. “We try to get better every single day. This is crucial, especially in our recent tight economy. Receiving this award does reaffirm that paying attention to detail and having great staff who emulate your goals are definitely a winning combination.”

This is the first time a Canadian garden centre has received such high recognition amongst its peers.

For more information visit and click on “Garden Centres Canada,” or call 1-866-383-4711.

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