Many leading Garden Centres are members of the GCA and also the HTA. These are umbrella organisations that help independent Garden Centres in the UK. The GCA (Garden Centre
Association) consists of 160 Garden Centre members and the HTA (Horticultural Trade Association) consists of 2,500 Garden retail businesses. For more details on either the HTA or GCA please click on their title to go directly to their websites.
The GCA has its origins in the very roots of the garden centre movement, which surprisingly has only been in existence for 40 years. The term 'garden centre' was not coined until the early 1960s - before that, gardeners bought their plants from nurseries or by mail order.
Garden centres as such began to take off after the idea that plants could be sold in containers all the year round - an American development - was pioneered in the UK by a handful of forward-thinking nurserymen. This had the effect not only of spreading demand beyond the traditional planting 'bottlenecks' of spring and, in particular, autumn (especially for roses), but also of making plants easy to transport and to handle as a retail commodity.
Stewarts, Russells, Wyevale and Notcutts (who coined the title Plantarea for their first cash and carry retail unit), were among those early “container revolutionaries” who helped to shape the garden centre industry we know today.
By 1966, the movement was sufficiently well developed to need specialist representation so a Garden Centres Group was formed within the Horticultural Trades Association. One of its first decisions was to set up an inspection scheme for members, who were entitled to "Approved Centre" status and this continues today. The following year, the group joined the European alliance which eventually become the International Garden Centre Association (IGCA) but it was not until 1979 that it became independent of the HTA and in 1986, the group finally adopted the name of The Garden Centre Association.
Today, the Garden Centre Association, with its full-time administrator and a dedicated head office team, represents over 200 garden centres - widely regarded as being among the UK ‘s most progressive. As the market has grown and the expectations of customers have increased, many have developed to become full scale ‘leisure destination’ centres offering a rich and rewarding shopping experience based around plants and related products for the home and garden.
What does the GCA do?
The Association believes in sharing information and experiences at all levels, from senior management to the shop floor, and strives to achieve excellence in customer service, plant quality and reliability.
Winter Conferences and summer workshops for garden centre proprietors, managers and staff are a crucial part of the work of the GCA to enhance good communication skills and advise members of the latest retail initiatives to encourage customers to visit garden centres.
Setting and Maintaining Standards
Ensuring customer satisfaction is a crucial aspect of GCA activity and every garden centre is subjected to a comprehensive annual inspection by an independent consultant to satisfy the GCA expectation that members maintain and improve their customer service standards. It is from these independent inspections that Coolings has won many of our awards.
For more details on our awards, click here
Another aspect of customer service and product reliability is the Association’s Plant Guarantee Scheme whereby members undertake to replace hardy plants that fail to grow in the customer's garden provided of course they have received reasonable care and are returned to the garden centre within one year of purchase. The scheme enhances the GCA’s belief that customers should be assured that they can buy plants with confidence at any member garden centre.
The Horticultural Trades Association is a modern, leading edge trade association representing the UK garden industry. It has, for over 100 years, promoted the profitable growth of its retail and grower members through a comprehensive range of business support initiatives. It provides a vital forum for identifying and dealing with key garden industry issues and opportunities, represents the views of the industry to Government and is its voice in the media.
Research data from the Garden Industry Monitor, highlights that with a retail turnover of over £5 billion a year, the UK gardening industry is a buoyant and growing market. The market has enjoyed good growth over the last 10 – 15 years, not least as a result of changes in lifestyle and disposable incomes. Socio economic conditions have worked in favour of the gardening industry with an increase in home ownership, higher disposable incomes and an ageing population. What’s more, consumers are becoming better informed gardeners and are more demanding, requiring better service and value.
The HTA membership covers all aspects of the industry and includes some 1800 businesses representing retailers, growers, landscapers, manufacturers and distributors of garden materials and service providers. Retail membership includes specialist retail nurseries, the vast majority of independent garden centres, garden centre chains and some DIY and High Street multiples. The HTA member growers represent approximately 80 per cent of the total UK production of ornamental plants, including all major UK growers.
The HTA also operates a number of Specialist Groups that represent the particular interests of various specialist areas of operation with the industry. These include the Association of Professional Landscapers, the British Rose Growers Association, the Association of Liner Producers, the Association of British Conifer Growers, the Growing Media Association and the HTA Tree and Hedging Group.
The HTA is run by the industry, for the industry with volunteers from members and a full time staff under the Director General based at Theale, Berkshire. It is a non-profit making organisation which ploughs back surplus revenue to help develop new services for its members and keep subscriptions to a minimum.