Last night, the imposing gothic-style Great Hall at the Christchurch Arts Centre set a fitting scene for the Nursery and Garden Industry’s prestigious annual Awards dinner.
Five garden centres were in the running for Yates Garden Retailer of the Year Award, which was won by New Plymouth family business, Big Jim’s Garden Centre and Café. The other four retail finalists were Nichols Garden Centre (Dunedin), Marshlands Garden Centre (Christchurch), Palmers Garden Centre Whangarei and Palmers Garden Centre Rotorua.
Yates NZ ltd has sponsored the Award for twelve years. General manager, Charlie Gray, explained why: “the spirit of this competition closely matches what Yates call our four pillars of excellence; knowledge, quality, inspiration and innovation.” He emphasised that the current judging takes a very holistic view covering all aspects of each business, and that “garden centres enter not just to win, but as a way of benchmarking their businesses and improving their performance.”
This was clearly the case with Big Jim’s delighted owners, Vince and Ann Naus. “Entering this competition inspired our staff to take it up another notch” said Vince, adding that any garden centre thinking of entering should do so. “Go for it. It will make a big difference”, he stressed.
Vince and Ann have owned and operated Big Jim’s Garden Centre and Cafe for 10 years. They say they take pride in creating inspirational surroundings and that customers always come first. Judge, Peter Whitehead from the Australian Nursery and Garden Centre Industry praised the stores immaculate presentation, it’s simple “in your face” signage, and colour coordinated displays. He made particular note of the feminine touches. “Garden centres are mainly frequented by women. Make it as feminine as you can”.
In a presentation given earlier in the day Peter Whitehead urged retailers to focus on informative signage. Of all five finalists he said, “The standard was incredible. You are a credit to the New Zealand Garden Industry and we have a lot to learn across the ditch.” Separate ‘special section’ prizes recognised excellence in product knowledge, customer service, merchandising, office systems, in store promotional programmes and point of sale signage.
Also announced at last night’s event were the 2010 winners of the NZ Gardener Marketing Awards and the HortFert Young Achiever Award. The latter was won by Dave Harris, Production Manager at Thirkettle Nurseries in Nelson.
Dave studied at Otago University achieving a B.Sc, followed by a Master of Science in ecology. Since joining Thirkettles in 2007 he has excelled in a number of production initiatives including trialling of early spring chip budding of citrus, and the selection and trail of a new sport of Nandina Gulfstream, which he hopes will be ready for release in 2011. This year he became a member of the International Plant Propagators Society.
Dave’s fellow finalists were Clair Masters of Plant Wholesales in Auckland and Morgan Rogers of Waimea Nurseries in Nelson. The three had spent the previous two days at the Nursery and Garden Industry conference, where they had to present a 3 minute speech, compete in a range of activities testing their plant knowledge, computer skills and practical abilities before facing an interview with the judges.
Recipients of the NZ Gardener Marketing Awards were Yates NZ, Tui Products, Nichols Garden Centre, Tharfield Nursery, Allenton Nursery, and Trents Nursery.