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Warren Haskins Celebrates 50 Years In Garden Centres

Warren-Haskins 725 x 500.jpg

This year, Warren Haskins is celebrating his 50th year as chairman of the Haskins Garden Centre business. 

Warren Haskins was catapulted into running the family business when his father died suddenly in 1969. 

The business employed 7 staff and had a turnover of £17,000.  His accountant told him it wasn't likely to survive. This, he said, was the most important message of his life.

Over the next 25 years he gradually transformed the nursery / mail order / landscaping business into a retail garden centre at Trickett’s Cross, Ferndown. 

Sainsbury's sale

When he was approached by Sainsbury's to buy the site, it provided him with the opportunity to design a new garden centre at Longham, Ferndown. 

Working with American consultant, Ernest Wertheim, they studied the customer journey in meticulous detail, to the extent that they put in extra high electric doors that would allow trees through.  These were the first automatic doors in a garden centre.

The new Ferndown opened in 1994 and Warren claims it is still one of the most profitable and efficient garden centres to this day.

Snowhill

Having developed Southampton and Roundstone on a similar template, the group is now rebuilding its fourth garden centre, Snowhill near Gatwick, which was bought about 15 years ago.  The basic design is similar to that developed at Ferndown.

After years of negotiation with the council the £15m development should be completed by the end of January.

The Future of Haskins Garden Centres is Secure

Warren is the fourth generation of the Haskins family to run the business. His three children, shown in the photograph, have grown up and have their own children. None of them work in the business although they are interested in it.

To secure the future of the business, Warren has set up a family council where they meet with the management 3 times a year, chaired by one of his sons.   A set of rules defines the roles of the family and the management team led by MD Julian Winfield.  It sets, for instance, the limits to which they can borrow.

Warren believes other family and garden centres should set up similar governance schemes to protect the businesses as they transfer to future generations.

Growth Plans

Warren is keen to buy and develop two more sites. The problem is finding them and there is a consultant employed 2 days a week to do just that.

The strategy is to continue to expand by opening further garden centres at the rate of one or two roughly every 3 years.

The Internet

Is the future of garden centres on the Internet?  Not for Haskins.  Gardening products, says Warren, don’t lend themselves to on online shopping.  Customers like to look at their plants before buying or browse for a gift.  Plus 22% of Haskins’ turnover comes from restaurants.  This will rise to 25% when Snowhill is complete.

What are the trends for the future?  Warren doesn’t know, but garden centres can react quickly when they emerge.

After 50 years he says, “I am very enthusiastic and proud of our business.”

Source : Reproduced from Gardenforum with permission from George Bullivant

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14 June 2019

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