According to the Horticultural Traders Association, lockdown spawned an estimated three million new gardeners, as many of us started really treasuring the outside space we may previously have taken for granted. But one local family has been nurturing growers for decades.
This year Squires Garden Centres celebrates 85 years. The business was started in 1936 by DJ Squire – grandfather of the current chairperson Sarah Squire – as a landscaping and nursery business. In 1964, his son Colin started the garden centre business, with the first opening in Twickenham, which remains the head office. There are now 16 centres and over 800 staff.
The challenges of 2020
Despite the increase in the popularity of gardening during the pandemic, 2020 was the most challenging year Squires has faced. With Brexit already posing challenges to the supply chain, it became even more difficult to get stock. During the first lockdown, the business managed to find a way to offer a limited phone ordering service, but stock was patchy. One popular innovation was offering customers lucky dip bundles… £50 got you £100 worth of plants. The business is grateful to all the patient customers and to the suppliers who have pulled out all the stops, but none of this would be possible without the staff. Says Sarah Squire: “Our colleagues have been amazing and I do want to thank them. They’ve been flexible and cheerful, working hard and getting us through.”
Squires is a community-focused business, supporting the ‘In Bloom’ initiatives and supplying planting to embellish local locks and roundabouts. It also hosts local arts and crafts events, and its ‘Create and Grow’ workshops, which encourage youngsters to explore gardening, are proving popular.
The business makes a point of sourcing plants locally, with 80% being UK-grown. A sustainability manager has recently been appointed to ensure the carbon footprint of the business is managed and improved. Black plastic is being phased out in favour of recycled and recyclable coloured pots, and old plastic pots can be brought back to the centre for re-use too.
Congratulations to all at Squires on the 85th anniversary and good luck for the future.
Monica Chard, Managing Director, Village Matters Ltd