MEMBER OF THE WEEK | SIMPSONS GARDEN CENTRE

Simpsons Garden Centre is this year celebrating its 21st anniversary. The company was founded in 2000 by Andrew Simpson and is now a multi-award winning business, employing around 100 people. Since opening the company has expanded, with a popular and award winning restaurant added in 2010.

As a local business, it’s really important to us that we provide the highest standards of customer service and that we’re a good neighbour and closely integrated with the local community.

Covid-19 has had a major impact on the garden, retail and hospitality sectors and as a business that encompasses all three sectors, we’ve been hit particularly hard. The onset of lockdown in March 2020 came at the worst possible time, just as we were preparing for the start of a busy season, having built up our stocks of plants in preparation for the spring. Overnight, we were forced to close our doors to customers with no means of selling our perishable stock.

Fortunately, we were able to set up an online sales operation very quickly and with the help of our hardworking staff we were able to continue trading through the worst of lockdown. The restrictions affecting restaurants lasted much longer but we’re delighted to be fully operational again and looking forward to a busy Christmas. There’s always a great buzz in the restaurant as well as across the garden centre and we missed that during lockdown.

We wanted to partake in the Member of the Week campaign as we’re celebrating our 21st anniversary this year and after a difficult period for the business, we all need something to celebrate. We particularly want to pay tribute to our hard working staff; without them the pandemic would have been far more difficult for the business. In addition to this, we want to encourage people to shop locally; we source local products as much as possible and always try to showcase Highland and Scottish brands.

The Christmas period is one of the busiest in our calendar and we’re looking forward to welcoming visitors over the festivities. We really try to make it a special occasion for families and while this year may be a little different because of the pandemic, it will be no less magical. We’ve all been in lockdown for so long so it’s great to see the garden centre operational again, and being able to welcome back our customers, albeit with some restrictions in place.

We’re constantly diversifying our range of products. Whether you’re looking for plants, having lunch with friends or buying new furniture for the home or garden, there should be something for everyone at Simpsons. What began life as a garden centre has evolved into a multi-purpose destination venue. We are currently embarking on a major expansion of the garden centre which will really enhance the customer experience. The new entrance will enable the centre’s capacity to be substantially increased, allowing us to showcase more products, provide more circulation space and even create performance areas for cooking demonstrations, music performances and family themed events. It’s our biggest investment for over a decade and will take the business in an exciting new direction.

The redevelopment is keeping us busy and we’re looking forward to opening the new look centre in the spring. In November 2020, we acquired a garden centre in Mintlaw in Aberdeen-shire and have spent this year upgrading the centre, including the restaurant, and will be looking to expand our offer there in the coming year.

This year we were named Destination Garden Centre of the Year in Scotland by the Garden Centre Association (GCA). The independent GCA inspector said that “Simpsons is a really great garden centre that caters for all possible customer requirements.” That shows we are on the right course.  We also received the Garden Industry Manufacturer’s Association Award for Best Garden Projects Retailer, the Best Outdoor Living Retailer and Best Indoor Lifestyle Retailer in the Destination Garden Centre category. We’re very proud of the awards we have won over the years. It’s testament to the hard work of our staff.

It’s good to have a proactive business organisation, such as the Inverness Chamber of Commerce, in the Highlands campaigning for local businesses. We are so remote from the centres of power in Holyrood and Westminster, and there’s a danger that business interests here aren’t given the priority they deserve. With Inverness Chamber behind us, lobbying local MPs, MSPs and Ministers, the region’s business community has a stronger voice. Our top tip for maximising your Chamber membership is not to be afraid to contact them if you have a good news story or products you’d like to promote.