Grayshott Gardeners started the new year with a fascinating peek behind the scenes at one of our most popular chain of Garden Centres. Sarah Squire, Chairman of Squire’s Garden Centres, gave our first lecture of 2020, and explained the history and the ethos of this long standing family business. She also gave us an insight into some of the challenges Garden Centres face today, and how they try to manage them.
Squires was founded in 1936 by Sarah’s grandfather, D.J. Squire. It started as a company that took on small scale landscaping work, and soon expanded into plant nurseries. It wasn’t until the 1950s and 60s that Garden Centres as we know them today came about – driven by the fact that people now cared for their own gardens (employing gardeners had become a thing of the past), widespread car ownership, the availability of container grown plants, and the emergence of garden centres in the US.
W hen DJ retired Sarah’s father, Colin, took over the running of Squires. He remained Chairman for 30 years, and still plays a part in running the business today. Sarah took over as Chairman in 2019. She has had many roles different roles in the company, starting off as a Saturday girl, and has worked outside the company as a solicitor specialising in commercial property.
Squires today has 16 Garden Centres in the Surrey/Sussex/Berkshire/West London area – three of which are very familiar to Grayshott Gardeners. Squires are happy to keep this tight geographical footprint, as it allows them to really understand their customers and their needs. They employ nearly 1,000 people, across a whole range of disciplines, from IT and Marketing to plant and animal experts.
Their business is very seasonal, with plant sales peaking in spring and early summer. And throughout the year Saturdays and Sundays are their busiest times. In order to attract customers outside of these peaks, diversification is key – with restaurants and Christmas decorations being good examples of this. However, we were left in no doubt that it is plants that are the raison d’être of this great family business, which raised a cheer from this audience of gardeners!