Bexley Garden Centre in festive spirit
PUBLISHED: 09:12 20 December 2012
Having bemoaned the fluctuating weather for most of 2012, staff at Bexley Garden Centre are finally relishing the full flow of the festive period.
Co-owner Darryl Mercer goes to Denmark himself every September to personally select the year’s batch of Christmas trees.
Both he and business partner Clifford Love have more than 30 years’ experience in the plants and gardens business, having been wholesalers for decades.
Christmas trees went on sale on November 23 this year and Darryl brought back hundreds from across the North Sea. At the time of going to press, the centre had sold about 1,000 trees.
Darryl explains: “We pull out all the stops for Christmas. We have a whole range of trees including Norwegian spruce, pot trees, pines, firs and artificial trees, accompanied with a full complement of decorations and lights.
“The first two weeks of December are traditionally ridiculously busy for us, as is the penultimate weekend before Christmas which has just gone, so we make sure we’re never caught short.
“This year we’ve sold slightly more than last year which is a real boost after a tough 2012.”
Bexley Garden Centre has two sites – the original shop in North Cray Road, Sidcup, and the one bought last year in Basildon Road, Abbey Wood.
There are three full-time members of staff including manager Deborah Hill, who is accredited by the Royal Horticultural Society, three part-time workers and a handful of weekend staff.
Explaining her love for the job and why she enjoys working at the centre, Deborah says: “We make a formidable team. This is a great place to work because we’re a very small, close-knit team.
“Everyone gets on with everyone and I’d like to think my decades of garden experience are put to good use.”
Aside from the Christmas rush, business has proven difficult recently. After a successful first two years since opening in 2009, trade has quietened down in the past 12 months.
“The last year has been especially hard for business for a number of reasons,” says Darryl. “The recession, the weather, the hosepipe ban, the Olympics and Queen’s Jubilee.
“Fingers crossed, people will start buying again next year if the weather improves. It should be a better year.”
The centre is confident that business will pick up and they plan to carry on with the same tactics they used since buying the dilapidated Sidcup site in 2009, previously known as Stuarts Garden Centre.
“It was overgrown,” says Darryl. “Customers weren’t coming because it didn’t look like the kind of place you wanted to buy your plants. But we’ve worked hard and built it up and the staff make the business a great place to work.”
If you’re leaving it until the very last minute, there are trees still on sale at the two sites.
For more information telephone 020 8309 1442 or visit www.bexleygardencentre.org.uk.