County Carlow destination garden retailer Arboretum won the Company of the Year award at this year’s Retail Excellence Ireland Awards – to add to last year’s Store of the Year award.
Founded by Frank and Rachel Doyle nearly 40 years ago, it is the first company to win both awards back to back.
“There’s a lot of passion for what we do and we have a tremendous team of staff, some of whom have been with the company for over 10 years,” said commercial director Fergal Doyle, whose brother Barry is Arboretum’s chief operating officer.
“There’s an ethos of not standing still or else you’ll be run over,” he added “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got so we keep changing our product offering and reinvesting in the business.”
He said it was its people rather than fixtures and fittings that made the store special for customers. “At the end of the day, people buy people first and then the product.”
The business began its evolution from traditional garden centre to destination store in 2012 when Leighlinbridge was bypassed by the M9 motorway from Dublin to Waterford. The food offering was the first to get a makeover, before the rest of the store was re-vamped and re-branded, re-opening in February 2014.
Doyle insists the business is “a garden centre first and foremost”, retaining 12 horticulturalists, despite dropping ‘garden centre’ from its name.
New departments including fashion, kitchen utensils and accessories and home interiors helped the store to a 45% increase in turnover in 2014.
The family opened a second store in Kilquade, County Wicklow at the end of last year, on the site of the National Garden Exhibition Centre.
Doyle said the family had not let the recesssion deter them. “We just knuckled down and stayed focused on what we do,” he said. “Our product offering is a luxury – it’s about treating yourself to something for your garden, house or yourself. So we’ve stayed focused on delivering what people want and they seem to enjoy coming here, even if just for some coffee and cake and a browse around the store.”
He praised the support Arboretum had received from Retail Excellence Ireland, which runs courses like the National Certificate in Retail Management in conjunction with the National College of Ireland. “This type of accredited learning is vital for our people who learn a great deal alongside other retailers,” Doyle added. “REI is a vehicle for us to learn what’s happening in the retail sector broadly, which has helped us in our own growth path.”
David Fitzsimons, CEO of Retail Excellence Ireland, said: “The investment which has gone into Arboretum is very clear for all to see – it is a sensational store.”