Hillier achieved an 8.1 per cent turnover increase in 2017. Yearon-year growth was accomplished across all areas of the business. With an international reputation for horticultural skills and expertise, the firm has also maintained its position as one of the leading businesses in the industry. At the heart of the company are its 12 garden centres. Significant investment has been made at its largest centre, in Eastbourne, where an additional 20,000sq ft has been added. As well as additional nursery space to showcase Hillier’s plant, garden accessories and home items, this has also created a new farm shop and five concession areas. Transactions have increased by 5.2 per cent across all centres, helped by new product lines and developing planterias, which remain a key focus. Hillier continues to provide the expertise for which it is renowned via a thorough staff recruitment and development process. Hillier remains the go to garden centre for advice and gardening prowess. This is supported by sales in the planteria increasing by almost four per cent on 2016. The product offering continues to evolve and a key introduction in 2017 was a selection of British-forged steel firepits. In-store events and experiences are seen as key to meeting customer demand and expectation. These include an orchid festival, a planted container workshop, bulb planting demonstrations, talks, book launches, firepit cooking classes and festive wreath-making workshops. Investment has seen Hillier restaurants achieve 19 per cent growth. Upgraded facilities and a seasonally changing menu have proved popular with customers, in particular the “Hillier Great British Breakfast”. Marketing was a key focus area in 2017, led by the appointment of new head of marketing Shelley Turner. Website visits leaped from 175,000 in 2016 to 596,000 in 2017, social media followers grew by 44 per cent and Google search traffic rocketed by 424 per cent. A new customer relationship management platform is being introduced to provide a more personalised and relevant experience through digital marketing. The Hillier Gardening Club loyalty scheme has seen 29,000 new members sign up to exclusive content and access, while invite-only launch parties hosted at each centre give customers a firstlook at Christmas products. Regular satisfaction surveys reiterate Hillier’s “investors in people” ethos, with 77 per cent of staff saying they would recommend the company to a friend and 88 per cent strongly believing in its future.