Q&A with Bents Garden & Home - ‘Britain’s Most Ambitious Business’ Runner-Up
Back in October, Datel launched its competition to find ‘Britain’s Most Ambitious Business’ and selected Bents Garden & Home as one of its runners-up.
Founded in 1937, Bents Garden & Home is a family owned garden centre that has evolved into a unique lifestyle destination where customers can discover products, advice and inspiration to make outdoor and indoor living more beautiful. Bents has worked hard to create a destination that is no longer focused purely on the garden but also encompasses home, lifestyle and a complete day out for all the family.
Bents is now run by the third generation of the family, headed by Matthew Bent who we caught up with to discuss how the business has grown over the years, its ambitions, and what the future has instore for the garden centre.
- What does ambition mean to Bents?
We have always had big ambitions and are always striving to be the very best in everything we do. This belief has lasted throughout the past 80 years and is as strong now as it’s ever been. What started life as a small rose growing business has changed, innovated and evolved into the lifestyle destination we know today.
- How has Bents grown throughout the years?
Bents was established in 1937 by my grandparents’ Alfred and Margaret Bent who started growing and selling roses from the front garden of their terraced house - just yards away from the Centre’s current location. The Centre remains a family owned and run business now in its third generation and in 2017 celebrated its 80th anniversary with a number of events throughout the year.
My parents, Ron and Wendy, were amongst the first in the garden centre industry to introduce food and drinks to the business; at the time it was a totally unknown concept, mocked by some competitors, but unknown to Bents a new trend had been set as catering is now an expected part of any garden centre.
This was also the case with Christmas, helping Bents to become a year round business and establishing another fantastic reason for our customers to visit. Christmas is now one of our busiest times when the centre undergoes a magical transformation.
- What does Bents do best in its industry?
Whilst never forgetting our gardening heritage - we continue to offer quality home grown plants, approximately 60% of which are grown and nurtured at the Centre’s extensive onsite nurseries – we have successfully diversified into other areas. And despite growing in size we are committed to retaining all the great things we already do; keeping the friendly, family feeling and ambiance we have worked hard to create, but in a bigger, better store.
- How do family values echo throughout Bents?
The business began with a love of gardening, this commitment to gardening has enabled the business to thrive, and our on-site nursery operation demonstrates the commitment and passion we still have for plants.
- What does the Bents experience feel like to a customer?
Our ultimate mission is to provide a one stop shop which provides our customers with a quality alternative to large scale shopping centres, without losing any of the choice, quality, levels of service or family friendly environment that we have established a reputation for. When customers visit us, they are greeted as if they are a friend or family member.
- What is your biggest business achievement / what are you most proud of?
2017 was a year of celebration marking 80 years of Bents. We are extremely proud to have retained the title of “Best Destination Garden Centre in the UK 2018/19”, beating off competition from over 200 other Garden Centre Association members.
- What is coming up for Bents over the next few years?
The most recent phase of our journey has seen the opening of six new retail departments as well as the construction of a major new roundabout, extended car park, additional dining options, more seating, community allotments and a new community play area.
The importance of plants and nature continues to be a priority as we work to develop our Wildlife Gardens which will be linked to the planned educational classrooms within the Centre. Wider plans also include new green initiatives with major investment in renewable energy technologies including geo-thermal energy and electricity charging points.
Information on our winner can be found here.
Information on the other brilliant runners up, can be found here.
Here is our Marketing Director, Emma Pownall announcing Bents Garden & Home as one of our runners up:
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