Modern Retail

The Old Moat Garden Centre & Cafe’s Community

Old Moat Garden Centre

The award

The Good Retail Awards 2020’s Community Award recognised retailers who have made an effort to give back to their community. It honours companies who have gone above and beyond to transform and enhance the lives of others.

The winner

The Old Moat Garden Centre & Café is part of the Richmond Fellowship. It is a work-based program for local people living with mental health challenges, giving them the confidence and skills to get back into employment.

Helping people move on to the next step in their recovery, everyone is welcomed into the garden centre, café and shop, making a difference to people’s lives in an organisation which sees itself as a wellbeing service first and a garden centre second. Someone they supported explained, “It’s like a community here, everyone knows each other. I’ve had a lot of fun and it’s really helped me out.” The Old Moat Garden Centre and Café reinvests its profit into the wellbeing service and has also introduced fundraising events. Within a year, they have developed a reputation for various genres of live music to quiz nights, dog shows and stand-up comedy nights. Life is never dull at The Old Moat!

The award-winning strategy

Modern Retail spoke to Joy and Jack of The Old Moat Garden Centre & Cafe about the ways they support the local community on a daily basis, also entertaining those in the local area.

The challenge

Joy explained how the Old Moat Garden Centre & Cafe began and how it grew to be the large scale project it is today: “It began with a horticulture project for patients in hospital, then in 2008 the NHS asked the Richmond Fellowship if we would take this project over and it grew a bit, adding a cafe in 2012. Then in 2014, the NHS said the funding would end in 2017, so the Richmond Fellowship had to either close or become self-sufficient. So we bought the site, invested into building a new shop, bigger car parking facilities, kitchens and it’s been a huge success. We always say we’re a wellbeing service first and a business second, but the two have been interlinked so closely, so we can’t deliver the service without being the best garden centre we can be.”

Promoting messaging

Jack spoke about the ways the Old Moat Garden Centre & Cafe use messaging and signage to share the great work they do for those in the community: “It was being run as a garden centre but there’s been a huge shift with mental health awareness. We’ve introduced signage instore to promote this and the events make it obvious that the supporters are supporting the service. Our website is very focused on what we do. We also post during Mental Health Week with stories of people we’ve supported on social media to build engagement through many sources. Our social media is very popular. We don’t do paid advertising, so everything is grown organically. We’ve refined it and the mental health side of things is incredible, as it really gets people talking and involved. They share their own stories on social media and it’s been so positive for us. It’s also how we sell a lot of tickets for our events.”

Loyal customers

With so many great initiatives, loyal customers have quickly formed, Jack and Joy explained: “Our customer base is very loyal to us and people like to come back because the general atmosphere is very different. We spend more time with the customer and it’s more of an experience. Customers feel they are supporting something in their local community, which people like. We have a very big garden centre down the road from us, which is arguably cheaper, yet they come to us because they know they will get service and this also brings us new custom with the charitable nature and service we provide.

“It’s massively important for us to involve the local community when it comes to building customer loyalty. It’s so easy to get things online now and it’s so easy for people to become isolated within their own communities. We have different types of events which attract lots of people. It’s key to get people out of the house. We work closely with local walking groups so they stop by with us for tea and coffee, so we build awareness and get very involved in these community events. We let some groups use our space and people who may feel isolated. People then want to support us, they buy from us and they bring their friends back. A significant percentage of people come back because they like the social aspect. Obviously we have a great range and price well, but it’s about this too.”

Running events

While coronavirus may cause difficulties for running events in 2020, The Old Moat Garden Centre & Cafe’s events have been enormously popular throughout the area: “Joy plans our events and we have a whole year’s worth of events coming up for 2020, so this is a huge part of our business. We’re a team site, so we take all the team’s ideas on board and try to involve as many people’s ideas as we can, also from those we support to build incredible events. A lot of the time, people come to an event not knowing us and then come back to the garden centre, so it works brilliantly to create returning people. Our reputation for live music means musicians are now approaching us. We have live music once a month in the cafe, a dog show later in the year, a quiz night every three months and we now have comedy every three months, as well as our first opera show coming up. We also tap into events, with Easter, Halloween and Christmas activities planned alongside half term activities for children. We try to do as many things as we can and the Richmond Fellowship is very supportive of this.”

Changing attitudes

Doing such incredible work in the community, a large part of their mission is to support those nearby and promote positive change: “We’re seeing a shift in people wanting to look after their own mental wellbeing more. We try to offer books that promote self reflection and mental health which have been more popular than we could have ever expected. We also have reusable straws and things like this which are also doing very well particularly with the younger demographic.”

On winning the Community Award

Joy and Jack commented on their experience: “We were going to be attending Spring Fair already and thought it was very appealing that you didn’t have to pay to enter or attend the awards. It was great that anyone could take part, regardless of budget. We knew straight away it would be a great opportunity and before we knew it, we had been shortlisted. The day of the awards was brilliant. We were hugely impressed and it was beautifully done with a great awards presentation and everyone was friendly. The audience was generous in their applause which was great because you could tell that people really cared. The reception since winning has been brilliant. Internally and externally, everyone has been so happy to hear we’ve won!”

To see the full list of Good Retail Awards 2020 winners, click here.

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Holly Worthington

Holly brings a wealth of experience in both print and digital publishing. As Modern Retail's Content Editor, Holly is passionate about helping independent retailers to thrive in today's ever-changing market.