Chessington Garden Centre expands thanks to Microsoft Dynamic NAV
Innovative garden centre defies seasonal sales trends by launching new services and optimising efficiency with ERP solution integrated with LS Retail from The NAV People
The Chessington Garden Centre story
It all started in 1949 with a little lad who had green fingers and big dreams. The wretched war was over but rationing was still making life difficult for families. The Martin family, like many, grew fruit and veg in whatever spare land they had and 8-year-old Alex was encouraged to start his own patch in the family garden. With fruit and veg to spare, young Alex saw an opportunity to sell his wares to the local neighbours….and so the seeds of a gardening enterprise were sown!
Alex went on to study horticulture and in 1966 saw an opportunity to turn his dream into reality by purchasing a lease for a run down nursery on the Leatherhead Road in Surrey. Just as little acorns grow into big strong oaks, Chessington Garden Centre has grown into a thriving family-owned and run business. With over 50 years of horticultural excellence, the centre offers an exceptional range of quality indoor and outdoor plants, garden essentials and landscape supplies. All the while remaining true to Alex’s vision of providing great products with exceptional service.
Chessington Garden Centre had grown steadily over the years and invested in a few IT systems that had kept pace for a couple of years before the business rapidly outgrew them. Keen to end the cycle of short-term remedies the company sought a solution that offered the scalability they needed to keep pace with expansion plans.
Over the years Chessington Garden Centre has moved into new business areas with the creation of an award-winning garden design, build and maintenance service; the opening of a pet, wildlife and aquatics centre and the launch of regular gardening and seasonal events. The business was expanding at a phenomenal rate and what the company needed was a solution that could grow and evolve with the business.
Microsoft Dynamics NAV was deployed back in 2005 and the company hasn’t looked back since! Today, over half the workforce of approximately 200 employees uses the solution within every department at the garden centre.
Dynamics NAV has kept pace with business growth and provided a stable technology platform for Chessington Garden Centre to evolve its operations. In 2011, the company sought a new technology partner to assist them in taking Dynamics NAV to the next level with further system enhancements and selected The NAV People for their knowledge and expertise.
Tim Hickman, IT Manager at Chessington Garden Centre explains: 'We are a family run business and passionate about our products and services; the customer is always at the forefront of what we do. From the very first meeting with The NAV People, it was clear we had found our tribe, a perfect cultural fit of like minded people.'
Blossoming into new business areas
Keen not to let the grass grow under its feet, Chessington Garden Centre has expanded its services to customers, launching a Click and Collect service whereby customers can check real-time stock levels and purchase items online for collection in store. Sana e-commerce provides the web store and as it is developed on Dynamics NAV it integrates effortlessly with the Garden Centre’s back office operations ensuring real-time data updates.
The Garden Centre has also launched a Customer Loyalty Club with latest store offers and promotions delivered directly to the customer’s email box. Loyalty club members also receive early booking notification of events taking place at the Garden Centre.
Surrounded by beautiful plants it seemed an obvious move to step into gardening design. Since launching its garden design, build and maintenance service, this new business area has rapidly expanded and won several awards including a silver medal at RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Chessington Garden Centre has four construction teams who work on customer projects.
The teams wanted an accurate job costing system for design projects, that would cover labour, plants and other garden accessories. The NAV People developed Job Costing software that enables the teams to check and reserve items from stock and directly allocate the cost through to the respective garden projects.
Dynamics NAV has kept pace with business growth and provided a stable technology platform for Chessington Garden Centre to evolve its operations.
Santa Claus is coming to town!
By far the most popular new business area at the garden centre is the events. In 2011, Chessington Garden Centre launched its biggest and best Santa’s grotto, delighting children and TV audiences alike following a feature on BBC Breakfast television. Word has spread over the years and Santa’s grotto is now more popular than ever with more than 52,000 people visiting in 2016 - keeping the toy-making elves very busy!
Enjoyment is not reserved just for Christmas, events are held throughout the year! Chessington plays host to a calendar of events that cater to a wide array of interests including Orchid workshops, regular expert talk sessions with renowned gardeners and events during every school holiday including the popular spooky Halloween event that delighted customers and sold more than 26,000 tickets in 2016.
Maximum flexibility with MobileNAV
To manage the reservation and payment for tickets, The NAV People developed a booking system that integrates with Dynamics NAV via MobileNAV, a new user-interface for Dynamics NAV, which is optimised for smartphones and tablets.
Tickets are booked via the system and paid for using Worldpay. Each ticket is allocated a QR code and staff use mobile phones to scan the code and register the ticket so that it can’t be used again.
MobileNAV is not just used for events, it provides online and offline access for Dynamics NAV activities around the Garden Centre like real-time pricing, stock and order information.
POS, back office and head office all use the same application and the systems update each other seamlessly through the Task Scheduler function in Dynamics NAV
Delivering a modern customer experience
When Chessington took the decision to modernise its ERP solution, they also decided to upgrade their point of sale (POS) software.
LS NAV from LS Retail was selected as it delivered the functionality and modern payment options the centre wanted to offer customers. Additionally as LS NAV is built on Microsoft Dynamics NAV, the systems integrated seamlessly providing the Garden Centre with a complete view of business operations.
Chessington’s POS, back office and head office all use the same application and the systems update each other seamlessly through the Task Scheduler function in Dynamics NAV. Dynamics NAV manages all stock for the company so when there is a change in a line item, such as quantity, price, description or barcode, the till system is updated automatically via Task scheduler. Once purchases are made at POS, Task Scheduler automatically ensures the stock information is updated within Dynamics NAV.
Tim comments: 'We have a single and accurate viewpoint of business operations which has allowed us to plan more effectively, assess stock levels and terminate non profitable lines.'
Chessington Garden Centre has 22 tills in operation all of which can be moved around the site, offering maximum flexibility when setting up in store events and promotions. The tills are intuitive and easy to use; all shop floor personnel are trained and can be deployed to any till at busy times to ease bottlenecks.
Expanding into lucrative new areas – by diversifying into garden design, build and maintenance services, the centre has identified a new and profitable business opportunity, with the maintenance service delivering a regular and on-going revenue stream.
Bucking the trend of seasonality – Chessington Garden Centre has maintained customer sales and interest by hosting a calendar of events. From gardening workshops through to family events with ticket sales of 52,000 at Christmas for Santa’s grotto, the business has developed a healthy revenue stream that has ensured customer footfall throughout the year.
Inventory management – Enhanced business insight has enabled the garden centre to manage stock levels effectively, minimise wastage and terminate non-profitable stock lines.
Enhanced customer service – The customer service department has the ability to track each individual transaction from point of sale through to general ledger, which has proved useful when customers have occasionally changed their mind on purchases but lost their receipt. The original sale can be identified and refund or exchanges completed, delivering an improved level of service.
Jolyon Martin, son of Alex and MD of Chessington concludes: 'It would be hard to imagine running this business without Dynamics NAV. It has enabled us to expand our services into new and profitable business areas. The NAV People helped us to cohesively connect the standalone systems into a single repository of information that has enhanced forecasting and improved business outcomes.'Read more