Laylocks was created as a plant nursery back in 1973 by Martin Warr. After a successful beginning more space was required and in 1981 Martin purchased the current site. Over the years Laylocks moved from being predominantly a nursery to a garden centre, requiring additional retail space and car park area. As they have developed Martins daughter, Hannah, has become heavily involved in the business and she has provided the quotes to follow. The father-daughter combo both share ambitious plans for the site and they set about creating a new building next to their existing Venlo structure to provide additional retail space.
Once planning permission was achieved Hannah contacted Newspan to discuss the project. “Newspan came highly recommended by our consultants, Malcolm Scott, and we met with them early on in the design process. They were personable and approachable, and brought a lot of good ideas to the table”. Laylocks had big plans for what thew new building should achieve - the development was about more than just additional retail space. It had to get peoples attention on a busy road, as Hannah explains; “The original Venlo glasshouse was low – obscured by high hedges next to the A44 which is a busy road with a 60mph speed limit, our garden centre was too easy to miss. The new building needed to have much more presence and a real wow factor”.
Laylocks’ existing glazed Venlo building was extremely bright and whilst brightness was a key requirement in the new building there were issues for Hannah and Martin which they didn’t want to be repeated, “we did lose stock to sun damage and fading in our old building. One of Newspan’s recommendations was to use more solid panels in the roof and avoid excess glazing, allowing us to better control the amount of light entering the building and supplement with artificial low energy lighting when needed. Now, we have a lot more control so we’ve been able to stock whole new ranges we couldn’t before to broaden our offering to customers”. Hannah and Martin were keen on the majority of the front elevation being double glazed which meant excess heat build-up had to be considered. Newspan ensured the light levels were balanced with a comfortable shopping environment. Hannah and Martin also chose to go with white roof purlins, instead of plain galvanised finish which really brightens up the roof space, matching the colour the steel frame and the underside of the roof panels. “The contemporary, new building is much taller, with lots of glass at the front to retain the glasshouse style that we wanted to keep, but giving it a modern twist to bring it into the 21st century”.
From the minute a spade was put in the ground the weather was against everyone involved in the project at Laylocks. In early 2020 Worcestershire was hit with awful weather which caused flooding across the county. Fortunately, Laylocks avoided any severe flooding but the site was still bombarded with rain. “The groundworks were pushed back by a month due to the weather, but Newspan were flexible with the schedule, liaising with the groundworkers and reprogramming to come up with the best new delivery date in order for us to make the all-important Spring opening that we needed”. The site operatives for Newspan put in a valiant effort amidst the challenging conditions and were flexible with slight changes from the customer. “We felt very supported during the building works; Dan was always available at the end of the phone to keep things running smoothly. Taking into account a few cheerfully accommodated additions that we requested as we went along, he kept the budget well on track too.”
Once the building was handed over it was down to the Laylocks team to oversee the shop fit. The hard work paid off and Laylocks were able to open on time. Sadly, the unforeseen circumstances of the Covid-19 outbreak scuppered their plans before they could gain full momentum. “All the stops were pulled out and we launched on time… five days before the Covid-19 pandemic forced the UK into lockdown. My father and I run Laylocks together and we grow 60% of the plants we retail here on site. After the huge efforts everyone had made to get the new building opened to the public, it was heart-breaking for the next few weeks to visit the empty garden centre to tend the stocks and see so much go to waste”.
As with the rest of the industry Laylocks were forced to sit tight before they could welcome customers back to their new building. Whilst lockdown has been challenging for many it has at least enabled people to spend more time in their gardens – boosting the interest in gardening across the nation. After a long wait Laylocks were able to welcome customers to their new building; “The more spacious new building has enabled an improved customer flow that’s made socially distanced shopping easier to implement. As well as the return of our loyal customers, we’re seeing an increase in new visitors with a lockdown-inspired appreciation for their gardens and a desire to improve their outdoor space. We are finding that customers are spending more time in the bigger building, browsing the wider range of products we can now stock. We’re aiming to keep shoppers busy here for half a day, rather than just an hour”.
Martin and Hannah both poured a lot of work into this project and have been presented with some big challenges along the way. Laylocks have proved to be a resilient and courageous team and they will no doubt reap the benefits of their hard work. The new building should be a valuable asset for Laylocks moving forward and, most importantly, the project was delivered successfully with a happy customer at the end of the job; “We would definitely recommend Newspan to other garden centres planning a new build development; they were knowledgeable and made insightful suggestions that enhanced the way the building met our criteria. They were fantastic overcoming the early delays caused by the weather, they stuck to their price, and they were great dealing with other subcontractors and making sure everything was handed over as it should be. Having Dan as our single point of contact from the get go had enormous continuity benefits – I knew I could pick the phone up at any stage and he would understand exactly what was going on. Despite the challenges of the first half of this year, Newspan’s support and our new building have readied us to achieve the next phase of our 10-year business plan. We’d definitely use Newspan again”.