Barton Grange have been involved with AIS since 2008 and are a leading example of a growing number of Garden Centre members. They are regular winners of awards for horticulture, their restaurants and Christmas displays and have recently been voted the "GCA Destination Garden Centre of the Year 2015".
The Topping family started business in Preston with the opening of a hotel in 1951 and son, Eddie Topping, made the pioneering move into Garden Centres in 1963. From then, that Garden Centre has grown to truly be a destination for visitors from miles around and epitomises the way that sector has developed to provide new and exciting shopping opportunities constantly adapting to changing customer needs.
In common with many of our other garden centre members Barton Grange saw great benefits in being part of AIS for the sourcing of cookshop products and our specialist buying and merchandising team helped to set up a new department which has gone on to be extremely successful and another reason for customers to visit.
Today the main Barton Grange Garden Centre, together with a second at Bolton, is run by Guy Topping whilst Eddie’s two other sons, Peter and Ian, run a complementary landscaping and nursery business and the much changed hotel respectively.
Browns Department Stores originated in York over 100 years ago and have since expanded into Helmsley, Beverley and, most recently, Gainsborough.
A proud family business currently led by Nick Brown, the quality of their stores, whether the fabric of the buildings or the merchandise within them, makes them must visit destinations for categories from beauty to fashion to furniture and home.
Such a wide mix is supported by their membership of AIS since 1979 and helps them present a broad product offering to their loyal customers across Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.
Collingwood Batchellor is a family-run business with seven furniture and homewares stores across the south east. As well as its well-known home department store in Horley, there are also shops in Horsham, Haslemere, Haywards Heath, Worthing and Tunbridge Wells, making Collingwood Batchellor one of the best suppliers of furniture in Surrey, Sussex and Kent.
Selling everything from beds and carpets to sofas and cookware, Collingwood Batchellor has grown significantly since establishing itself in 1968, and has now developed a strong customer base through its online store as well.
The company is now run by Tom and Guy Collingwood, who have both developed the business by expanding into nearby counties, and by continuing to follow family traditions in providing great quality furniture and customer service.
With the help of AIS, Collingwood Batchellor has managed to add further to its fantastic product line throughout its 30 year partnership.
Glasswells began over 65 years ago in Bury St Edmunds and went on to become the biggest family run furnishing company in East Anglia, and one of the best in the UK, through their 4 stores.
Glasswells joined AIS in 1981 and Managing Director for over 20 years, Paul Glasswell, is also a former AIS Chairman.
The first small town centre shop would fit many times over into the 100,000 sq. ft. edge of town “World of Furniture” store that is now their Bury St Edmunds flagship and a destination shop for a customer catchment of miles around. Glasswells sets out to give inspiration throughout their showrooms and is built on core values of quality, value for money and after sales service.
As a member of AIS, Glasswells source product across a wide number of our merchandise categories such as linens and housewares as well as furniture, helping them to fulfill their customer focused values.
Housing Units started as a family furniture business in 1947 and, more than 65 years later, have grown significantly to their present day scale with a hard earned and well deserved reputation for quality and service.
Still a proud family company they joined AIS in 2001 to help with their growth and provide customers from across Manchester, the North West and beyond with a great shopping experience from the minute they are greeted at the entrance to the after sales care they receive.
Furniture remains at the heart of their business but visitors now will find many more product categories for the home as well as a choice of where to eat and relax.
Owned by the Fox family, Housing Units have been big supporters of AIS during their membership and Managing Director, Harry Fox, has served several years on the AIS Board during that time.
The Jarrold company was originally founded in Suffolk in 1770 and the iconic Jarrold Department Store has been a cornerstone of shopping in Norwich for approaching 200 years.
Today that flagship store has been joined by others under the Jarrold fascia across East Anglia plus Pilch Sports and, most recently, The Granary, a contemporary furniture store both of which are also in Norwich.
The company remains privately owned and Michelle Jarrold is currently Retail Development Director. However, the Jarrold family have always sought to refresh and stimulate the business by hiring senior management from outside and, in keeping with that, the current Managing Director is Peter Mitchell. Jarrold joined AIS in 1979 and Pilch is also a member of the specialist INTERSPORT division.
As befits the close business ties between Jarrold and AIS, Michelle and Peter Mitchell are former Board members so both epitomise the spirit of membership by being fully involved in AIS direction. Jarrold are one of the leading AIS members and have twice been awarded the Independent Department Store of the Year by trade magazine Drapers.
Sterling Furniture joined AIS in 2001 and are one of the bigger members of AIS. They are a renowned Scottish regional chain operating from their base at Tillicoultry where visitors will also find a Garden Centre and choice of places to eat, drink and relax as well as browse the largest furniture store in the UK.
The vision for this flagship store, the first of 9, came from George Knowles Snr. who, back in 1974, saw how out of town developments were taking shape in America and believed the concept would also work in the UK.
The present MD is Gordon Mearns and the founders’ daughter Lesley Graham is Merchandise Director, and they, together with other Directors and senior managers, continue to take the company forward. Whilst the business started with furniture the main showroom building, with all its rooms and floors, now houses everything customers could need for their home including bathroom, lighting and cookware.
Overall, Sterling is a unique business that has benefited through its association with AIS and whose principals regularly attend AIS Regional meetings and Annual Conference to not only learn from those events but also to share their own experiences for the benefit of fellow members.