Yorkshire roots

Tong garden centre has been on a journey of progression of late, the over 30-year-old retail landmark on the outskirts of Bradford has been undergoing a renaissance with new owner Mark Farnsworth at the helm.

Mark took on the site in 2015 and since then has worked tirelessly to build his vision of what service and retail should be.

“From a business perspective we made obviously a significant investment in purchasing the centre at the start and we invested over a million pounds in the refurbishment and development of the centre.

With that comes much pressure to make sure that investment has been wise, in the right areas and that it is the best for the customer. We’ve been really pleased with the response we’ve had from customers, turnover has gone from £3 million to £7.4 million in our most recent financial year.”

Obviously, the aim when taking on any business is to reinvigorate it with new ideas and reinvigorate its profit potential. However realising that potential is easier said than done and often finding what works is hard to come by.”

Mark’s philosophy is planted firmly in his belief that playing on all the attributes that make Yorkshire so special will undoubtedly.

“I think our customer service is definitely a Yorkshire style if you like. Yorkshire style is pretty straight to the point ‘what you see is what you get’ as we coin the phrase, we want to be genuine, we want to be sincere, we want to do the very best for our customers, and I think the customers appreciate that. What we’ve been delighted with is that that has meant that they voted with their feet, customer numbers and turnover have doubled, so I hope that we are doing something right.”

His team are certainly reaping what they sow. With footfall and profits up the future looks promising, but as with many business owners, uncertainties around today’s political climate are cause for concern.

“One of the big challenges we face like many people in business over the last twelve months has been the change in the currency and the devaluation of the pound, we do import quite a bit of product. We do try and buy as much as we can locally to support Yorkshire businesses but garden furniture and a certain amount of product at Christmas and things are imported. So we had to work incredibly hard, look at ways of buying, buying better introducing that product working together with other retailers to buy better to manage that currency deflation and I know we are not the only ones in that boat. It’s going to be an issue that I think is only going to get worse in the next 12 months but its something that is happening, and we’ve got to deal  with.”

Closer to home, is Mark’s real focus though, the regional aspect of his business and the role improving his business will have in bettering the wider community.

“We are very much part of the business community, we have engaged with Bradford council, we’ve met with the chief exec, shown her our plans and she’s incredibly supportive and were very grateful for that. We are members of the Bradford Chamber of Commerce, we’ve also most recently announced that we are a Y30 member who are collection of businesses which are passionate about Yorkshire, who support welcome to Yorkshire.

We want to build on what we have already achieved and I think collectively we can help promote Yorkshire and put the county on the world stage.”