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Dawson’s draws all elements together

TWO years of water restrictions have challenged not only Perth’s gardeners, but have threatened the viability of many local garden centres.

But strong early seasonal rains have provided the perfect centenary birthday gift for one such operator – West Australian family owned business, Dawson’s Garden World.

Dawson’s Garden World emerged in 1903 from a partnership between George Dawson and Edward Harrison, who established their first production nursery in Belmont and delivered plants all around Perth by horse and cart.

A century later, Ian Dawson, grandson of George Dawson, owns and manages the garden centre business, which has grown to include a production nursery in Forrestfield, four retail centres in Forrestfield, Swanbourne, Joondalup and O’Connor and employs 50 full-time staff.

Mr Dawson said the business of supplying gardeners always involved an ability to respond to new styles and changing needs.

Today, instead of an emphasis on fruit trees and vegetable gardens, gardeners have smaller gardens, less time and want more colour and stylish, easy-care plants.

“Gardening has come into a fashion context,” Mr Dawson said.

Native, cottage, modern – gardening styles wax and wane – the trick is to provide the customer with what they want and a high level of service.

He said Bunnings’ move into the garden centre industry was the biggest change he had experienced in his business life.

“All independent garden centres are under pressure from that,” Mr Dawson told WA Business News.

Dawson’s is protecting its market share with quality customer service and extensive knowledge.

“People can’t find anyone to talk to in those big boxes – it comes down to service,” Mr Dawson said.

While two years of water restrictions had made it tough for the industry, Mr Dawson remained hopeful that the State Government and the Water Authority might eventually agree to three-day watering restrictions.

“When they hit our industry and made it the number one target, they made people embarrassed to use a sprinkler,” he said.

“People have shown they can do it on two days. But if you drive around some of the suburbs, some have given up.”

Mr Dawson said the family business was one of the few garden centres to grow its own plants, with more than three-quarters of its stock being produced from an 11-hectare nursery in Forrestfield.

“We guarantee all our plants because we think we can grow a better plant,” he said.

Dawson’s was recently named WA’s Australian Garden Industry best medium garden centre.

The family run nursery was also recently nominated for the 2003 Family Business Awards, an annual event celebrating WA’s leading family businesses.

p Nominations for the 2003 Family Business Awards are available at www.familybiz-awards.com.au

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