A GARDEN centre is celebrating the 20th anniversary of a move which was credited with changing the industry.

Haskins Garden Centre opened in a purpose-built building in March 1994, on a former 10-acre industrial site at Longham.

Its success is credited with starting a country-wide move away from the traditional greenhouse and shed-style gardening shops to more comfortable environments.

The move was the idea of chairman Warren Haskins, who took over the original Haskins at Tricketts Cross, Ferndown, in 1969 at the age of 20, following the sudden death of his father.

When Sainsbury’s bought the land in 1993, Warren Haskins consulted Ernest Wertheim, a garden centre expert from San Francisco, and decided to buy the Longham site.

He said: “We saw staffing levels leap from 60 people at the old Tricketts Cross centre to more than 100 at the new Longham centre.

“The total number now employed exceeds 190 with the growth of our head office, which is also on the site and supports a total of four centres, two of which have been rebuilt to similar designs.

“The latest was our £12m Roundstone Centre near Worthing in March 2012. We have been able to emulate the success of the Longham centre also at our West End centre in Southampton.”

Warren Haskins and chief executive Julian Winfield, who is marking 20 years with the company, both returned to the shop floor as part of the celebrations.

He said: “It’s been a very long time since I helped on the shop floor.

“There have been so many changes with the introduction of technology and systems which our current team just take for granted.”

The Longham centre received a £3m update in 2008, which involved doubling the size of the restaurant to seat 400. The work also included a major refit of the retail area and renovation of signage and landscaping.

Mr Haskins said: “The centre still looks fresh after 20 years and the layout continuously evolves to meet the demands of our customers and maintain high standards expected by our discerning visitors.”