In a world of online shopping, high street stores, retail parks, garden centres and any business that wants me to leave my warm house to spend money with them need to offer something extra special.
Especially for parents of young children, who know that a trip to the shops isn’t as simple as jumping in the car and going on your way.
I hate bad customer service and I really like great customer service.
But what I like even more is when a store ensures your visit is made special – an event even.
It’s a Hayden Christmas tradition to visit Keydell Nurseries at Horndean.
It is usually a garden centre, but at this time of year it’s transformed into a Christmas wonderland.
I don’t know the owners or any of the staff, but it is clear the place is run by someone who loves Christmas.
It’s probably not a normal thing for children aged five and seven to get excited when I tell them we are visiting a garden centre, but when I do their eyes light up.
At this time of year there is always a variety of animals in pens, including reindeer, goats and pigs.
There were even a couple of donkeys making the children smile.
They are all incredible to watch and it was great to hear how much care is given to the animals.
We then queued for a short time to buy tickets for Caitlin and Alyssa to visit Father Christmas.
The cost is £11.50 per child which includes two adults per ticket.
At first glance this might seem quite high, but I am so impressed with the effort that is put into making it a magical experience for the children.
When you get to the front of the queue one of Father Christmas’s helpers comes to collect you and takes you to the room where he waits.
The room feels like you have been transported into his real living room.
The girls had a chat with the big man and requested the gifts they would like on Christmas morning.
He then directed us to his toy shop where they could both pick a gift.
Once these were chosen we were moved into the winter walk.
This is a walkway with moving characters and winter scenes with plenty of photo opportunities.
It really does get you feeling festive and my girls enjoyed throwing some coins into the wishing pool at the end.
We then made our way into the main Christmas shop, where we found a star to buy for the top of the tree and a few more decorations to add to our collection.
We spent more than two hours there and I’d love to see more stores across the Portsmouth area follow Keydell Nurseries’ example and create a special experience for their customers.
I’m sure if they did, more people, like me, would shop in-store rather than online.