Customer service and younger buyers likely to be focus for new Wyevale Garden Centres chief executive

The former Toys R Us man Roger Mclaughlan will focus on IT, customer service, younger customers and retail standards, according to industry watchers.

Roger Mclaughlan has joined Wyevale Garden Centres from Toys R Us as chief executive officer, replacing Kevin Bradshaw.

Consultant Andy Newman said Mclauglan’s role will be to improve customer service and retail standards. He is also reportedly big on merchandising, branding, store formats and team playing.

Consultant Neville Stein said: "I think this is a very interesting and good appointment for Wyevale. Roger Mclaughlin's CV is packed full of solid retail experience and he certainly is a seasoned retailer. From what I understand one of his roles at Toys R Us was to be in charge of the customer experience. One might imagine that he has a vast amount of experience at engaging younger families in the retail offer and so it will be interesting to see whether he develops a strategy at Wyevale to engage a younger audience - something much needed in garden centres.

"I think the challenges he faces are common to many garden retailers - attracting and retaining high quality staff and flattening out the peaks and troughs in demand. Whilst I am unsure of whether Wyevale are going to increase the speed of acquisition the challenge might also be finding suitable garden centres to purchase."

Former Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King was reportedly behind the recruitment following his September 2015 appointment as vice chairman and head of portfolio businesses at Terra Firma. King said transforming the "supply chain and IT to provide a solid platform for future growth" is the focus.

Former colleagues said Mclaughlan was a good motivator with focus on detail and a sense of humour.

Mclaughlan’s job will also include launching a transactional website, delayed for more than a year and due this spring but believed to be further delayed, and preparing the chain for eventual sale.

Terra Firma bought Wyevale for £276m in 2012. Last month, Guy Hands' private-equity company Terra Firma was believed to be in talks with advisers such as Goldman Sachs to sell the 153-centre chain for £700m.

Wyevale has added about 30 centres since it bought Wyevale for £276m in 2012. Turnover stands at £290m, just over five per cent up in a year. Mclaughlan will need to up turnover to make the business more attract to a new buyer, which could be difficult as store space shrinks as more concessions come in and fewer independents are available to buy.

Homebase recently sold for £340m to Wesfarmers, indicating there is appetite for big deals in the sector.

Mclaughlan has more than 25 years of retail industry experience, including senior executive roles at Marks and Spencer; Holmes Place gyms, Woolworth's South Africa and Asda’s Living and George businesses. He introduced new branding and logos and George and changed the format of Living. He replaces Kevin Bradshaw, who took the role in 2012 and has been rumoured to be leaving for several months. Analysis shows chief executives working for Hands rarely last much longer than two years in their roles.

MDJ2 Associates director Andy Newman said: "'Roger will bring a fresh pair of eyes to the business and his extensive retail background will be a real asset.  Over the last year the business has been very active on acquisitions and developments, but I would imagine Roger will bring a renewed focus on customer service and retail standards across the chain too."


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