Dobbies expansion could see edge-of-town centres

Dozens of Dobbies garden centres could be built on edge-of-town sites following the Competition Commission’s provisional findings on the grocery market.

The commission found that supermarkets land-banking to retain and restrict rival buildings on development land undermines competition. This could lead to Tesco using its land banks for building Dobbies garden centres rather than being forced to sell the land. Malcolm Scott Consultants director Chris Primett said: “I would expect to see more edge of [town] sites being developed by Dobbies if the Government can find a way of forcing supermarkets, including Tesco, to divert their landholdings.” Hammond Phillips director Mike Gilbert said: “It’s an opportunity for [Tesco] but it depends on whether these sites are suitable for garden centres. If it’s about keeping the opposition out, an obvious one for Tesco is to try to put Dobbies on these sites where it can.” Dobbies chief executive James Barnes said: “There may be some opportunity with land from Tesco, which would be very nice for us. I’m not sure that is in [its] plans but any opportunity that did come around we would capitalise on.” Tesco director Lucy Neville-Rolfe, now also on Dobbies’ board, said: “Our pipeline for future growth has not been about keeping others out. Unlike some of our competitors, we have always gone with the grain in planning and taken a proactive approach to new store development with flexible formats that always look to build in town centres where others historically have not wanted to go.”

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