Dobbies Garden Centres new chief reports to Glee

Following the £217m purchase of Dobbies in June by Midlothian Capital Partners and Hattington Capital, John Cleland, formerly of Somerfield and Maplin, has spoken about the business.

Cleland came in shortly after the new owners bought the business, replacing Andy King.

He told Glee delegates that 85 per cent of purchasers pre-search online, according to consumer research. Dobbies has completed 7,000 exit surveys of customers.

Cleland said the company was a good deal, with Tesco having spent £150m on its fabric after purchase for £155m in 2007. Dobbies turns over £153m. Tesco saw 17 stores built during its ownership.

Biggest stores, of which there are 21 flagships out of 35 stores, should be turning over £8m, but many are less than that, as the Horticulture Week top 100 garden centres shows. This means the concentration will be on making more out of the current estate rather than building new centres.

Tesco stopped investing in Dobbies after hitting profit falls in 2014. The range became risk-averse as the chain tried to keep margin, while various issues, including the horsemeat scandal, caused ranges to narrow. Glee exhibitors expressed hope that Dobbies would start spending on its estate again.

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