Dobbies uses Horticulture Week top 100 as benchmark

Dobbies Garden Centres chairman Andrew Bracey says study of Horticulture Week's annual top 100 garden centres analysis has helped him understand the sector.

Bracey's Midlothian Capital bought Dobbies from Tesco for £218m in June, outbidding rivals including Terra Firma by £10m-plus.

Bracey told The Times: "If you look at the top 100 garden centre stores, many of them are owned by independent families. They are great and there is absolutely nothing wrong with them but they will get rolled up as a sector. Dobbies is a very good platform from which to grow in this way."

He said looking at the annual HW analysis: "average sale of the top 40 garden centres is over £8m/year", while Dobbies is £4.4m a store and "could do better".

Bracey has visited centres such as Scotsdale to find out more about the sector.

He said 35-store Dobbies is "profitable" and "less than half the capital in the business is debt" with "excess cashflow" and a "strong investment plan".

Bracey said Dobbies is not in Norwich, Hampshire, Wiltshire, with only one in Somerset, for instance, adding: "I hope we can find some sites."

He wants to extend categories with Criterium Cycles concession at Edinburgh an example, as well as Lakeland, Joules, Cotswold, Maidenhead Aquatics and soft play, but products have to stay "adjacent to gardening and not push too far".

The Midlothian name is because Dobbies headquarters are in Lasswade, Midlothian.

Bracey said the "lovely business" has a "strong heritage" and "hasn't had that much focus from Tesco" and "could be better run with a better range".

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