Demand for garden centres is at its highest since before the recession, with Wyevale Garden Centres and Blue Diamond both looking to step up acquisitions.
Gilbert Evans said: "There's a lot of activity. We are telling clients considering a sale of their business in the next five years that it could be as good a time as any."
Quinton Edwards said most garden centres nationwide are aware that Wyevale in particular, Blue Diamond, Notcutts and others are in acquisitional mode.
Blue Diamond is leasing Trelawney Garden Centre in Cornwall, which has £4.2m turnover, and Trelawney Probus Garden Centre, also in Cornwall, which is yet to be built. Wyevale has bought Trelawney Ashford, near Barnstaple in Devon, which has a £1.9m turnover.
Trelawney co-owner David Danning will develop the Probus site and do some work for Blue Diamond. Manager Peter Burks will work for Blue Diamond in the South West. Blue Diamond bought a lease on Fermoys, also in Devon, in 2013. Fellow Trelawney co-owner David Symons will concentrate on property development.
Blue Diamond managing director Alan Roper said the centres fit Blue Diamond's ideal demographic of having ABC1 customers nearby.
Probus is to go back into planning after a 10-year-old planning certificate lapsed in September. Roper hopes it will open by spring 2017. Blue Diamond has a lease on the centre.
Blue Diamond's interim results show turnover rose by nearly 16 per cent on a like-for-like basis. Excluding Fermoys, acquired in late 2013, turnover increased by more than 10 per cent. Profits for the first six months of 2014 were up 37 per cent against 2013. The company is expecting to report turnover of more than £70m in 2014 and is looking for more freehold and leasehold opportunities.
Meanwhile, 142-centre Wyevale is also set to take on a Welsh centre as it ups its efforts to expand. It bought Moreton Park in North Wales last month.
"It makes sense that they are buying more garden centres because they have the structure in place and are taking fixed operational costs and spreading it over more garden centres. As we move out of the recession, this is quite a good time to sell. As the sector becomes more homogenised, it is fantastic news for independents who can now really differentiate themselves from the groups."
Neville Stein, Retail consultant.