Garden centre site development plans primed for supermarket profit

Edge-of-town location seen as ripe for supermarket interest, planning experts tell centre owners.

Up to five per cent of garden centres may be suitable for buying by supermarkets, planner Malcolm Scott told delegates at his first Planning for Profit workshop, held last week.

Scott's team, plus Quinton Edwards director Simon Quinton Smith and First Franchise business development manager Richard Lewis gave the 40-strong audience ideas on maximising the value of their property and businesses at the Worcester event.

Scott said: "Supermarket developments are going to apply to centres on the edge or within towns, for instance Waitrose and Garden & Leisure at Shrewsbury, Tesco and Notcutts at Solihull and Tesco Metro at Hurrans in Churchdown. But it is unusual to have a garden centre in or at the edge of town.

"The only exception is if garden centres have full A1 use but not many do because planning authorities list what they can sell and exceptions."

Several centres are working with supermarkets (HW, 4 November) but Scott says only two to five per cent will be able to sell out in this way.

Scott added that garden centres are severing their connection with the countryside as they look more like big shops than glasshouses. "Planners could say there is no reason for you to be in the countryside".

He said that meant greenfield permissions would become more difficult and owners should hold on to and improve their sites instead.

Benchmark sales comparison Per year

Category Garden centre Asda
pounds pounds

Overall sales per square metre 350 10,000
Sales per shop square metre 1,200 12,500
Outside sales (covered, unheated)/sq m 285 n/a
Outside sales (open)/sq m 50-100 n/a
Sales per employee 65,000 130,000
Average transaction 2 22
Sales per car parking space 10,000-20,000 220,000
Sales per cafe cover 3,000 n/a

Industry views on planning approaches

"Bents submissions were 300 pages and took 12 months to prepare - but only eight weeks to pass. You need to make planning application part of your business plan, assess your chances of success, build community support, present the proposal to council and keep the initiative going."

Chris Primett, Malcolm Scott Consultants

"I'm trying to get a handle on what is required to get planning taken seriously in the area. The planning environment is very different from what it was a while back."

Paul Billingham, proprietor, Beechcroft Nurseries

"We are working with Malcolm Scott to get planning for new space that we can pre-let and owners will get pay back over two years. New clients include Robinson's Equestrian and Mountain Warehouse."

Richard Lewis, First Franchise

"Since mid 2010, garden centre values are dropping because banks are not providing finance. QD Stores is reducing the level of their offers. Hillview Group has only one centre of a projected 10 and while Garden & Leisure bid for Fryers, there is low demand in East Anglia, west Wales and the North East.

Simon Quinton Smith.

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