Garden Retail - Xmas roundup

Matthew Appleby brings together the stories that have shaped 2008.

January

HTA retail group chairman Caroline Owen warns good weather and good service will be key to success in 2008.

Blue Diamond buys Hazelfield Garden Centre, Newent to move to nine stores

Wyevale chief executive Barry Stevenson resigns after a tough Christmas. Jim Hodkinson take over.

The HTA lays a bill to extend Sunday trading

The GCA conference in Manchester saw new chairman Martin Davies back a "united front". GCA launch buying group GRO.

February

Former Body Shop marketing director Andy king replaces Nick Kirkbride as Notcutts' CEO.

MEPs voted to ban patio heaters

The NFU met Homebase to discuss a supply chain code of practice

Wyevale CEO Jim Hodkinson admits to "own goals" over Christmas. He plans refits and 21 new restaurants.

Verdict research predicts a consumer slowdown.

Wyevale bought Heighley Gate garden centre in Northumberland.

Seed potato sales boom as Grow Your Own thrives.

Pennells GC in Lincolnshire has a £1.6m revamp

March

The Earl of Courtown introduces the proposed Sunday Trading Act alterations to the Lords.

Countrywide, the rural retailer, relaunches garden centres at 15 of its 41 stores.

The Gardens Group's Castle Gardens in Dorset reopens after a big fire.

Hare Hatch in Berkshire endures farm shop planning battles.

Wyevale plans to extend Sanders GardenWorld in Somerset.

Terrible weather sees garden centre sales dip by up to 50 per cent over Easter.

Wyevale launched a recycling scheme for plastic pots

April

Dobbies buys Sandyholm GC near Glasgow for around £8m.

Andy McIndoe becomes new Hillier MD, succeeding Robert Hillier.

B&Q slash orders by up to 50 per cent after a poor Easter

Blue Diamond buys Derby and Matlock GCs and takes an operational management agreement out on Chatsworth GC after Gardens Centre of Excellence agree to dispose of the centres.

Dobbies sales to 31 October were up 21 per cent to £83m but like-for-like they were up just 1.4 per cent. It issued £150m worth of new shares to fund plans- a move that forces Wyevale owner and Dobbies shareholder Sir Tom Hunter to reluctantly sell his shares to Dobbies' owner Tesco.

Country Gardens becomes the first GC to install a Pets Corner franchise

May

Solus and Bosmere part company after they become too similar in what thet supply GCs.

Sales take off over May bank holiday but centres are 30 per cent down in April

James Vincent opens Avondale GC in Wiltshire

Sir Tom Hunter goes to court to block Dobbies' share issue. Dobbies win. Hunter sells Dobbies' shares to Tesco at £12 a share.

Vermeulen's GC in Staines begins a three-year investment programme.

Garden Retail best centre winner Palmers sees its 'do it for me' service take off.

Frosts begins a £2m revamp at Woburn Sands

RHS lobbies to remove VAT on plants

Sir Tom Hunter tells Garden Retail of his plans to appeal to older people at Wyevale and to open shopping malls based around centres.

June

Proposed EU pesticide laws could wipe out many popular weedkillers from garden centres

Wyevale plans a £10m craft, food and restaurant garden centre village at Faversham, Kent

Scotsdales plans a £5m centre at Ely, Cambridgeshire

Bayer uses a min media player as POS in garden centres

Dobbies de-lists from AIM

Suttons says 2009 will be year of the tomato

Princess Anne opens new £15m Barton Grange centre at Brock, Lancashire

Shoots buys Cobham GC from Seymours

July

Consultant Doug Stewart promotes use of Facebook for GCs to market themselves

Dobbies attempts to poach Wyevale's buyer Tim Clapp-but fails.

Restaurateurs Mike Robinson and Duncan Ackery praise GC catering at an HTA conference. Ackery urges GCs to "menu engineer"-cut portions to save money

Wholesaler Spread closes, leaving the market to Solus and Decco.

The HTA introduces regional Retail Development Forums

GCs buy 500,000 packets of Thompson & Morgan's Duchy seeds range.

The GCA revive regional events

August

Garden centre managers earn £26,623 according to the annual HTA salary survey, up two per cent. Planteria managers earn £19,936 in average. GC owners earn £34,359.

HW and Thompson & Morgan research found £10 of seeds can generate £1,000 of produce, showing GYO can help pay feed families as the credit crunch bites.

Consultant John Connel says spas and spa products as the next big thing in GCs.

GCs go green. Eco pots from Erin Pulp Packaging hit the market. Stewarts launch biodegradable pots. Burford Garden Company has success with Mil-Tek balers.

Toby Buckland is appointed successor to Monty Don as Gardeners' World presenter.

Garden centres resist the move to charging for plastic bags. Webbs goes for biodegradable, while Scotsdales backs bags for life.

Garden Park Investments launches a £50m fund to help garden centres expand through leaseback deals. Work starts on a GPI/Van Hage centre at Peterborough.

Hillier wins permission for a £2.5m rebuild at Eastbourne.

Gifts and GYO are the positives in GCA barometer of trade figures.

Gardman opens a new trade showroom.

Wyevale appoints Andrew Livingstone as new COO.

September

Toby Buckland says he will use peat and pesticides on the programme as necessary, a move that delights the industry.

More than 40 GC owners head to Vancouver, Canada for the IGCA conference, which is to be in Manchester in 2009.

Jim Hodkinson resigns as Wyevale CEO in a surprise move. Country Homes CEO Nicholas Marshall takes over.

Dobbies hits planning snags at its proposed Carlisle store, which is set to be competition for Klondyke's nearby flagship.

Wyevale relaunches environmental policy Plan Apple at its Bicester centre. Pots and peat are on the agenda.

Derris is removed from garden centre shelves after an EU ban.

Outdoor kitchens are the next big thing, says consultant Doug Stewart. Consultant John Connel says UK GC Christmas displays are the best in the world.

Buying group HART changes its name to the Retail Services Group.

Glee hears Eden Project founder Tim Smit say GCs can launch a food growing revolution. He announces the Big Lunch on 19 July to promote GYO. Celebs Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen and Antony Worrall Thompson promote Sun Time and Slemcka at Glee but footfall is slightly down.

October

Bank loans dry up for GCs. Little Dodd in Cumbria and Trelawney in Cornwall have plans on hold as banks stop lending.

Laws to prevent flooding by paving front gardens come in.

Notcutts buys six NWF centres for £14.5m to become a 19-centre GC-only group.

The HTA urges GCs to attract business by becoming more involved in the community and schools in particular.

Charles Notcutt retires after 50 years service.

Around 650 GCs take part in conifer week.

Promojardin VP Jean-Philippe Darnault tells the HTA Leaders conference discounters, local traditionals and destination centres are the future.

Focus launches Payless-a bargain own-brand range.

November

Westland take 15 garden journalists to Ireland to look at peat bogs and West+. Toby Buckland visited earlier in the year for a 2009 Gardeners' world programme.

Former Ryobi MD Mark Pearson replaces Andy Bestwick at Gardman.

Firework sales fall in GCs.

GC furniture supplier Regent Garden Collection goes into liquidation.

Former Blooms CEO Jon Kitching launches a retail nursery and café in Northants.

The industry unites against EU proposed pesticide bans

Sidmouth GC wins three awards at Garden Retail awards. Whitehall's Phyllis Self, 101, wins lifetime achievement award.

Malcolm Scott wins permission for Oakington GC extension in Cambridgeshire.

Webbs opens Christmas stores in shopping centres in Derby and Birmingham.

All-in-One joins Future Marketing Group. Five centres left the buying group in September.

MTW Research finds the GC industry is "fundamentally strong".

Gardman launch GYO range.

Blue Diamond announce circular garden centre concept for Le Friquet, Guernsey.

December

Scotts Miracle Gro take six garden centre managers to its US R&D centre. It is tour leader and Scotts veteran John Ashley's swansong. The marketing director retires after 37 years in December.

Vat is cut by 2.5 per cent

Hayes announce rebuild at Ambleside, Cumbria with Malcolm Scott's circular concept, which puts plants in the middle of the centre.

Woolworths collapses

Sidmouth GC is hit by planning row over its Riverford farm shop.

Christmas sales pick up after slow start

Annual sales look to be coming in at a few per cent below 2007, with garden furniture, BBQs and hard landscaping well down, with catering, gifts, food and pets up.

Wyevale completed refinancing after difficulties with its bank, HBOS.


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