Glendale buy rescues jobs at RA Meredith & Son (Nurseries)

Future of stricken nursery business secured by deal that consolidates market and saves jobs.

Meredith & Son: the last published accounts show a £18.2m turnover
Meredith & Son: the last published accounts show a £18.2m turnover

Glendale Horticulture, the Parkwood Holdings subsidiary, has secured the future of RA Meredith & Son (Nurseries) by acquiring the trade and assets of the company via a pre-pack administration.

The Saul, Gloucestershire-based nursery occupies seven sites throughout the Vale of Evesham and Gloucestershire and grows 13 million bedding plants, herbs and DIY fruit and vegetable plants per year. Customers include Tesco, Homebase and Garden Centre Group.

The acquisition secures the jobs of 106 employees. RA Meredith & Son was employing 381 people and turning over £18.2m in its last published accounts on 31 December 2010. The company blamed bad debts and poor weather.

Glendale will acquire two freehold nursery sites with the stock and assets for an undisclosed amount. Glendale Horticulture forecasts annual sales of around £10m.

Meredith sold its Ross and Huntingdon nurseries to Haygrove and Hargreaves respectively in 2011.

Parkwood Holdings executive chairman Tony Hewitt said: "This acquisition is another step in the consolidation of the horticultural market, preserving jobs and the technical horticultural expertise that this country is renowned for."

He told HW: "When we looked at the market 10 years ago, we looked at the possibility of building a horticulture business. We acquired Coblands in 2005 and have talked to other nurseries since but nothing has ever come along. This opportunity made sense."

Hewitt said Glendale Horticulture can now grow plants from hardy nursery stock to bedding, and apart from specialist plants can supply a range and diversify its customer base.

Hewitt said Merediths will continue to supply retail customers and Glendale: "We'll carry on supplying the retailers we're supplying at the moment and will end up supplying Glendale. Most plants supplied to Glendale are ordered through Coblands. Not all can be supplied by Merediths. If the geography is right and plants are available from Merediths, Merediths will supply Glendale."

Hewitt said Merediths could increase capacity from 13m plants a year, but not in the first year.

Directors Chris and Peter Meredith have left the business, but managing director Andrew Bennett becomes Glendale Horticulture general manager.

Bennett said speculative growing had decreased from 40 per cent to nil in recent years, while vegetable plant growing had expanded to 25 per cent but had now plateaued.

"We're looking forward to expanding our customer base," he said. "We're working closer with our customers rather than growing speculative product as we have done in the past."

He added: "The Garden Centre Group have had meetings with a number of growers. Retailers have always looked at margins closely and continue to do so. Growers have to be efficient but must be profitable, too."

Administration

Administrators have yet to total Meredith & Son (Nurseries) debts but industry estimates put them at £3m. Some securities were provided by Meredith's directors to guarantee certain debts.

The administrators are David Bennett and Ian Carr at Grant Thornton, who were called in on 19 July.

They will send out a standard pre-pack letter to creditors this week.


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