Gow questions latest big chain shake-up

Garden Centre Group has appointed a consultant to look at cost-saving measures as part of business reorganisation.

Garden retail: longer-term supply deals are being negotiated - image: HW
Garden retail: longer-term supply deals are being negotiated - image: HW

Garden Centre Group (GCG) appointing a "sourcing cost reduction" consultant and sending out redundancy consultancy letters to some managers has led to Garden Industry Manufacturers' Association (GIMA director) Neil Gow warning garden centre chains against bringing in too many senior staff from outside the industry.

GCG sent a letter to its 13 regional managers detailing a risk of redundancy this month. The 130-centre group is starting private equity company Terra Firma's first wholesale reorganisation of the business it bought for £276m in March 2012.

Gow said: "This is the issue of people who are not from the industry trying to get involved and shake it up and do things differently. Very few have ever made any real impact in recent years. There's an element of change for change's sake."

The process begins a reorganisation of roles. It is believed that existing jobs are being split to manage centres of the same size, rather than just in the same region. GCG is believed to be seeking three or four regional directors.

Business adviser Charles Coates, of Stonebeck, has been helping negotiate longer-term supplier deals alongside GCG's existing buyers. Coates previously worked with the group's chief executive Kevin Bradshaw at Avis UK, where Bradshaw praised the "level of savings" Coates achieved.

Sinclair retail managing director Danny Adamson looked at the changes more favourably. He said: "It is a massive group which is going places and it wants to work more closely with its suppliers. It is looking for longer-term deals and making sure they're the best value."

Allensmore managing director Mark Taylor said: "For any grower the more a customer wants to look for longer-term trading relations the better for the grower."

GCG is still looking at buying Garden & Leisure and is interested in Park Garden Centres Lechlade and Cheddar centres, as well as Smith's Nurseries in New Denham, Middlesex.

Garden Centre Group - Time of change

A TGCG representative said: "The Group is experiencing great change as we grow the business under our new senior team and focus our efforts on how best to serve our customers. We are considering how we might best achieve this through a variety of different options and proposals, however at this stage these are internal management processes with no agreed plans as yet. If and when any of these options and proposals are finalised, we will be happy to communicate further." TGCG said it would have nothing more to say until September at the earliest.

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