Latest garden centre moves bode well for future

It's all change among garden centre groups, with Dobbies being sold to new management, Notcutts announcing a £45m store revamp and several other chains appointing new bosses with new ideas.

The impact of the latest developments in the retail market can only be good for horticulture. Notcutts driving stores forward with more local management has got to be good for suppliers and Dobbies breaking free of the Tesco troubles will similarly drive growth and more opportunities for all.

A mix of new blood and industry veterans in new roles are revamping the sector in the face of competition, including from another new management team, Wesfarmers-owned Homebase.

Notcutts' Nick Burrows, who has a leisure management background, wants to not just judge store performance on profits but also on customer satisfaction, using the NPS system employed by John Lewis among others. Burrows says he wants to invest more responsibility in store managers, which will add to their job satisfaction and give stores a more local feel.

Dobbies' new owners have high-level retail experience at heavy hitters including and Ocado. Andrew Bracey comes with the recommendation of respected industry veteran Nicholas Marshall. Barney Burgess, Bracey and other investors want to grow Dobbies store numbers, but importantly they also trust the existing management.

Meanwhile, Klondyke, which announced flat sales this month, will have a new chief executive, David Yardley, at the end of the year. Squire's has Martin Breddy in charge, while Hillier's Chris Francis has transformed the 13-centre chain since taking over last year. It all goes to show, change can be a good thing.

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