HRG, which also owns Argos, issued a profit warning in November and has seen its share price fall sharply in 2015 from £2.20 to around £1. Marshall believes he can bring more customers to Homebase. He said staff and customer service are excellent and pointed out that someone is going to buy the business, which announced plans last year to close a quarter of its 323 branches.
"There's no doubt about it, I'm interested in it," Marshall confirmed. "I'm interested in the space and you can imagine with my background what I would keep in that space. Wyevale was on the floor and I turned it around, and I've no doubt I can do that again with Homebase with a formula somewhat similar to the one I used for Wyevale - garden centres, restaurants and concessions. It has a similar space."
HRG chief executive John Walden warned in October's half-year results statement, which saw Homebase returns fall by 2.2 per cent to £816m: "We look forward to an improved sales performance for both Argos and the group in the second half." He said Black Friday meant Christmas trading was "less predictable than usual".
He added: "The combination of this trading uncertainty, an increased level of investment in the launch of Fast Track and the underlying profit reduction from Argos's challenging first half mean that at this stage of the financial year we expect the group's full-year benchmark profit before tax to be slightly below the bottom end of the current range of market expectations of £115m to £140m." A HRG trading statement, covering the 18 weeks from 30 August 2015 to 2 January 2016, will be published on 14 January 2016.
On the 2015 season, Marshall added: "The good news for everyone in the garden centre industry is it has been a good couple of years and they should continue to concentrate on customer service, building their local businesses and taking customers away from others who don't understand that - all of which they are doing."
Marshall founded Country Gardens in 1984, selling out to Wyevale in 2000 for £108m, when he founded Country Homes & Gardens. He returned to run Wyevale from 2008 to 2012, when Guy Hands' Terra Firma took over.
Marshall said he always felt uncomfortable at Wyevale for taking business from small local garden centres. Homebase has a different target market, but Marshall said customers are not coming to Homebase in as large numbers as they should. He suggested that the retailer lacks direction and needs specialist help.
French home-improvement retail chain Leroy Merlin and South African furniture and household goods retail chain Steinhoff International are also reported to be interested in Homebase.