New Forest Garden Plants goes bust after bank refuses to extend its overdraft

New Forest Garden Plants (NFGP) of Beaulieu, Hampshire, went into administration on 17 November, with company representatives blaming HSBC bank for failing to extend the grower's overdraft.

Around 40 staff have been made redundant and the company is being run by administrator Grant Thornton in Southampton.

Nursery manager Phil Walker said: "It is surprising how quickly this can happen to a medium-sized nursery with good order books for next year and a fantastic product range. It is a shame. There is a lot of stock waiting for next year.

"After 25 years it is upsetting for [managing director] Matthew Dixon. I’ve been there for five years and seen turnover rise from £2.3m to £3.7m and we’ve had the rug pulled from under us. Matthew has not asked for anything different from the bank but it is just not obliging this year. It’s an indictment of the economy as a whole."

Sales representative Jayne Homer said: "Sales have been quite good this year and we’ve managed to meet targets. I would imagine it is more of a bank overdraft issue with them not willing to be flexible. There are plenty of reserves and Christmas orders but prices are difficult with garden centres, though they are at the sticky end."

The business was established in 1985 as New Forest Herbs. The available range includes 35 per cent imports, 25 per cent herbs, 20 per cent alpines and 20 per cent perennials. Production is about three-million plants per year, which are distributed nationwide on a weekly basis. NFGP moved to the 12ha former Solent Trees site in 2005 from four separate sites after borrowing £1m.

Joint administrators Trevor O’Sullivan and Nigel Morrison are developing a strategy to market the site. O’Sullivan said the business had seen a downturn in turnover over the past 18 months and did not have the funds to carry it through the winter.

He added: "Due to the current financial position of the business we’re looking at the options at present but because of the state of the market and the place the business finds itself in we were unable to keep the staff and have made the majority redundant."

He would not disclose debts but said he would write to creditors in the next few days. Creditors are believed to include Italian plant suppliers, herb supplier Hishtil, Floramedia, HMRC and Fargro. Quinton Edwards is selling the freehold.

A HSBC representative said: "It is very easy for people to simply blame banks for the failure of a company, whereas in reality it is usually a whole mix of things that will have caused a company to fail.  We have been working with the directors for a long time to try and help them through very difficult trading conditions."


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