Results show garden industry success in 2015

Recent results filed at Companies House by garden centres and nurseries show 2015 was a successful year in the sector. Farplants, the co-operative made up of five nurseries - Binsted, Fleurie, Walberton, Toddington and Star Plants - saw its sales increase from £18.15m to £19.06m in the year to 31 August 2015.

Farplants: sales increase highlights a successful year
Farplants: sales increase highlights a successful year

The rise was credited to increased business with grocery multiples and a bigger added-value offer, which the company plans to continue, particularly outside the traditional gardening season. It also benefited from cheaper fuel prices in 2015.

Coletta & Tyson's results to 31 October 2015 show sales of £22.75m, down from £23.98m in the previous year, with profit up to £723,000 from £500,000. The bedding grower, based in Beverley, East Yorkshire, said it is "happy with the overall performance of the company". Directors added that historically gardening has ridden economic downturns. Plans include closer working with customers and responding to demands with high- quality products and good service levels.

Plant supplier and grower Keith Butters turned over £31.52m in the year to 30 September 2015, up from £31.18m, with EBITDA up to £835,000 from £198,000. Director Andy Coaten said "competitor pressure" made for a "challenging environment". Profit after tax was £341,000, with £674,000 spent on capital projects.

Johnsons of Whixley had "better than expected" results to 30 September 2015, with sales hitting £10.068m, up from £9.658m, and operating profits up to £329,000 from £177,000. The North Yorkshire hardy nursery stock grower said the amenity market is "much healthier", though there was a "small contraction" in retail sales.

Oxfordshire-based young plant grower Ball Colegrave's results to 30 September 2015 show how "the recovery of the garden market continues" with garden container plant sales to small and medium-sized growers leading the way. Sales were £25.316m, up from £24.420m, with operating profit at £2.85m, up from £2.331m.

Herefordshire-based wholesale garden centre and multiples grower Allensmore Nurseries increased sales to £12.354m from £11.037m and operating profit to £624,000 from £483,000 in the year to 30 September 2015.

Among retailers, Baytree Nurseries of Spalding made sales of £4.43m in the year to 31 August 2015, up from £4.25m, with pre-tax profit at £183,000, up from £85,000. The directors were pleased with performance "in what has been a very challenging period across the industry".

Notcutts Garden Centres' turnover has risen from £63.75m to £67.76m in newly published accounts for the year to 29 February. Turnover was up 6.3 per cent. Gross profit margin fell from 50 per cent to 48 per cent, reflecting a move to drive volume sales. Operating profit was £1.29m, up from £1.08m.

Notcutts, which has 18 garden centres, redeveloped its Wheatcroft and Woodford Park stores during the year, spending £4.89m on capital projects. Company chairman Nicky Dulieu said the plan is to "maintain focus on developing the garden centre portfolio".

Webbs Garden Centres' returns for the year to 31 December 2015 saw turnover rise 6.5 per cent to £15.61m from £14.66m. Frosts Garden Centres' results to 31 July 2015 "maintained growth momentum despite a challenging retail environment". Turnover was up 9.5 per cent to £18m for the four centres.

Perrywood Garden Centre & Nurseries turned over £7.82m in the year to 31 July 2015, up from £6.86m, with the refitted coffee shop turning over £275,000 more at £1.44m. Langlands Nurseries turned over £6.37m last year, up from £6.16m, with profit after tax at £490,000, down from £497,000. The York-based garden retailer bought a nursery at Holme on Spalding Moor for £535,000 and Jobre of Sheffield (Langlands' Loxley garden centre) for £1.03m.

Raemoir sales were static at £5.4m and at Thompson Bros (Esher) - Garsons Farm - at £12.5m. Clifton Nurseries, since bought by Gavin Jones, turned over £3.3m but made a loss of £387,000. BE Enterprises (Flowerland) turned over £4.1m.

Retail consultant Neville Stein said: "These very encouraging results show largely that in a difficult retail landscape growth in sales is still possible. Clearly re-investment in capital projects has been key in driving growth for some retailers. With an enhanced restaurant offer at Garsons and Perrywood one would expect a growth in sales - it is encouraging to see companies continuing to invest and indeed to make acquisitions as it indicates that there is optimism and confidence in garden retail.

"Projecting forward into the near future, I think there will be a continued emphasis on reinvestment from the leading retailers. However, with an uncertain future because of Brexit I think there is a need to also get back to basics and work on improving gross margin, reducing overheads and ensuring that staff are delivering exceptional customer service. After all, turnover is important, but it's profit that really defines whether the trading year has been successful or not."

Planning consultant Malcolm Scott said Brexit is a "non-event" and will not stop investment as exchange rates settle. "A few people out there who were about to take investment decisions held off and didn't take out bank loans until they found out what's happening, but I expect they are not going to proceed."

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