Sales up and refurbishments near completion at Stewarts Garden Centres' newest site

Stewarts Garden Centres is set to double coffee shop capacity and increase head count at Abbey Garden Centre following its acquisition in December.

Martin Stewart (centre) with (left) Darren Valet and Mark Johns, both of accountants PKF Francis Clark
Martin Stewart (centre) with (left) Darren Valet and Mark Johns, both of accountants PKF Francis Clark

The focus at Abbey Garden Centre is the expansion of the coffee shop which will give customers an increased menu choice. Plans will include a new kitchen, a 50% increase of seating to 100 covers and a new patio with a view of the plantaria.

Terry Head, recently appointed director of Stewarts, said: "We hope that by the end of March [the property] will be 100% Stewarts."

New jobs will include retail staff in the plantaria and a new catering manager for the coffee shop.

Martin Stewart, managing director of Stewarts Garden Centres, said: "The coffee shop is a priority but work needs to be done everywhere."

After the completion of the coffee shop the re-brand will be done with road signage and branding already finished.

Head said the company has invested a "substantial amount" in the new property.

He added: "In the first month [after the acquisition] we increased like-for-like sales by around 25%.

"Staff welcome the fact that, after years of under investment, we are committed to improving the site and giving the business some much-needed TLC."

The company will continue to grow seasonal plants on site and increase the range of gardening, gifts and furniture products by 30%. Head said that the garden centre will remain plant-focused.

Abbey Garden Centre was acquired by Stewarts Garden Centres in December for an undisclosed sum. The site covers almost three hectares and currently employs 42 people.

Stewarts has two additional garden centres in Broomhill and Christchurch. The company gained planning permission for a £1 million redevelopment project at the Broomhill site in November. Plans for the site include an oak structured restaurant, coffee lounge and new staff and public facilities designed by Southampton-based Plum Architects.

In addition to the garden centres Stewarts has interior and exterior landscape businesses. The total turnover for all four companies in the year to 31 January 2016 was almost £11 million, up by half a million from the previous year.

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