Blue Diamond managing director Alan Roper said: "A private equity company's activity is robbing customers of authoritative gardening. Plants and gardens are at the heart of what we do." But Wyevale in particular is drifting away from its horticulture focus, he added.
Leisure & Outdoor Furniture Association chairman Paul Bevington said: "It's inevitable that in a mature market consolidation happens," adding that the big four banks and big four supermarkets are proof of the trend in other industries.
But delegates felt that specialists, including online retail, could thrive in a corporate market too. Squire's managing director Dennis Espley and Roper both said online would not be a profit- maker for them. Also speaking was Newey Group managing director Alex Newey.