Urban gardening range to be launched by Scotts

Scotts Miracle-Gro UK is launching a new urban gardening range, consisting of Black Magic 20-litre Potting Mix Compost and one-litre Liquid Fertiliser in early 2017 - products that were originally pitched at the marijuana-growing market in the USA.

Black Magic: potting mix compost to launch next year - image: Scotts Miracle-Gro
Black Magic: potting mix compost to launch next year - image: Scotts Miracle-Gro

The company said the compost product, which will be available online on Amazon, is "excellent for pots, containers and urban gardening" while the fertiliser is for indoor use and balcony plants.

Black Magic Compost is "blended with expertise and made up of a high-grade material to create the best base for potting soil. Rich seaweeds are incorporated to boost taste and ensure abundant yields. The new and specially formulated technology balances out the soil structure and maximises water retention to sustain lush growth for any plants."

The US-based Scotts company is seeing a shift from growth through selling grass seed, fertiliser, pesticide and growing media, which have seen flat sales since 2009 after 80 per cent growth in the USA from 2001, largely through the expansion of big box stores. Scotts Miracle-Gro makes $160m profit on $3bn sales annually, with most profit coming from the US.

The Hagedorn family owns a 27 per cent stake and since 2009 chief executive Jim Hagedorn has changed management and invested in growing media, fertiliser, pesticides, growing systems and lights that can be used by marijuana growers - 25 states allow medical marijuana and four permit recreational use.

Hagedorn spent $135m in 2015 on two California-based businesses including General Hydroponics and the Rod McLellan Company that sell fertilisers, soils and accessories. He recently spent another $120m on Gavita International, a lighting and hydroponics equipment company in Amsterdam, and has promised to invest $500m "in the pot business as the biggest thing I've ever seen in lawn and garden".

The US strategy began by selling Black Magic, created by General Hydroponics and sold in Home Depot stores in states where marijuana is medically or recreationally legal. Scotts' US subsidiary Hawthorne Gardening is running the hydroponics side of the business.

Scotts is also launching a Levington Essentials range to meet the competitively priced market sector at Glee.

Meanwhile, The Scotts Company (UK)'s latest annual report, submitted earlier this month for the year to 30 July 2015, shows the impact of buying Solus on the business. Overall turnover rose 13.8 per cent to £98.27m but there was an operating loss of £439,000. Profit in 2014 was £4.401m.

The report states that turnover was driven by Solus sales of £13.9m in 2015 and £2m in 2014 after Scotts bought the trade and assets of the garden centre supplier in July 2014. It adds: "However, an exit sale began in June 2015 of Solus due to losses following the acquisition in 2014. The losses have contributed to the overall operating loss in 2015." Overall staff numbers decreased from 268 to 181 in the year.

Scotts continues to trade Solus's Chapelwood bird care and "continues to invest in brands". The directors' report, by US-based Dale O'Donnell, says there is a "commitment to the UK market shown by a £70m share issue within the group with the proceeds being used to settle a debt with the (US) parent company".

No dividend was issued for the year by the Frimley-based fertiliser, chemicals, compost and garden products business. Other company directors are Philip Jones and Aimee DeLuca. Martin Breddy resigned in January 2015 and is now at Squire's Garden Centres. Sheila Hill is now Scotts UK general manager.

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