Annual garden centre round-up reveals industry success

The garden centre industry bucked the retail trend in 2009, proving recession-resistant and showing around 10% growth on average thanks to good spring weather, the strength of the recession and the healthy eating-led grow-your-own trend.

In January, Woolworth's recession-led demise in late 2008 led to a £4 million hole in garden retail sales mainly taken up by Wilkinsons, Robert Dyas and pound shops.

Wyevale finished its refinancing in February. Chief operating officer Andrew Livingstone left to join Screwfix as chief executive officer and Nicholas Marshall brought in long-serving associate Steve Pitcher as purchasing director.

Marshall reorganised most stores to have entrances through the planteria in an effort to return its focus from DIY to plants.

Wyevale opened landscape and fencing stores at 8 sites in the spring and by the end of the year had 60 new concessions across its 121 centres, mainly from First Franchise.

Garden centres generally pocketed the 2.5% VAT reduction that lasted all year.

Future Marketing Group welcomed All-in-One from Gretaer Manchester to its 27-strong group.

The Garden Centre Association's (GCA) buying group GRO failed to take off.

Riverside garden centre in Hertford flooded in February and faced closure.

Wolf-Garten was rescued by an MTD buy-out. Bosch added 100 to its consumer goods manufacture staff while cutting 250 elsewhere in its business.

Dobbies Shepton Mallet opened in the summer on the site of a former Tesco store. Dobbies made plans for  a retail complex at East Kilbride in South Lanarkshire.

The company is also planning to build a new garden centre at Braehead in Renfrew. Carlisle councillors have voted in principle to approve the £10 million scheme south of the Cumbrian city, but Dobbies gave up fighting planners in York.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show lost Notcutts and Squires, which pulled out because of the recession. Notcutts claimed to save £100,000. Hillier remained and won a 64th gold medal.

Langlands took over Hayes in Leeds.

Tenterden's Edward Boult's Canterbury Garden Centre opened in April.

Millbrook, also in Kent, won planning permission for an extension, as did Whitehall in Wiltshire. Neither began work.

Wyevale sold its Caddington site after a fire.

Golden Acres Nurseries bought a fourth centre, John Brown's in Dorset.

Former Lady Green Garden Centre manager Richard Allison bought former GCA chairman Steve Myatt's Warbreck Garden centre in Cheshire. Myatt went into barbecue wholesaling.

The start of Van Hage's 25-year lease on the anchor building of a £25 million Garden Park Investment's new build out-of-town retail park scheme was delayed until January 2010.

Webbs of Wychbold bought Hurrans West Hagley in March.

Hillier took over Hurrans in Banbury. Hurrans failed to lease back any of its 5 centres after the group went into administration in January.


Coolings opened new eco-build centre Green & Pleasant in Kent in March and won best new outlet for the £2 million replacement for a former Wyevale at the Garden Retail awards in November.

Marshalls closed five garden centre outlets because of the recession.

Ruxley Manor lost £2 million of stock because of fire.

Grow your own (GYO) took off with 100% uplifts in the spring at garden centres. Dobbies reported £1 million GYO range sales, an 82% annual increase, and 12 per cent sales rise overall in the year to May. Easter was up 73%.

Stewarts Garden Centres' Martin Stewart was announced as successor to Raglan Garden Centre's Martin Davies as GCA chairman from 2010.

The HTA backed Garden Expo — a new trade show rival to Glee — to be held at Stoneleigh in Warwickshire on 29-30 June 2010. The new National Plant Show will run alongside.

Quinton Edwards sold Blackdown Garden Centre in Somerset to Cornwall-based Carnon Downs.

After worries of redundancies and closure, few other garden centres went into administration this year. Among them were Hurrans, Cherry Hill Nurseries in Middlesbrough and Northop Garden Centre, which is part of the Deeside College Welsh College of Horticulture.

Dobbeis in Southport applied for planning permission for 30 allotments. Altons in Essex also built allotments on site.

Blue Diamond opened Le Friquet on Guernsey, a £6 million centre. Martels and Blue Diamond's existing centres on the island closed.

The Garden Centre Group, which already has five nurseries attached to its garden centres, plans to reopen a further five in early 2010. Nursery manager Paul Masters left the business.

The HTA and Stewarts GardenLands defended garden centres against accusations that using reindeer for Christmas promotions is cruel.

Webbs garden centres beat budget this Christmas after opening pop-up shops at Merryhill, Touchwood Solihull and Birmingham Pavilions, while its former Hurrans centre at West Hagley was 100% up on 2008. Webbs will take over the retail arm of Garden Organic as Ryton in Warwickshire.

Seed potato sales are set to rise by 15% again in 2010, according to supplier Solus Garden.

Christmas trees were threatened to be in shorter supply than usual and cost up to 25 per cent more than last year because of the strong euro.

Hillier's Andy McIndoe apologised over an article in a brochure promoting a range of festive gift ideas that suggested men should buy their wives a clothesline for Christmas.

GCA figures showed overall sales were up around 10% this year.

Garden centres must sign up for the Growing Media Initiative if it is to succeed, HTA director general David Gwyther said.

Quinton Edwards and Savills let Stansted House Garden Centre at Hampshire's Rowlands Castle. Quinton Edwards has also sold Arthur Newman's Garden Centre, Aberysthwyth, Cardiganshire to a local business couple.

Former Hammond Philips director Mike Gilbert set up a new garden centre agency, Gilbert Evans, with three former Hammond staff.

Gates Nurseries Garden Centre in Oakham, Leicestershire, had controversial plans to expand approved by Melton Borough Council.

Barton Grange Garden Centre in Lancashire and Castle Gardens Garden Centre in Dorset were winners of the GCA's annual Christmas display competition.

The HTA's new joint marketing committee — chaired by president Caroline Owen of Scotsdales Garden Centre and involving board level representatives from Bents Garden Centre, Burleydam Garden Centre, John Woods Nurseries, Farplants, Gardman, Bransford Webbs Plants, Westland Horticulture and Aylett Nurseries — has identified a cross-industry approach to set up a web-based garden advice and education service for gardeners, especially if it could be linked with members' own businesses.

Garden Retail announced its top 100 turnover garden centres at a packed event at Glee in September, with Longacres at number one on £15 million. Scotsdales, Bridgemere, Webbs and Burford made up the top five.

Garden Retail award winners celebrated at Grosvenor House in London in November.

Mover included GCG making big changes, such as bringing in Steve Pitcher and Lorrie Robertson and regional managers Dale Lewis (home counties), Chris Fisher (south) Chris Brannigan (north), Alyson Haywood (Midlands) and Peter Burks (west). Antonia Jenkinson joined as chief fincancial officer. Andrew Sells became chairman.

Neil Fishlock joined Dobbies from Wyevale as head of horticulture. Craig Turner left to join Dobbies as area manager for the north. Tesco's Steve Murrells left Dobbies. After 16 years of buying all plants for Dobbies Garden Centres Neil Cummings has moved to Milestone Garden and Leisure.

The HTA has a new president, Scotsdale Garden Centre managing director Caroline Owen. She succeeds Johnsons of Whixley managing director Andrew Richardson.

The association's new deputy president is Carol Paris, operations director at Garden & Leisure. Haskins retail operations director Philip Evason is a new board members. He replaces Owen as retail management committee chair. Abercorn Garden Centre owner David Norman is also a board member.

Haskins Snowhill Garden Centre appointed former WH Smiths store manager Nick Joad as general manager. Dean Ridley became head of retail operations.

Mark Cotterilll took over as manager of Tenterden Garden Centre.

Peter Cassell moved to manage the new Canterbury Garden Centre.

Sue Allen retired at Millbrook, with daughter Tammy Woodhouse taking over.

RHS Wisley shop lost manager Mark Godfrey and most of its other staff after restructuring at the society.

Andy Bestwick and John Stratford left Gardman. Mark Pearsona and Jane Lawler replaced them.

Tommy Gill resigned as head of Bayer Garden to be replaced by Colin Golding.

Former Blooms chief executive officer Jon Kitching opened the Beckworth Emporium farm shop/garden centre hybrid.



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