Bradshaw sets out reasons for garden retail investment

Garden Centre Group (GCG) chief executive Kevin Bradshaw has pledged to make the business a success within "two or three years" for new private owner Terra Firma, which bought the business for £276m last year.

Some 71 days after replacing Nicholas Marshall at the 129-centre GCG, Bradshaw made five observations on the garden retail sector to delegates attending the Garden Centre Association's annual conference in Oxfordshire last week:

1. Garden centres are a "beautiful environment to work in", compared to most retail.

2. Garden centres are retailers but are not suffering like the high street. Bradshaw cited Deloittes, which said 194 retailers went into administration in 2012, with 4,700 store closures. "It's hard to substitute with the internet so is an incredibly attractive segment and place to be."

3. "This industry has got some attractive dynamics. Factors that put industries under margin pressure such as big dominant suppliers - we're not dominated by that." He said his former job at Avis car rental was dominated by big suppliers that dictated prices, while price comparison sites meant charging was competitive. Avis bookings went from 30 to 70 per cent in four years while he worked there, he added, and just £200m of the £5bn UK gardening spend is on the internet "so the internet is not providing that alternative".

Bradshaw said because of planning laws blocking development of new garden centres, it is "hard to see huge swathes of new capacity coming in". He added: "There are none of the big worries that could drive margin pressure".

4. Bradshaw made the "contentious" point that GCG's scale is an advantage, not just because of better buying terms but because it has 2.5 million garden club members, can offer concessions a national footprint and can offer "the very best" career opportunities. He added that the company will grow through acquisition "when it makes sense".

5. Bradshaw maintained that the garden retail industry has "more than its fair share of great people".

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