Dobbies on track to hit 100-centre target even though "times are not easy"

GIMA's latest business meeting heard that Dobbies chief executive James Barnes is still on track to see 100 Dobbies garden centres operating by 2020.

Barnes told delegates that 2011 will bring turnover of £116m and 28 stores will be open, 2012's turnover will be £155m and will be 32 stores, in 2013 it will be £206m and 36 stores, 2014 £250m and 42 stores and 2015 £335m and 49 stores.

Carlisle, Livingston, Glasgow and Ashford will open in April 2011 and Peterborough, Liverpool and East Kilbride are in planning.

James Barnes said he expects to boost turnover per square foot from £100 to £200 and to increase operating margins to 15 per cent. He said there was "no leading [garden centre] brand in the UK".

Barnes said his aim was for Dobbies to build its brand as a sustainable retailer.

The company, bought by Tesco for £155m in 2007, is selling Dobbies-branded tools in Tesco and has taken over one old Tesco store-Shepton Mallet, with Barnes joking the 2007 deal was more like a "reverse takeover".

Dobbies will cut products it sells from 70,000 from 763 suppliers, which includes 163 local suppliers, said Barnes, adding that store managers would have less control over buying to help this.

He said "We feel times are not easy", when outlining a value message for 2011 that "will be a lot stronger" and include more sale buys and own-brands.

Barnes said catering is now 20 per cent of turnover with Edinburgh catering turning over £2.5m a year. Chickens were the 76th biggest selling line last year, meaning "we're still a brand with a sense of humour," Barnes added.

Also at the event, Peter McDermott said his Lead the Good Life and TV and online operation is now turning over £9m a year. The multichannel retailer is looking for more suppliers.

Agentbase MD Paul Brown said he had 925 specialist garden agents on his books and that for many garden product companies the agent route to market was the best.

Bev Channell spoke about exhibiting opportunities at the Edible Garden Show (18-20 March 2011).

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