Garden Centre Group reports profits rise despite lower turnover

Garden Centre Group chief executive Nicholas Marshall has announced a 6% like-for-like sales rise for 2009. The former Wyevale chain saw a 17% rise in gross profit over Christmas to £14m but total sales for the 5 weeks to December 27 were down £1m to £26m against 2008.

Marshall said this followed a move to not chase sales growth "for the sake of it".

Marshall, who took over running the 121 centre group from Jim Hodkinson in late 2008, said: "One of the things the old Wyevale Group forgot was that people come to a garden centre to buy plants. They tried to turn the garden centres into giftware emporiums, with plants on the side."

He said garden club membership had risen to 800,000. Installing 60 new concessions in 2009 has also helped the bottom line.

Marshall added: "A key priority since our re-financing in February 2009 has been on ensuring we are selling the right products that meet our customers needs at the right price to ensure strong profit growth. The inevitable and positive consequence of this, combined with improved stock control and supply chain management, was that we entered the key December trading period with a significant reduction of stock levels. With reduced stock levels, cash generation has been significantly improved."

Real Christmas tree sales were up 7%; restaurant sales were up 10% and wild bird sales were up 8%.

Marshall added: "Despite the challenging weather conditions and economic climate, our new strategy has enabled us to improve significantly our profitability over the Christmas trading period — we are delighted with our performance.

"Importantly, we are offering our customers the right product mix, resulting in lower stock levels and smaller volumes going ‘on sale' post-Christmas.

"We enter 2010 with a sustainable business model that is well positioned for growth; and are excited about the prospects this will bring."


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