Garden centre owners fear impact of deal's collapse

Garden centre owners have expressed concern that manufacturer Scotts Miracle-Gro's failure to buy distributor Solus could hurt sales this spring.

Breddy: worked hard on the deal
Breddy: worked hard on the deal

Scotts, the UK's biggest garden sundries supplier, had planned to buy Solus, the biggest garden wholesaler, before Easter. But Solus owners the Yealland family failed to accept Scotts' offer for the company. Scotts told HW: "Our distribution agreement with Solus has expired and you would have to ask Solus why it wasn't renewed."

On supply, he said: "Most of our larger customers buy direct from Scotts and we have great relationships with Decco and Stax, so there shouldn't be any reduction in sales or supply delays. Our group managers, regional sales managers, sales representatives and their supports will ensure we supply all the stock that is needed."

Bayer and Scotts are no longer trading with Solus. Hozelock is temporarily unavailable because of Solus's credit insurance issues. All other major accounts including Fiskars, Town & Country, the RSPB and Neudorff are still on board.

Financial adviser Grant Thornton is working with Solus to build a strategic direction for the business.

Solus said the stumbling block in the Scotts deal is nothing to do with the due diligence process but down to a last-minute demand that Solus found unacceptable.

Stewarts Gardenlands managing director Martin Stewart said: "I hope this doesn't screw up what could be a great spring. Ten years ago Solus was a very important part of the supply chain. But because of the growth of Gardman and Westland, and things like coffee shops, the impact of this is less strong than it would have been."

Woodcote Green Garden Centre general manager Phil Barnden said: "There is room for one more player because if one goes there's more pressure on the others. It is a concern but you have to plan ahead. All of us in the trade are careful to not put all our eggs in one basket.

"We use Westland, Gardman, Scotts, Decco, Solus and also buy direct because if someone runs out of something you want to be able to get it from somewhere else. You need independent distribution, particularly for core horticulture products. It's got like utility companies generating electricity and selling it too, and that's not healthy."

JBA Seeds Potatoes director Iain Barbour said: "The choices of people for us to supply is also going down as everyone is buying each other up."

Scotts and Solus comment on breakdown of negotiations for proposed new company

"Scotts is very disappointed with this news. We worked very hard to put what we believed was a very attractive proposal on the table, but unfortunately the Solus shareholders have decided to withdraw from negotiations. We feel that there would have been good opportunities for the proposed new company and that it would have been a positive development for the entire garden sector."

Martin Breddy, managing director, Scotts Miracle-Gro

"We are disappointed that our discussions with Scotts have not been fruitful but remain positive about the future. The board and the shareholders are pursuing a number of other options for the business."

Mark Pearson, chief executive, Solus

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