Garden retail industry attracts £50m of funds

Garden Park Investments has launched a new fund with the potential to pump £50m into the garden market.

The investment group plans to buy stakes in horticulture businesses and spend big on building improvements or expansion drives.

Garden Park Investments, which specialises in developing garden centres, launched its Garden Centre Fund thanks to a main source of funding from a Middle East bank.

"We've got the money and want to get out there and spend it," said chief executive Edward Olley. "We are very close to several banks and have a pool of money."

His company wanted to work "alongside" operators through leaseback deals or working on the planning and property side of businesses, he said.

"We will inject capital into existing centres to beef up turnover and maximise assets. We have been in the sector for some years and understand its needs."

Typical deals could pay for garden centres to enlarge retail areas and help with planned expansions, attract concessions and "enhance income in other ways".

Chairman Gordon Edington said that there was a growing trend among owners to shy away from tying up too much capital in land and property.

"We can release capital by buying the freehold and adding more value by applying our planning, development and retail skills."

He said the sector had become a "fast-moving and dynamic" retail environment but the credit crunch was making bank finance expensive and hard to obtain.

"A property-led investment offers an attractive alternative to operators," said Edington, whose firm focues solely on garden retail.

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