Guy Hands talks gardening to the New York Times

Private equity group Terra Firma founder Guy Hands, who bought The Garden Centre Group in 2012 for £276m, has spoken about his purchase of the chain to New York Times.

The Garden Centre Group's earnings before taxes, depreciation and amortization were up 50 per cent last year, to £42.7 million.

Hands said: "For men over 45 in England, gardening is the second-most popular pastime after television. Even sex came after the garden, which the French would say sums up the British."

Terra Firma finanical managing director Julie Williamson said: "It’s a business that grew up by small, family-owned businesses being taped together. It was not properly integrated."

Terra Firma’s research showed that people spent two to four hours at garden centres, with only five per cent arriving to buy a specific gardening product. "They look at the flowers. They buy something. They have a cup of tea."

Hands says he has got rid of "Le Creuset cookware, £7,000 three-piece living room sets and £18,000 bonsai and has introduced "Comfy Feet slippers, cappuccinos and resin animals", which made £1 million in sales last year.

Concession licenses are now being sold to "pet suppliers, clothing brands and aquatics experts".

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