Historic Wyevale name lost in favour of local brands

Industry figures have welcomed Wyevale Garden Centres' change of name to The Garden Centre Group, ending 55 years of the use of the famous moniker.

Chief executive Nicholas Marshall said: "Garden centre customers aren't interested in national brands. They're interested in the local brand of the local garden centre. I want to take the business back to its horticultural roots, away from turning it into another shed like the DIY retailers."

Garden Centre Association chief executive Gillie Westwood said: "It's a shame they've lost the historic name but they've changed the company so much, this is a way forward for them. It makes sense. It might confuse customers but it won't affect the industry."

Quinton Edwards director Simon Quinton-Smith said the change was a good thing after years of turmoil at the chain.

Suppliers heard of the change this week in a letter from purchasing director Steve Pitcher, which read: "The change reflects the fact that we own a large number of historic and important garden centre brands, which we wish to preserve and enhance for the future."

Like-for-like sales at the chain, which has 122 centres, have risen six per cent in the year to 30 June. Centre managers now have more control over stocking.

Wyevale was founded in 1953 by the late Harry Williamson. Wyevale branding has been removed from 90 stores and replaced with local branding. About 10 outlets will remain Wyevale garden centres.

Marshall refinanced the company in January: "We effectively halved the debt and managed to persuade the bank to invest a further £30m over the next three years."

Lloyds Banking Group took ownership of the business in return for writing off debt. As part of a debt-for-equity swap, Sir Tom Hunter's controlling stake - held by West Coast Capital - was watered down to about 25 per cent.

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