Industry airs views on Gwyther's HTA successor

Diplomacy and financial acumen flagged as key traits for next HTA director-general after David Gwyther's retirement.

David Gwyther has retired after 15 years at the HTA - image: HTA
David Gwyther has retired after 15 years at the HTA - image: HTA

A financially astute diplomat most likely drawn from outside the sector is how garden industry figures view the key attributes for the replacement for HTA director-general David Gwyther, who retired this week.

After 15 years, Gwyther left on 25 November. He has significantly increased the HTA's activity, particularly in lobbying and marketing in recent times, and leaves a legacy of a £26.5m turnover organisation with 1,500 garden centre, 1,000 grower and 300 landscaper members, as well as 50 staff.

The HTA-run National Garden Gift Voucher scheme, which provides much of the association's income, is also being developed into a high street version to redeem at garden centres.

Gwyther's career began as a graduate management trainee with Unilever. He became chief executive of a branded goods company and worked with Government on education/training/economic development policy, for which he was made CBE in 1995. He became HTA director-general in 1996.

Gwyther is a board member of the British Retail Consortium, a governor of Capel Manor College and renter warden of the Worshipful Company of Gardeners.

Gwyther has said that the industry made it difficult for itself and the Government by having such a plethora of horticultural organisations claiming that they want to influence the Government.

"I have heard ministers say it makes our industry very easy for them to divide and rule, without having to break sweat on any particular issue."

Calling for consolidation of the mass of small bodies under the umbrella "of a few large and robust representational institutions", he said these would need to coordinate their lobbying.

Garden industry looks to the future and what sort of candidate would make a suitable HTA director-general

"We won't be making any fast decisions. We've had one director-general in place for a long time who has done a lot of good work and now we need to find someone not necessarily to directly replace but someone who can drive the industry forward. As a garden centre owner, I want someone able to continue to give horticulture a political platform and who is able to see the bigger picture. It's important for the HTA to accommodate the depth of range of membership from smaller garden centres to the bigger guys. We're very conscious of being prudent in this financial market and to make sure we take this into consideration because some of the income comes from investments and no-one knows where the markets are going to go."

David Norman, HTA treasurer and Abercorn Garden Centre owner

"They need someone who can run an organisation but has got to be alive to the fact that it is about the members. They need, above all, to be a diplomat."

Martin Stewart, owner, Stewarts Gardenlands

"This is the start of a long process. We need to review and reflect on the skill set required. The appointment won't be easy. The quicker the better, but we are prepared to wait for the right person."

Stan Green, HTA vice-president and Growforth managing director

"There wouldn't be many people in the industry who could do it so you have to look outside, possibly at someone from banking or finance. There are people available now from those sectors and the offices along the M4 corridor open up the opportunity for a lot of people."

Derek Jarman, owner, Hayloft Plants

"It is an opportunity for the organisation to look at what it is doing and its strategy for the future. The HTA is very different to what it was 16 years ago when David went in."

Andrew Richardson, director, Johnsons of Whixley

"David Gwyther is a hard act to follow and it's a big business to look after. The board want to be a lot more involved. We will take our time. We need someone with a strong grasp of finances who is a politician, who can lobby and who is charismatic."

Mark Gregory, managing director, Landform Consultants.

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