Quinton Edwards is representing a small investment bank that wants to invest £25m in the sector by backing a successful management team. The bank will put up 85-90 per cent of the money and will have no controlling interest in the business.
"People are fed up buying property and getting five-to-six per cent returns and would rather look at garden centres, which have higher risk but the potential upside is far greater," said Quinton Smith, who has completed some 500 garden centre and nursery deals in his career
The main changes he has seen in the past 25 years are that garden centres have got substantially bigger and more diverse, moving away from plants to catering, gifts, Christmas and concessions. He added that leaseholds have become more prominent, something he believes is not good for the industry and should "only be done on your terms, not on your landlord's terms".
But Quinton Smith said he does not believe that there are more groups now than 25 years ago, with "the only one that has really grown hugely is Wyevale". He said the "biggest success story is Klondyke", which emerged out of nowhere in the 1990s.
"In the future there will be still more consolidation by the groups and there will be some investment coming into the industry from outside, which will allow more groups to grow."
Hillview Group, and a new company headed by Neville Prest and Charles Good, are examples of new interest from funds and private banks bringing new money into the industry.