Verde Horticulture bought by Butters Group

Economies of scale following acquisition will enable Verde Horticulture to expand its business, says commercial director.

Floor: says the economies of scale resulting from the acquisition will enable Verde to grow its business - image: HW
Floor: says the economies of scale resulting from the acquisition will enable Verde to grow its business - image: HW

Verde Horticulture has been bought by the Butters Group to create Britain's biggest plant supplier.

The £70m plant, bulb and flower business is backed by venture capitalist Bestport Ventures, the largest Butters Group shareholder.

Verde Horticulture, created following the recent management buyout of Landgard UK by its commercial director Jim Floor, will continue to trade independently from its sites in Hampshire and West Sussex but will use Butters' IT and sourcing for plants and hardware.

The economies of scale resulting from the acquisition will enable Verde to substantially grow the business in the future, said Floor. The company also plans to grow more product in the UK.

The firms will operate independently apart from Butters adding Verde's £5m cut-flower trade to its own £7m flower business.

Verde will specialise in plants. Sources include Ornamental Plants, Robinson Brothers, Neame Lea Nursery, Blue Ribbon Plants, Almodington Nurseries, Fresh Acres Nurseries, Chessum Plants and AE Roberts in the UK. Verde will also source from Italy, Holland and Germany including from Landgard eG.

Verde supplies Tesco, Waitrose, Morrisons, Homebase, Wilkinson, the Garden Centre Group, The Range, Notcutts, Garden & Leisure and Dobbies. It has pulled out of the independent garden centre market.

Butters supplies most other groups that sell garden goods and houseplants, such as B&Q and supermarkets.

Verde is now based at the former World Flowers site in Hook, Hampshire, with the former Brinkmans premises in Chichester used by Chessum and AE Roberts as well as for stockholding.

Floor and Butters managing director Andy Coaten were part of the team that set up World Flowers. Both left in 2008 and World Flowers closed in 2011. Landgard UK was set up in 2007 as an arm of EUR2bn-turnover German cooperative Landgard eG.

Floor said: "The closer that a customer is to being a supermarket then the less likely they are to being weather-dependent. People are going to go to a supermarket anyway." He added that with 1,200 UK growers supplying retailers, the market is ready for homogenisation.

The season is four-to-six weeks behind, said Floor, and there will be a shortage of summer bedding. "We've not thrown away a single spring plant. Everyone has been too cautious. Retailers have cut their commitments and growers have not speculated. I see our orders and reserves and they are low when compared to last year because no one wants a repeat of 2012."

He said the key to dealing with big retailers is to develop product, make yourself indispensable and have multi-level relationships with buyers because they often change roles.

Joining forces: UK's largest plant business created

"The Butters and Landgard businesses are largely complimentary. This deal creates the largest plant business in the UK and our combined expertise will enable us to better serve the needs of our customers and suppliers."

Andy Coaten, managing director, Butters Group

"This tie-in with Butters will enable Verde to offer a wider range of products and services to its customers. In particular, we see opportunities in bulbs and houseplants, which will ensure that the business has a less seasonal focus."

Jim Floor, commercial director, Verde Horticulture

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