Weak pound leads Wyevale to bolster plant production

Wyevale Garden Centres chief executive Nicholas Marshall said the strength of the euro and high transport costs have prompted him to instigate the building of five nurseries on his garden centres' land.

Marshall said Wyevale is to double its number of nurseries from five to 10 after the appointment of former Notcutts production director Paul Masters as nursery coordinator.

He added: "We have the customer - ourselves - and we have the redundant nurseries. We just need to clear them up. With the euro and the pound equal and transport costs rising, now is the time to be doing it."

On Wyevale's recent refinancing, Marshall added: "What we've achieved in the current environment with HBOS is pretty good. We've halved our indebtedness and they've given us a further £30m capital to refurbish and expand our garden centres."

He said 2007 accounts are filed and 2008's are in preparation and will be out in "another couple of months". But Marshall would not say how much the bank owned in the equity for debt in favour of preference shares deal: "I can't talk about the percentage the bank owns. I can only talk about Wyevale the company. What matters is Wyevale is in a more stable position than it has been since it was a public company. I intend to drive the business forward."

Marshall said Wyevale is on budget so far in 2009 and was 40 per cent up last week like for like.

He added: "Shortages are possible - after two years of poor weather a lot of nurseries will have undercooked it and with a really good spring I suspect we may find some garden centres will be finding it difficult to find stock."

He said Country Gardens' recently announced losses of £397,000 were "disappointing, but we are an expanding company. We have just bought another six centres and were gearing up because we felt we were likely to be taking on a lot more."

He added that new franchises such as Cotton Traders were proving valuable and were yet to cause planning headaches. But planners were asking Wyevale to move vehicles used as billboards from Wyevale car parks.

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