Wyevale Transplants booms but group warns of tough year ahead

Wyevale Transplants has posted the best results in its 22-year history with an eight per cent increase in profits, but the grower remains cautious because of the recession.

The supplier of UK-grown planting stock for forestry, hedging and ornamentals said the weak pound had led to a surge in import-substitution sales to other nurseries. Managing director Steve Ashworth emphasised the role of external factors in the company's performance.

Ashworth said: "I would caution against over-egging our success because it is effectively an artificial sales cushion. Exchange rates can be a false cushion because once they shift back, if you have expanded you can be in trouble."

He said the coming season, which for his company starts this month, looks likely to benefit from the 20 per cent price advantage over foreign imports.

"The eight per cent [increase] came from sales to basic trade nurseries so we were directly import-substituting and, at the moment, that seems to be persisting," he added.

Wyevale Nurseries sales director Doug Reade said: "A lot of the success of the business is down to Steve's determination. Also, we have focused very much on reinforcing the British-grown and British seed sources and people are latching onto that more and more, particularly where they are looking for special provenance."

Despite the strong performance of the transplant business, Reade said the wider group was "battening down the hatches".

He said the record profits were a bright pocket in a gloomier group forecast, adding: "Overall, we are very concerned. Local authorities will have it tough; I think that it's going to be really difficult this season, regardless of whether there is a change of government. There is such a deficit of [government] funds and I think if anything is cut it will be the peripheral things like parks, not health or education.

"We don't know if there is going to be an upturn in the housing market but we are battening down the hatches on the landscape side. We have seen some very competitive prices around already because nurseries have to sell what they have grown."


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