Wyevale's future assured after bank deal agreement

Staff at Wyevale's 123 centres breathed easier last week after a refinancing deal was completed.

Chief executive Nicholas Marshall said the package with the Bank of Scotland and major shareholders took six months to finalise and included extra cash to improve some centres.

The deal meant the bank had a "very much bigger stake" but shareholders would have the chance to buy back the stake once the bank had been repaid.

Referring to industry fears that if the deal did not go through Wyevale would become the "Woolworths of the garden industry", Marshall said: "People may have called us another Woolworths, but do they know that everyone got a pay rise this year? We haven't made people redundant, we have more money to invest and in this credit crunch we are expanding into different areas."

Marshall said the cash for improvements would be spent on the "fabric" of the centres and smartening up planterias: "I'm a great advocate for bringing people into a garden centre via the planteria - emphasis will be on best quality and best prices."

He said the refinancing package, which has not been disclosed, made Wyevale unique: "We not only have refinancing but extra money at a time when most people are desperate to just refinance."

Wyevale is to launch a "garden club" complete with website in a couple of weeks, which has been trialled on a model used by Country Gardens, founded by Marshall. Wyevale's customer base is 10 times the size of Country Gardens' 100,000-strong club.

Marshall said he never doubted striking a refinancing deal, adding: "There's no point jumping on to a sinking ship - Wyevale is a fantastic company and one of the earliest garden centre chains."

HTA director general David Gwyther said: "This is good news for the entire garden industry. We need a bit more detail but look forward to credit insurers being able to help suppliers to Wyevale get back to an even keel.

"We want to see sensible terms being applied and people working together to promote core gardening," Gwyther said.

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