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Garden Centre Group sees sales boost

Chain increases proportion of plants grown in the UK to 90 per cent and confirms objective to reduce imports even further.

The Garden Centre Group (GCG), the UK's largest garden centre chain, is reporting a 10 per cent increase in sales for the first six months of 2011 amid claims that the group is for sale.

Majority owner Lloyds Banking Group is looking to reduce its exposure in the retail market and will sell GCG at some point, although the reported date of August is understood to be speculative.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, which has worked for GCG in the past, has been reported as the accountant working on the sale.

GCG has been discussing a restructuring of its debts with Lloyds - also one of its lenders - about six months before its debt facilities are due to expire in early 2012. GCG and Lloyds both declined to comment.

The 119-centre chain saw nursery stock drive sales, particularly in March and April. But garden furniture and barbecue sales have been flat this summer.

Its last sales figures were £251.4m with operating profit of £22m for the year to 28 December 2009. Results for 2010 are due in the next two months, but GCG said they were not expected to show much growth.

David Austin Roses Department launched

The Garden Centre Group (GCG) held an open day at its Syon Park headquarters in London last week to launch a new David Austin rose department.

GCG horticulture head Tim Clapp said the chain wanted to import fewer plants after increasing to 90 per cent the plants it grows in the UK. This includes houseplants with Cobbins in Worthing now growing gerbera and Hollyoak growing orchids.

He said GCG was looking to sell best in class for every product category and increasing pot sizes for roses from three to five litres, shrubs from 7.5 to 10 litres and primroses from 9cm to 10.5cm pots. "In the plant buying world a lot won't give price increases to growers but compost, pots, labels and transport are going up. The only way is to de-spec by growing cheaper and smaller."

Clapp said he wanted to increase production at GCG sites Bridgemere, Woodlands, Old Barn and Heighley Gate from five to 10 per cent of overall stock.

Purchasing director Steve Pitcher said plant sales were up more than 10 per cent this year, with watering, pots, and compost going well. But garden furniture and barbecue sales were "hard work".

Source : Matthew Appleby - Horticulture Week

08 July 2011
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