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Interview with Andy King, CEO of Notcutts Garden Centres

The long-established name of Notcutts has undergone big changes in the past few years. The Suffolk-based business sold its growing arm to John Woods Nurseries, through a management buy-out, to concentrate on retailing in 2007. Then Notcutts bought NWF Group's six centres in 2008 to increase its portfolio to 19 garden centres.

The chain's operating profit to August 2010 was £4.6m after being just £72,000 three years ago. Turnover has increased from £36m to £60m between 2007 and 2010.
One move key to this success was to bring in former Body Shop global marketing director Andy King as chief executive in December 2007. King shied away from the media until he had made the change he wanted to in the business but now has spoken more fully about how Notcutts has changed. He says: "We have transformed the business and have a decent story to tell now."

This Christmas, King has overseen the Notcutts brand establishing itself in shopping centres in Bluewater and Milton Keynes as pop-up "Deck the Halls" seasonal shops. At Bluewater, the shop is next to WHSmith and follows a trend in garden retail for garden centre Christmas shops started by Webbs. King says: "My experience says location is everything." He is not worried that making the shops Christmas-focused takes away from Notcutts' gardening reputation: "I think Notcutts over the years has developed a very strong tradition for Christmas. We do Christmas really well and customers can come a long way to visit us. It seemed logical to take our offering to a wider customer base by opening Christmas stores. My background is with the Body Shop, Mothercare, WHSmith and Boots and other members of the Notcutts executive team understand how high street retailing works."

The firm has also worked on launching an online garden centre to expand the brand. King says: "If you look at other retailers, within three to five years, online business is their biggest store."

King sees Notcutts growing organically in the future and "doing better at what we do". He says new formats such as the Christmas shop will grow turnover and the consumer base. Concessions have been a massive area of growth too, with First Franchise now citing Notcutts as one of its top clients.

He says: "We've had good growth for the last three years and really big sales and profitability over the last 12 months. I've seen competitors grow and I think how we've grown is significant. I feel strong management is in place throughout the garden centres and at an executive level."

On the future, King says: "We're absolutely on the look out for future acquisitions. They are a key part of our strategy along with new formats. I'm bullish about where we're going."

Source : Matthew Appleby - Horticulture Week

10 December 2010
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