Nick Burrows joined Notcutts in September last year as CEO. He’s a specialist in leading businesses through transition and growth and has a track record for developing strong leisure and retail brands.
Burrows has spent his first months at Notcutts developing a 5-year strategy for the group. This is to modernise the Notcutts brand and invest £45m in the existing 18 garden centres, recognising that much of the estate had become tired and dated because of lack of investment.
The Notcutts family shareholders have given their strong backing to the plans and the new management team. Their guidance is that the business should be maintained and developed as a garden centre company.
This means that some of their non-core assets such as farm properties, forests and development land will be sold to finance the garden centre revival. There will also be additional bank support.
In the coming months the Notcutts brand will be modernised to reflect their core values: Passion, Inspiration and Expertise.
The vision is that Notcutts will once again become the pre-eminent name in garden centre retailing, recognised as expert in the field of gardening, the place to go to for advice. Customer service is a central focus. Destination restaurants will also play a big part.
Wheatcroft, in Nottingham, is one of the first garden centres to be upgraded and helps serve as a template for other developments. General Manager, Steve Cole, explains how he gets replenishment teams in at 7am to fill shelves and water the plants and again in the evenings, so staff have more time for customers during the busiest times of the day.
Along with the money comes a new management philosophy.
Burrows says his approach is to be open and transparent. Regular forums have been established to involve Managers in the development of new brand thinking, new management leadership accountabilities and to keep them updated on key business issues.
He is giving each garden centre manager the freedom to run their own business as accountable leaders operating within a central frame work and supported by the head office team. No longer will a remote head office decide who does the cleaning, repairs or grounds maintenance. Planograms and allocations will guide but not rule a manager’s life. Managers will be expected to establish their garden centres as key players and supporters in their local communities.
Asked how long he would stay with the group, Burrows said he has come home to Woodbridge and hopes to stay for some time. He said there was lots to do and he’s excited about the future of the company.
With such ambitious plans backed by the shareholders and with such substantial funding, who now believes the rumours that the group would be sold? Officially Burrows won’t comment on speculation. But his actions seem to give a clear enough answer.