2010 – The highlights

Here are the highlights from the Gardenforum Noticeboard 2010. If you wish to catch up with a story you may have missed they are still available on Noticeboard.

The cold spring provided a slow start to 2010, which a disappointing May couldn’t rectify. In particular, plant sales failed to match the previous year. June fared better helping some garden centres to catch up with 2009 thanks to higher revenues from garden furniture, restaurants and farm shops.

A poor September, followed by a better October means that most garden centres will have done well to show any growth in the last year, especially after the disrupting snow in December. However, the weather in 2009 was considered particularly favourable.

Garden Centres and Retailers
  • Van Hage opened its award-winning garden centre at Peterborough Garden Park in February. Challenging weather and roadworks contributed to a difficult start.
  • With financial backing secured until spring 2012, 2010 was the year for The Garden Centre Group to consolidate and concentrate on improving its retail performance with the development of a sophisticated e-learning programme. After increasing sales by only 5% in 2009, 2010 proved another difficult trading year, with chief executive Nicholas Marshall claiming that the weather had been the worst he'd experienced in his garden centre career. 2011 is likely to be the year when Lloyds bank decides on the future ownership of the business.
  • 2010 was the year Dobbies got into its stride, pushing sales past £100m. In the spring, chief executive James Barnes revealed that Dobbies branded goods would appear in Tesco stores in the North. It strengthened its pipeline of potential new stores progressing through the planning process with the addition of Ashford, Liverpool and Cygnet Park in Peterborough – making it 6 in all for 2011. One new centre was opened at Lisburn, Northern Ireland. The target is to achieve sales of £1bn from 100 garden centres by 2019.
  • Administrators were appointed at Carpenders Park Garden Centre in January (it soon re-opened with the same management but new owners); Canford Magna GC and The Medina GC in February. Abbeydale GC, Sheffield and Parkbay GC, Paignton both closed. Moss End GC in Bracknell went into liquidation to re-open again under new ownership and 100 Aker Wood in Melrose said it was closing at Christmas. Tesco was granted permission to convert Hurrans’ Churchdown GC into a community store.
  • Troubled mail order group, Flying Brands bought Flowers Direct in May. This was followed by the purchase of the florist Drake Algar and Garden Centre Online in August and in October by Dealtastic.co.uk and Promomachine.co.uk.
  • Retailers that expanded in 2010 include The Beckworth Emporium near Northampton, which added 24,000 ft.² of new buildings; Blue Diamond Group, which acquired Redfields Garden Centre in Hampshire with the view of turning it into the Trentham of the south; Woodthorpe Hall Group made it 5 with the purchase of Towneley GC from receivers; Whitehall GC acquired the website and mail order business of Highfield Nurseries; Klondyke added Byrkley GC near Burton-on-Trent to its 24 strong chain and former Notcutts manager, Julian Ranson opened Ransons in July at the Hatton Experience.
  • Scotts Miracle-Gro offered to return $500m to shareholders via a share buy-back. Then just as chairman Jim Hagedorn reversed his decision to retire, Scotts revealed that it is selling its Global Professional Business, including three facilities in the UK, for $270m.
  • At the beginning of the year William Sinclair started mass production of Sincro-BoostPlus the peat substitute made from recycled garden waste. It then acquired the assets of Growing Success Organics from Monro Horticulture
  • Julian Windsor, formally MD of Hartman and Swan Hattersley, formed Bellagio UK by merging The Shropshire Connection, Sunsit UK and Bellagio UK. The new company imports wicker resin by the container.
  • Thompson & Morgan bought Chempak following a meeting with creditors to agree a CVA for the specialist plant food manufacturer, and Haxnicks acquired Rootrainers from Ronaash.
  • E P Barrus united the distribution of Wolf-Garden and Wilkinson Sword in the UK, while rival Fiskars unified its operations with Sankey at the latter’s Nottingham site.
  • Several businesses expanded including Trans-Continental, which moved its operations from Blackpool to Preston; Bosmere Products moved to Crawley in Sussex following the acquisition by new owners at the end of last year; Kelkay has added a 30,000 sq ft warehouse to store its self-contained water features; Deco-Pak invested £2.5m in new plant. Gardman has added 100,000 sq ft of warehouse space to ensure it can hold sufficient stock at the height of the season.
  • Private equity investors backed new management at Doff Portland. There was also a management buy out at Casco by MD Matthew Bubear.
  • Clothing and footwear supplier G H Tayberry & Co entered administration (subsequently was bought by KSJ Knitwear) as did The Ceramic Gift Company.
  • Having changed its name, previously peat-free Vital Earth agreed to distribute peat-reduced products from Bord Na Mona.
  • New owners Paul Vitali and John Wisley announced ambitious plans within a year to double the number of garden centres showing Garden Centre TV from the current level of 50.
  • Within the garden furniture sector both Norfolk Leisure and Kettler GB continued to trade despite financial problems at their European parent companies. The trading activities of Harbo Fitid were acquired by Da’core of Denmark to create a large European player in the outdoor furniture sector.
  • Essex bedding grower Kinglea Plants entered administration in May.
  • Landgard UK, subsidiary of the 1.6bn Euro Landgard EG, emerged as a major plant supplier to the DIY sector.
  • This was followed by news that Farplants is opening the country’s largest plant consolidation and finishing centre, as the growing sector looks for efficiencies in distribution.
  • In a similar vein, Malcolm Scott Consultants announced planning success on behalf of Hawkesmill Nurseries near Solihull. The additional 50,000 sq ft will improve despatch.
  • The HTA set up a new Bedding Plant Group for growers, which held a successful first conference in October. It also launched a Marketing Committee to drive pan-industry promotion and a Cash & Carry group for nurseries.
Trade shows
  • 2010 started expecting that Garden Expo would shake up the show calendar. In the end it proved nothing more than hot air.
  • Just as GIMA backed the Edible Garden Show, it was postponed till March 2011 blaming the recession for the lack of sponsors and exhibitors.
  • The National Plant Show however, had a successful start, which will provide a platform for a bigger show next June.
  • Glee responded with a show considered a success by the great majority of exhibitors and visitors. However, it was not without controversy with some exhibitors complaining about blatant copying.
  • Solex (garden furniture) and the PATS (pets) trade shows continued to grow and became established in the gardening calendar. Aqua (ornamental fish) made a successful debut.
  • The RHS restructured under new Director General, Sue Biggs, to reduce bureaucracy and make it more commercial.
  • The Rabbit Welfare Association started a campaign against retailers selling sub-standard rabbit hutches.
  • For the first time, Which Gardening? said a peat free compost was the best for container gardening. Products from Vital Earth and William Sinclair’s New Horizon range were named ‘Best Buys’. Negotiations continued with the new government on the timetable to eliminate peat from horticulture, culminating in publication of a consultation document before Christmas.
  • Administration of the John Innes Manufacturers Association was moved to The HTA.
  • The Coalition abolished the hated Agricultural Wages Board (AWB).
  • Container Centralen declared an amnesty on rogue trolleys before introducing controversial new electronic tags to identify genuine CC units.
  • ‘Gardening is Cool’ says Mary, Queen of Shops.
  • There was an elevated threat from the citrus longhorn beetle. Defra called on gardeners to stop the spread of invasive plants such as the floating pennywort and the New Zealand pigmyweed.
  • Defra gave the go ahead for trials of a psyllid that scientists believe will provide a natural control for Japanese knotweed.
  • Alan Titchmarsh joined forces with B&Q "to cement its position as the UK's largest chain of garden centres".
  • Paris Natar completed his handover of the day-to-day running of Gardman to the new management team and assumed a non-executive role.
  • Patrick Pearce retired from The Garden Store, the six centre chain he formed with Marcus Eyles in 2001. His shares were acquired by other members of the management team.
  • A number of garden personalities have died. These include Roger Aylett, dahlia expert and founder of Aylett Nurseries; David Quayle, joint founder of B&Q; nurseryman John Hall of Windlesham Court Nursery; Denys Head owner of Forest Lodge Garden Centre; and Jim Bone, founder of World’s End Garden Centre
  • Bents Garden Centre was named GCA Garden Centre of the Year.
  • Taylors Bulbs was nominated best GCA Supplier of the Year for the third year.
  • Patch Magic won the GIMA Sword of Excellence for Scotts Miracle-Gro.
  • Solus Garden and Leisure was voted GIMA Supplier of the Year by members of the Garden Centre Association.

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