This is Gardenforum’s 22nd year of publishing news about garden centres and their suppliers. Here are some of the headlines that made 2022 a unique year.
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Getting back to normal
The theme for 2022 was getting back to normal after Covid, handling the distortions of too much stock and with demand falling back to pre-pandemic levels faster than expected.
The backdrop to 2022 was that garden centre sales had grown by an extraordinary +28% in 2021, with massive growth from garden, leisure and outdoor plant sales. There was also a strong recovery in catering revenues in the second half of that year.
Throughout 2022 the results published by suppliers and retailers for 2021 have shown how significant the growth in sales and profit was. But companies qualificatied the figures, saying this had been an exceptional year.
As 2022 progressed demand settled back faster than many expected and was not enough to empty the warehouses. This led to clearance sales at the end of the summer, particularly of garden furniture.
By the end of November 2022, garden centre incomes have fallen by -3% for the year. Excluding restaurants which distort comparisons because of their closure in the early part of 2021, garden centre sales are down by -11%.
A year of acquisitions and openings
Blue Diamond opened the year with the acquisition of Blackdown Garden Centre, near Taunton, which became their 39th site.
It followed this with the biggest deal of the year, when it acquired the Van Hage group of 3 garden centres in what Alan Roper called a landmark acquisition. The three sites are the flagship store at Gt Amwell Ware, Chenies between Amersham and Rickmansworth and the Van Hage centre on the PE1 retail park at Peterborough.
British Garden Centres expansion started with the purchase of the group’s 59th garden centre, Timmermans Garden Centre of Nottingham, which was renamed Woodborough Green. This was followed by the addition of Trebaron Garden Centre at Lytham St Annes in early March and Hatton Garden Centre in April. In September it confirmed the takeover of Whiteleys Garden Centre, which became the 62nd under the BGC umbrella.
Hillier started its year of growth with the purchase of its 19th garden centre, Ducks Hill in Ruislip. In July, it completed its transformation of Three Legged Cross Garden Centre in Dorset.
At the end of the year the group completed the acquisition of three Rosebourne garden centres, bringing the number of Hillier sites to 22. Their expansion continued when Hillier Nurseries invested £4m in Hampshire land to extend tree production.
Investment by YGC Group, (Tong) continued with trebling the food preparation area for its restaurants. It also invested £280,000 in a trebling of its warehouse capacity. In July it announced the takeover of two Stephen H Smith garden centres, creating a Yorkshire group that will have 5 destination garden centres. In September the fourth site, the £14m Tingley Garden Centre, was opened. The fifth at Thorp Arch Estate, Wetherby is in the planning stage.
In March, the troubled Dobbies Group terminated the appointment of Lynne Gilder as a director on 8 March 2022. Lynne was the chief financial officer of Dobbies Garden Centre Ltd and the group. She was replaced as CFO in June by Liam Grace.
Dobbies growth plans focussed on The Cotswold Designer Outlet at Tewkesbury that opened in the autumn and plans to open a similar large outlet in Antrim, N. Ireland in Spring 2023. Both are new builds, leased by Dobbies. It has also gained planning permission for a new store next to its existing garden centre at Shinfield.
Speaking at the opening of Tewkesbury the Dobbies CEO recognised that its lack of communication over the timing of payments had caused problems for suppliers.
QD Stores value garden centre group, Cherry Lane, acquired Retford & Gainsborough Garden Centre in Nottinghamshire and Riverside Nursery & Garden Centre in Hockley, Essex, bringing its stores number to 17.
Alver Valley Garden Centre opened in the second week March to become the third location for Paul Richard’s ‘Your Local Garden Centre’ group.
Mike Frecklington opened Cherry Tree Garden Centre and Coffee Shop near Lincoln in January.
After a decade of battling, Hare Hatch Sheeplands was granted permission to become a green, community-focussed garden centre. Later, they launched an appeal for an external investor to help finance ‘One of the best located garden centres in the country’.
75% of Coolings Nursery with four sites in Kent & East Sussex, was signed over to an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT) in March.
Joules, the clothing and lifestyle brand finalised its acquisition of The Garden Trading Company in March. By November, Joules had been forced to appoint administrators and TGTC, was sold to TIM Group Holdings (TGH) by the administrators, saving 53 jobs.
Frosts sold two of its four garden centres. Notcutts acquired Brampton in Cambridgeshire and Millets in Oxfordshire was bought Webbs of Wychbold.
There were two acquisitions for online plant retailer Crocus. In the first transaction it bought the subscription box Mind, Body & Soil and the plant identification app SmartPlant. Its founders followed this up with the purchase in December of the online garden retailer, Primrose, from administrators.
The 7 acre Millbrook Garden Centre near Monmouth, South Wales was sold to Steph and Steve Powell in the autumn. It will continue as a garden centre.
As development costs spiralled and borrowing rates rise, Perrywood decided to re-think its £8m – £10m re-development plans for Sudbury.
The Stafford family announced that the All-In-One garden centre in Middleton, Manchester was to close in July after more than 51 years serving the community.
In August it was announced that a failed deal had forced Adrian Hall Limited to appoint liquidators. The company ran two garden centres: Feltham and Sheen garden centre at East Sheen. In November it was announced that Feltham would re-open under the trading name Growing Plants 4 U. The lease of East Sheen was taken by Capital Garden Centres.
Lowaters Nursery has stopped trading. In September, stock from the grower at Hook Lane, Warsash, Southampton was sold off at significant discounts on a first come first served basis.
Irish compost supplier, Bord na Mona, which trades in the UK as The Greener Gardening Company has ceased production at two English sites.
Optiplan Kitchens Ltd a national kitchen retailer with concessions on 4 garden centres entered administration at the end of November.
Suppliers meeting the environmental challenge
- Syngenta Crop Protection acquired two next generation bioinsecticides, NemaTrident® and UniSpore®, to combat increasing resistance in a wide range of insects and pests across horticulture and ornamentals.
- Worcestershire-based Forest Garden announced in July that it had become carbon neutral. It has ensured that everything from sourcing to sawing, manufacturing to haulage is now carbon neutral.
- Hozelock won the Marie Claire UK Sustainability Award in the ‘Best green innovation for home/garden’ category, for its new, innovative EasyMix 2-in-1 Composter.
- Greenwood Plants was named ‘Sustainable Business of the Year’ at the 2022 Central South Business Awards,
- HTA names first Sustainability Champions with Hillier Nurseries, The Barton Grange Group, The Gardens Group and New Wood Trees becoming its first reference sites.
Mr Fothergill’s Seeds, was sold to a management buyout led by managing director, David Carey, with the backing of Harwood Private Capital in February. This was followed by a distribution deal for its tools brand, Darlac, with Blue Diamond.
Durston Garden Products made two significant investments in machinery offering improved production levels and quality.
Sarah Raven, the online gardening and lifestyle brand, acquired Rookery Farm nursery in Lincolnshire.
Three well known garden entrepreneurs, Will Armitage, Conna Powles and Jackie Eades, joined together to form Mulch Ltd, a boutique brand selling high quality tools and gloves. Later in the year Jackie also became Head of UK at Dymak Ltd. The Danish trading business has more than 25 years of experience sourcing and supplying nurseries and garden centres with products ranging from pottery to garden furniture.
Artevasi, one of European’s leading pot manufacturers, invested in the UK with the formation of Artevasi UK Ltd.
Westland Horticulture opened a £6 million factory expansion at its Driffield site that produces wild bird feed for its three major brands Peckish, Gardman and Bucktons.
Griffon Corporation, the ultimate parent company of Ames, Kelkay, La Hacienda, Apta and True Temper revealed in May that it is reviewing its operations. This might lead to a sale of some or all its businesses.
In late July Coles Nurseries started work expanding the container tree lines at their largest site in Gaddesby. They have added in 7400m of new lines, which will allow an additional 2,400 C45 trees and 10,500 C10 trees to grow.
- 2022 was the year that the YPHA became established as the mouthpiece for younger people in horticulture. It announced David Austin Roses as their final key partner for 2023-2024, joining Floramedia, Boningale, ICL and the RHS. These partnerships are the backbone of The Young People in Horticulture Association, facilitating opportunities, education, and empowerment for a membership approaching 350.
- All sales of peat to amateur gardeners in England will be banned by 2024, the Government announced in August.
- The heat wave in August brought hosepipe bans, many of which are still in place. The met office says the world will be warmer in 2023 than 2022.
People we said ‘Goodbye’ to
Broadcaster and ‘The Sun’ journalist, Peter Seabrook, MBE, died suddenly in January of a heart attack. At 86 he was campaigning for UK growers till the end.
Eva Mayr-Stihl, a businesswoman, philanthropist and dedicated entrepreneur passed away on the 9th April 2022. Mayr-Stihl was instrumental in the success of STIHL.
Brian Evans died on 12th October at the age of 78. As chief executive and then chairman of Wyevale for 31 years he built a national chain of 114 garden centres.
Gavin Cooper who was general manager of Prior Park Garden and Pet Centre died suddenly and completely unexpectedly on 7th December.
The Four Oaks family announced the death of owner Richard Harding age 77.
John Clarke, the founder of Johnstown Garden Centre, in Co. Kildare, Ireland, passed away peacefully on 24th March 2022, aged 91.
The family of Peter Long, the founder of Longacres Garden Centre, announced his passing on Friday the 15th of April 2022.
Margaret Bingham, co-founder of Kingfisher Nursery at Gedney Hill in Lincolnshire, died aged 71, on 4th September.
Johnny Trotter, a former director of Dobbies and a true horticulturalist, died suddenly on 21st August at the age of 74.
Cliff Bowers passed away on Friday 9th September. He was a successful agent who started representing companies within the Horticultural industry at the age of 18.
The GCA offered its condolences to the family of its former Inspector, Ian Boardman, who passed away in September.
Tony Stubbs, who joined his parents at Toad Hall Garden Centre, Henley in 1972, died at the age of 76.
After more than 40 years of working for Hillier Nurseries, Hossein Arshadi retired from his position as board member and Hillier Trees Amenity Director.
21 years after co-founding MorePeople with Guy Moreton, Peter Hunt retired from the business.
Colin Brickell, group plant buyer for Haskins Garden Centres, has retired after 38 years of service for the business.
The Garden Centre Association’s chief executive, Iain Wylie, resigned from his role to pursue other opportunities.
British Garden Centres welcomed Scott McCabe from Ames as their Group Buying Director. He joined BGC on December 1st.
Professor Nicola Jane Horsley, Defra’s plant health chief, known within the industry as Nicola Spence was awarded a CBE.
Alan Down took over the HTA President’s chain from Boyd Douglas-Davies on September 9th. Building a new HTA management team, Fran Barnes joined from the NFU to be the new Chief Executive, David Denny became HTA Director of Research & Insights, Elia Johnston joined as its Marketing Director and Jennifer Pheasey joined in September as Director of Public Affairs.
Geoff Caesar has joined Allensmore Nurseries as business development director.
Clare Matterson CBE became Director General of the RHS, the UK’s largest gardening charity, succeeding Sue Biggs.
Richard Pyrah was named Commercial Director of the Harker family’s new landscaping products venture, Altico.
GIMA announced the election of Jenny Douthwaite of Primeur as GIMA President, supported by Kate Ebbens of Capi Europe as Vice President.
Evergreen Garden Care made changes to its leadership team. Karl Kahofer, current CEO transitioned to the executive chairman position; Mark Portman, current UK & Ireland GM, became CEO.
Former GCA chairman Peter Burks is to become the new CEO of the Garden Centre Association, starting in January.
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