2016 - a year of change

  • Bunnings buys Homebase
  • Smart Garden Buys Chapelwood
  • John Cleland new CEO of Dobbies
  • Alexandre Simmler of SBM new owner of Bayer Garden
  • Proposed Aschurch development
  • The new HTA Hub
  • Blue Diamond continues rapid growth under Alan Roper

2016 saw second tier garden centre chains and independents invest as Wyevale consolidated. Homebase and Argos are sold. The HTA moved offices and moved to become the lead association for all gardening related businesses. Glyphosate, Xylella and the weather made frequent headlines. Scotts and Bayer looked for a way out of distributing consumer garden chemicals. Read our review – open to all.

Homebase / Argos

  • In January Wesfarmers agreed to buy Homebase for £340m, to make it part of Bunnings. The Australian group took control at the end of February. Later in the year it confirmed a pilot of 10 Bunnings Warehouse stores by the end of 2017, starting with St Albans, next spring.
  • Sainsbury’s bought Argos with the promise of putting a concession or click-and-collect outlet in every supermarket.

Wyevale, Dobbies and Blue Diamond

Wyevale changes its management

In January Wyevale Garden Centres bought Woodcote Green one of the South’s largest garden centres and followed it quickly with Crowders in Lincolnshire. These were to be its only acquisitions.

  • In January there were reports that Wyevale was considering takeover approaches. The rumours very soon came to nothing.
  • At the same time Wyevale Garden centres raised £91m by selling eight garden centres to Orchard Street Investment Management in a sale and leaseback deal. These included Bridgemere, Woodlands and Huntingdon.
  • In March, pre-empting poor results that would be published in July, Wyevale’s owner, Terra Firma, started to replace the senior management team.
  • First it appointed Toys “R” Us MD, Roger Mclaughlan, to replace chief executive Kevin Bradshaw who was to move on. His departure was followed quickly by the exit of trading director Dan Zinner and Tim Patten the multichannel director. They were replaced on the board by Paul Emslie and Richard Morgan, both ex Homebase directors.  Chairman Stephen Murphy was replaced by Justin King and CFO Neils Steinmeyer left to be replaced by Anthony Jones. A re-shuffle of the regional management followed. In the autumn, Colin Hughes, the retail and operations director also departed.
  • Wyevale faces the possible closure of Ashford, if a new junction on the M20 goes ahead. It also announced Folkestone garden centre would close next spring as the landlord has permission to develop the site.

New owners for Dobbies

  • Speculation that Tesco was canvassing bids for Dobbies started in April, with Wyevale a strong favourite to complete the deal. The spotlight then fell on the owner of the Edinburgh Woollen Mill.
  • In June it was revealed that Dobbies would remain independent having been bought by a group of investors led by Midlothian Capital Partners and Hattington Capital.
  • Soon after John Cleland, former CEO of Maplin and commercial director of B&Q was appointed chief executive.

Blue Diamond continues its rapid growth

  • In 2015 it hit a turnover of £83m earning a profit before tax of £6.6m.
  • In April the group bought Harlow Garden centre, its 18th site and followed it up recently with the purchase of Coton Orchard garden centre in Cambridge from Sevenoaks based Polhill. Another deal is close to completion.
  • Consent has been granted for a Le Friquet style garden centre at Leeds, making it apotenti al new site for Blue Diamond.
  • Blue Diamond completed a £1m refurbishment of Trentham Garden Centre at the end of March.

To read the full story for any of these items, enter the company name in the Gardenforum search box and click the magnifying glass.

Other garden centres get acquisitive

  • Grovewell has added a third garden centre to its group with the acquisition of MacFarlanes at Hawkinge.
  • In December Stewarts bought Abbey Garden Centre in Titchfield, making it 3 in the group. It is in the middle of a 3 year development at Broomhill, near Wimborne.
  • Longacres has bought Bybrook Barn Garden Centre in Ashford, Kent. This will be the third centre in the emerging group.
  • The owners of Leighton Buzzard Garden Centre said in April that it would close in the autumn having failed to sell it. But the announcement ignited the interest of Home & Garden who acquired it in June.
  • Home & Garden followed the acquisition with the announcement in October that Doveley’s Garden Centre in Denstone was closing down.
  • Others sold include Sharnford Garden Shop and Nursery in Leicestershire, bought by the nearby Sapcote Garden Centre.
  • Hillview bought its 10th garden centre - Scotland Nurseries in Derbyshire in June.

To read the full story for any of these items, enter the company name in the Gardenforum search box and click the magnifying glass.

Garden centres investing in growth

  • The New CEO of Notcutts unveiled a £45m strategy to re-establish Notcutts as a pre-eminent name in garden centre retail – in June. Later in the year they cut the ribbon on new restaurants at Staines and Norwich.
  • Many garden centres have invested in extensions. These include Frosts at Woburn Sands, Squire’s at Long Ditton, Blue Diamond’s Trentham Garden centre.
  • Mapplegreen GC, near Redditch, was retained by Paul Richards when he sold Golden Acres to Wyevale. The site has been redeveloped as he starts to build a new chain.
  • Having closed for the whole of September, Crooklands of Dalton, re-opened on October 8th, following a £1m redevelopment and with a new name – Charnleys Home & Garden.
  • In September Klondyke opened its new Garforth garden centre on the site of the former Savilles garden centre, which closed in 2014. A programme of refurbishments is to follow.  At the end of the year there will be a changing of the guard at the top as David Yardley takes over as CX from Bob Hewitt who steps up to be non-executive chairman.
  • Others that have won permission for massive redevelopments, include Whitehall in Wiltshire and Bridgford near Nottingham. Tong earned permission to add one of the largest play areas in the country. The secretary of state has given a green light to a £60m garden centre development and factory outlet at Ashchurch next to Junction 9 of the M5.
  • October saw the long awaited opening of the first Rosebourne garden centre near Andover. The company says it has funding available for another two.
  • Several garden centres ceased trading, including Ingatestone in Essex, and Maple Ridge Garden centre (formerly Aylings) in Surrey. All-In-One closed Knutsford, the garden centre it bought 5 years ago. It had become financially unviable due to a drop in footfall. Ansells Garden centre at Heathrow faces a difficult future following a major fire earlier this month.

To read the full story for any of these items, enter the company name in the Gardenforum search box and click the magnifying glass.

Changes in the supply chain

Scotts Miracle-Gro

  • Scotts continues to diversify into hydroponics and indoor gardening as sales in Europe fall.
    (*Just to emphasise the importance of the new technology, Pershore College is introducing a hydroponics lab to teach students the new growing techniques.)
  • Scotts have been actively looking for a joint venture partner as it seeks a ‘strategic outcome’ for its European business. In November the group confirmed, ‘Europe is not a long term priority for us’.
  • In September Scotts announced it was in advanced discussions to sell the ChapelWood bird seed brand, the last remnant of its Solus acquisition. Paris Natar's Smart garden were revealed as the new owners.


The uncertainty at Bayer Garden was resolved in April when it was announced that SBM Developpement would purchase the garden chemicals business out of Bayer by the autumn. The deal was completed in October. The enlarged SBM aims to be the world number 2 for consumer growing products.


  • Tildenet acquired Bosmere in January.
  • Lovania Nurseries announced the purchase of Seoint Nurseries from the Hummels family in January and made Neil Alcock the MD.
  • Fallen Fruits opened a new show room with the aim of doubling turnover.
  • Grange is to increase capacity with a new distribution centre in the South East to link with a new factory being built in Poland by its parent company, Stelmet. It then announced an end to manufacturing in the UK.
  • Taylors Bulbs’ £1m new warehouse was a ‘big pill to swallow’, but will increase capacity and efficiency.
  • T&M revealed a sharp improvement in performance in its latest accounts, crediting more efficient operations along with a shift away from traditional catalogues to the web.

To read the full story for any of these items, enter the company name in the Gardenforum search box and click the magnifying glass.


  • John Findlay announced that he will retire from wholesaler, Decco, at the end of March. Charlie Lacey has been named COO designate.
  • John B Edmonds, a leading light in the agricultural and horticultural world, died after a long illness on Friday 8th January 2016.
  • Phil Kimberley who had worked for Erin and ICI Garden Products, before joining Solus Garden & Leisure died 1st March 2016.
  • Martin Breddy, the former head of Scotts in the UK, became a retailer when he joined Squire’s as MD designate in May to replace the retiring Dennis Espley, who in turn replaced Harry McDermid as chairman of the Tillington buying group.
  • Tim Clapp has transferred to the B&Q parent company where he joins the Kingfisher unification project, taking control of plant and garden ranges across Europe.
  • After 20 years with the GCA, administrator, Pat Adams left in March.
  • Bill Stewart retired after 39 years with Klondyke/Strikes.

Read many more People News stories and add yours.

Also in the headlines:

The HTA moved to new spacious offices at Chilton, Berkshire with conference and committee rooms that it hopes will provide the industry with a central horticultural hub, along the lines of the IOD. There are rooms named after GIMA and the GCA to show their new togetherness.

The threat of Xylella led growers to a call for a quarantine system to prevent the disease entering the UK. An outbreak could mean a 5 year ban on the movement of plants for businesses within 10K. In October Xylella was found in Germany but it was contained.

Much of the year was spent wondering if the EU would be swayed by pressure groups to ban the use of Glyphosate.  In June, at the 11th hour the EU granted the weedkiller an 18 month extension while expert opinion is sought. A ban, however is looking less likely, at least in the UK.

The Four Oaks Show and nursery is for sale. Owner Richard Harding is looking for the right buyer to ensure continuity of the event.

Brief hopes of a relaxation in Sunday trading restrictions were dashed in March when an alliance of Labour, Scottish Nationalists and 26 Tory rebels defeated Government proposals to devolve decisions on Sunday trading hours to local authorities.

The National Living Wage came into force on April 1st

After a wet spring, sales at garden centres were 5% down on 2015 at the end of April. A good May and June turned this around so they were slightly ahead by the end of June with improvement continuing in the second half.

To read the full story for any of these items, enter the company name in the Gardenforum search box and click the magnifying glass.

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