Return to roots reaps reward for Garden

A garden centre business with more than 100 sites yesterday said it was back on track after returning to its roots and ditching its former Wyevale name.

The Garden Centre Group, which was the subject of a major debt restructuring in February last year, described Christmas trading as "terrific" and said there had been a significant improvement in profitability.

It has rebranded centres under their original names and returned the focus of the business on products that meet the need of gardening enthusiasts, rather than on delivering "sales growth for the sake of it".

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This has meant a shift from the diversification into giftware and other products introduced under Sir Tom Hunter, who bought Wyevale for 310m in 2006.

Chief executive Nicholas Marshall – who founded Country Gardens, a business acquired by Wyevale in 2000 – was parachuted into the operation in 2008 and helped with a refinancing that left Lloyds Banking Group as major shareholder.

Plants and horticulture are now at the heart of the group, with 70 per cent of the people who work in its plant sales departments being horticulturally trained or keen gardeners with more than 20 years' experience.

There are 121 centres within the group in England and Wales, operating under brands such as Heighley Gate, Jacks Patch and Peter Barratts. As well as initiatives to take the business back to its gardening roots, the company has sought to improve morale amongst its 5,000 employees.