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GARDEN CENTRE INVESTMENT

Investment is back on the agenda

After the ‘feeding frenzy’ of the Wyevale sell-off, the global pandemic threatened to paralyse the garden industry. But things turned out differently, as Mike Wyatt discovered… In March 2020, the garden centre real estate market dried up as lockdown #1 began to bite. Many businesses which had spent millions on acquiring, re-developing and re-shaping their new acquisitions feared that the enforced closure of non-essential retail would derail their new projects, especially those that had invested in lavish new catering facilities. You only had to look at the order books at property agents and planning consultancies to realise that, in that moment in March, the bonanza was over. Simon Quinton Smith of specialist property agents Quinton Edwards, who had handled a number of Wyevale deals, vividly recalls the reality. “I was closed for three months,” he said. “In the financial year to last September, I had the worst year in 30 years.” Allen Evans, partner at the Gilbert Evans agency, recalls: “After the Wyevale boom we had the pandemic and most

owners hunkered down and focused on their own businesses. It was very much a wait-and-see attitude.” Fast-forward to March 2021… and a whole new picture is taking shape. Garden centre sales are booming on the back of a new-found interest in the garden, which is attracting much of the disposable income previously spent on travel and hospitality pre-pandemic. And, as a result, investment is back on the agenda for many garden retailers. While uncertainty about the easing of lockdown restrictions persists, there is a consensus that the market is once again in a positive mood. Evans says the number of enquiries his company is currently handling from potential buyers and sellers suggests “quite a strong demand”, while Quinton Smith says the real estate market shows signs of picking up. “There is undoubtedly good demand out there,” he tells me.

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There is an equally optimistic outlook on the development front. “Clients are investing – and they want to move fast,” said Paul Pleydell from the Pleydell Smithyman consultancy. “They’re looking to see the back end of this thing [the lockdown].” Chris Primmet of Malcolm Scott Consultants says re-development projects currently account for the main investment activity. “Since March 2020 we have obtained planning consent for 18 garden centre re-developments ranging from a 4,500sq.m. retail/leisure/catering extension in Leicestershire to a car wash in Kent. We have another 20 applications either lodged with councils or about to be submitted. So, I would say that the mood amongst our clients is very positive.” Evans says that, the Wyevale flurry aside, relatively few garden centres are offered for sale in an average year. “Between 2016 and 2019, we only handled no more than eight sales. And while underlying interest

April 2021 11

Profile for Garden Trade News

GTN April 2021 - Garden Trade News, UK  

Unprecedented Demand - Record Easter UK garden centre sales lead to stock shortages. In this issue of news and information for garden centr...

GTN April 2021 - Garden Trade News, UK  

Unprecedented Demand - Record Easter UK garden centre sales lead to stock shortages. In this issue of news and information for garden centr...

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