REVIEW OF THE YEAR Recipe for growth
Food and drink advice from HTA Catering Conference p30
Previews of events coming What’s new in plants up including Harrogate Award winning plants from the HTA National Christmas & Gift and Plant Show p20-22 the GCA conference
An exclusive lookback at the major talking points of a momentus 2019 DEC 2019-JAN 2020
Advice and information for garden centre professionals
How garden centres should take advantage of their unique offering
The Big Three Bosses of Dobbies, British Garden Centres and Blue Diamond on ‘Life after Wyevale’
The Big Three! Bosses of Dobbies, British Garden Centres and Blue Diamond on ‘Life after Wyevale’. As 2020 comes to a close the garden centre landscape in the UK has taken on a new shape following Wyevale Garden Centres’ ‘Sale of the Century’. Instead of one group dominating the landscape with four times as many centres as any other group, the industry now has three groups operating a total of 155 centres.
Dobbies leads the pack with 69 centres and a proposition that appeals to everyone. Blue Diamond now has 37 centres aimed at the AB target market. And British Garden Centres has created a nationwide chain of 49 ‘independently’ run stores. GTN’s Trevor Pfeiffer has been tracking down the leaders of the ‘Big Three’ to find out more about their plans for 2020 and beyond.
Growing to float? The leader of the Dobbies team, Graeme Jenkins, was relatively easy to find at the group’s Edinburgh head office and biggest centre. The acquisitions from Wyevale have seen its estate double in size with centres stretching from Inverness in the north of Scotland down to Lelant in the Cornish south west. Turnover for 2020 is projected to be £320m. Apart from ongoing trading the focus at Dobbies is on integrating the 31 centres purchased this summer, with customer feedback so far being very positive. “The previous owners of Heighley Gate, who sold to Wyevale, were in the centre two weeks ago and bought two big trolleys worth of Christmas products, and she said to the team ‘it’s the first time it has looked like something I remember’.
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“The strategy we’ve outlined before is a strategy we’re sticking with – fundamental authority in plants and gardening, that’s still the primary mission for people to come to garden centres. What we’ve been seeing recently is that people are also looking for garden centres to be a convenient place to do other things. And hence the improvement to the cook shop, the gifting, the food halls. “Our customer priorities are plant quality, plant range, convenience for shopping for other things and then the restaurants.” The restaurant in Edinburgh has just moved to full table service, resulting in an increased transaction value and increased footfall. “We want to operate in a way that is inclusive, friendly, approachable and humble. We’ve got a very broad church of
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garden centres. “We’ve classified the centres into three groupings. There are 42 large, 21 standard and six specialists. The specialists are three big and three small. So, they’re the outliers. When you look at it as 42 centres that are basically the same, the model is pretty straightforward. “But at the same time, each one of those centres is quite unique in its own way and the customers view it as their garden centre in their community. The support from Head Office can simplify how we’re doing things, but at local level, you can still maintain a community plan that will just strengthen that link.” Dobbies will be at Chelsea again with a bigger stand appealing to its wider customer base. With intentions to float on the stock
“Our customer priorities are plant quality, plant range, convenience for shopping for other things and then the restaurants”
exchange at some point in the future the profile of Dobbies Garden Centres amongst the influential financiers who visit Chelsea could be a critical factor in the growth and development of the group. Continued on page 4
OUR PUBLISHERS GTN is published by Potting Shed Press Ltd, who also publish: * www.gardentradenews.co.uk website * Weekly GTN Xtra and Pet Trade Xtra newsletters * Garden Radio * Official Glee Catalogue and Glee Daily News Online – the only official guides to the garden industry’s leading annual trade show SMALL PRINT All material © Potting Shed Press 2019. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form whatsoever, either for sale or not, without the express permission of the publishers. The information contained in this publication is published in good faith and every effort has been made to ensure its accuracy. Potting Shed Press Ltd cannot accept responsibility for any error or misrepresentation. All liability for loss, disappointment, negligence or other damage caused by reliance on information contained in this publication or in the event of any bankruptcy or liquidation or cessation of the trade of any company, individual or firm mentioned, is hereby excluded.
December 2019/January 2020 3
Heading for £300m We met up with Blue Diamond boss Alan Roper at Bicester Avenue during one of his regular three-week tours of all 37 stores. At Bicester Avenue the transformation from Wyevale to Blue Diamond has reaped big rewards with increases in footfall and turnover, which along with improvements at the other new centres will push turnover towards £220m in 2020. Alan started conversations with Wyevale back in February 2018 which led to an initial purchase of eight centres taking place almost as soon as the ‘Sale of the Century’ was announced. These are the most progressed in terms of trading the centres in their unique style, and he is keeping the Wyevale name alive in terms of garden centre trading by calling Hereford – Blue Diamond Wyevale Garden Centre. “I recognise that as an independent garden centre operator running a group, that’s what keeps stores exciting for customers because you’ve got the heart and the passion of people running it. “We want to create an environment that is personable, has an experience, relates to customer, has some energy about it, passion about it. If you’re a private equity or a corporate player, you’re going to deliver something that’s vanilla and all about engineering, something for their personal profit.” On the latest acquisitions Alan is doing a big outside refurbishment of Bridgemere despite the centre already reaching £11m with adding the concession back in and the restaurants doing £2.2m.
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“We are completely redoing the planteria which will be complete by the end of March. We’re removing some of the clothing concessions, putting our own range in, moving gardening so it will be adjacent to the plants rather than at the back. Then
Interesting times ahead With all three garden centre groups upping their game and investing in their centres the next few years will certainly give independent owners and other leisure retail operators something different to think about and respond to. More than ever being different, relevant, fleet of foot, spotting new trends and acting quickly will be major challenges to keep garden centres moving forward faster than other areas of retailing.
when WH Smith go in November, we’ll do another fit in a year’s time and then we’ve got to redo all the restaurants. The plan is that by the Summer 2021, the full refurb of Bridgemere will be completed.” In the pipeline for Blue Diamond are new centres at Thetford, Scotch Corner and Sheffield. With developments planned for Harlow, Fermoys, Probus in Cornwall, Newbridge, Alan adds: “There’s so much more to do. Even without buying another centre we get to £300m. So, the focus is on that. But, once we come out of the Wyevale period of settling with the new seven if something was around that was a new centre, that was worth looking at, we would always take on another one. I mean, you can’t stop. There’s no fun in not stopping.” That will mean the annual Blue Diamond Awards will have to find a new venue after 2020 when there will be between 650 and 700 attendees. Alan Roper is already planning about what he would do in the event of negative impacts on the economy resulting from Brexit. “It’s going to be a much more difficult chapter when we leave Europe. You’ve got to be absolutely on your game. “When people choose to visit and they’ve decided they’ve cut down the frequency of visits, you want to be their first choice, so you’ve got to give the best experience. “In an economy where the leisure pound is contracting you’ve got to be a stronger businessman to get through it.”
Building the Dream Team Catching up with Charles Stubbs, the leader of the pack for British Garden Centres, proved challenging as he embarked on a tour of his new stores. It was Carmarthen one day, then Enfield the next, before he managed to find time to speak to us at Sprowston near Norwich as he waited for the completion of the takeover from Wyevale. Charles’ unique way of bedding in his new centres – the group has grown from 10 centres to 49 in less than 12 months – is to travel in a Luton van making deliveries of stock. Over coffee we reminded Charles about a late night conversation at the GIMA Golf Day in 2017. “How could we get Wyevale to consider selling off some of their centres,” was the thought on Charles’ mind at the time. “I thought if we could get half a dozen or 10 that would have been superb. I’m now so proud to have grown to 49 centres. “We’re going to have 49 independents working under the BGC banner. I’ve always been convinced that’s the way to do it, and in six months time we will know. “It’s going to make the buyers’ job hard work but for everybody else it’s going to make it easier. The buyers have got to get out of the office now, it can’t be just done on a plan-a-gram.” Charles, wife and co-direcor Phillippa, and her team are working on the back office systems. “That’s their strength which is going to allow me and my team to do what we like – getting out on the road, going to sleep in garden centre car parks, drive white vans and put on yellow jackets. “With the clustering of our centres you can share resources, share people, share stock and share ideas. All of my team have been superb. They have really gone above and beyond to get all of the centres on board. “I got to Winnersh late at night and they could not wait to show me around. They are so proud. What came across is they do that job because they love it.” Charles added: “Suppliers have been so good to us. The industry should be proud of itself.” Adding 39 centres to be the second biggest group, in terms of sites, is not going to be the end of the British Garden Centres’
Sprowston – the last Wyevale Garden Centre, p10-11 4 growth. The worst kept secret in the industry will hopefully come to completion with eith more centres joining the group. “I think there was always a clue in the British Garden Centres’ name,” said Charles, “that was already a fairly big clue as to where our ambitions lie.” Anthony Harker has become a key member of the team, joining the business after leaving AMES UK. He bought the freeholds of the Wyevale centres in the south, and Charles says: “Anthony’s hunger is there just as much as ever. I think we’re putting together the dream team.” As the Sprowston deal finally completed, Charles quickly donned his trusty yellow jacket and set off in his Luton van to collect more supplies to do another delivery to one of his centres.
December 2019/January 2020 5
Barton Grange Garden Ce
Christmas crackers Barton Grange Garden Centre and Whitehall Garden Centre – Whitchurch have been crowned national winners of the 2019 Garden Centre Association’s annual Christmas competition. The garden centres were judged to have the best festive displays in the country by the organisation and will receive their awards at its annual conference in January, 2020. Iain Wylie, GCA Chief Executive, said: “Each year our member’s Christmas displays get better and better and it was an extremely difficult decision to choose the winners this year. “The entrants were judged on general ambience, creativity, stock range, flow, tidiness and customer service was also taken into consideration. “We’d like to say a huge congratulations to Barton Grange Garden Centre in Lancashire who won in the Destination Garden Centre (DGC) category and Whitehall Garden Centre – Whitchurch in North Somerset who won in the Garden Centre (GC) category.” Entrants in the GC category were judged by Andy Campbell and entrants in the DGC
Whitehall Garden Centre –
category were judged by Alyson Haywood. David Fawcett-Ropner, Display Manager at Barton Grange Garden Centre, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have won the title of ‘Best Christmas Displays in the UK’. A lot of planning, time and effort goes into Christmas and it’s great to be rewarded for our team’s hard work! “One major change we made this year was painting all the shop fit black, this was to make all the colourful decorations stand out and it’s definitely been worth it! We’ve got vibrant rooms such as the vivid pinks found in ‘Flamboyance’, and the neon greens of ‘Tropicana’, but we’ve also got displays focused on the more traditional reds as well as those modern graphite greys. “There’s something for everyone! We’ve had fab comments from our customers about our displays and received many congratulations for winning this competition, it’s truly fantastic!” The area winners in the South Thames area were Garsons Garden Centre – Esher (DGC) and Busy Bee Garden Centre (GC). In the Wales and West area Whitehall Garden Centre – Lacock (DGC) and Whitehall Garden Centre – Whitchurch (GC) were chosen.
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In North Thames, the area winners were Perrywood Garden Centre – Tiptree (DGC) and Sunshine Garden Centre (GC) while St Peter’s Garden Centre (DGC) and Planters Garden Centre – Bretby (GC) were selected in the Midlands area. Barton Grange Garden Centre (DGC) and Fron Gogh Garden Centre (GC) were selected in the North West and in the North East, Tong Garden Centre (DGC) and Coletta and Tyson Garden Centre (GC) were chosen. Chris Wilde, Whitehall Garden Centre Manager, said: “We aim to ensure that our customers enjoy the whole festive experience, this makes what we do stand out from the crowd. “Winning this award is the culmination of months of planning and hard work by the whole team, from the buyers and suppliers, to the team on the shop floor. Every year we focus on seeing what we can do even better than before. We never stop, we think about Christmas 12 months of the year!” The national winners will be given their awards during the GCA’s annual conference at the Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel on January 26-29, 2020. Places can be booked via www.gca.org.uk.
2019 End of an era! REVIEW OF THE YEAR
Associate Editor Mike Wyatt takes a look back at a busy year for the UK garden industry. You could say 2019 was memorable for just three things – the ongoing lack-of-Brexit debate, the ongoing weather – and the ongoing Sale of the Century. Of the three, the latter is the only one not ongoing as the year draws to a close – and the one that occupied the most column inches in our weekly e-newsletter, GTN Xtra. Reader response to each and every bulletin tracking the break-up and disposal by Terra Firma of the Wyevale Garden Centre business also told us that this was the story that stirred interest bordering on obsession. For the 31 businesses that have now emerged as new owners of the large majority of the 145 Wyevales offloaded between the summer of 2018 and autumn 2019, the year was clearly one of chewed fingernails and repeated visits to the bank manager as 57 different deals were negotiated, frequently leaked and finally trumpeted to the world at large. The end of an era for the industry…the start of a new one for the chain’s successors. Wyevale’s fortunes had ebbed and flowed since the first centre opened on King’s Acre Road in Hereford in 1967. After 20 years of steady expansion, it became a PLC and was the first garden retailer to be listed on the London Stock Exchange. A tug-of-war for control of the business started after Icelandic private equity company Baugur took a majority stake, collapsed and let in shareholder activist Laxey Partners, who sold out at a handsome profit to Sir Tom Hunter’s West Coast Capital, who then successfully bought the whole company
Will Blake, of St Peter’s Garden Centre, put sustainability initiatives at the forefront of his business.
Perennial high-flyers Bents Garden & Home were named the Garden Centre Association’s destination centre of the year, while The Old Railway Line chalked up their first gong in the lower-turnover group.
Blue Diamond, the UK’s third biggest garden centre group following its WGC acquisitions, announced record first-half profits of £7.6m.
LOFA, which appointed Gina Hinde as its new marketing manager early in the year, announced that 100% of its members offering cushions and cushioned outdoor furniture had now earned LOFAssured accreditation, guaranteeing total compliance with current government fire safety regulations.
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LifestyleGarden won the Best New Product Award at SOLEX for its revolutionary DuraOcean furniture, made mainly from plastic fishing nets recovered from the ocean.
New operator Rosebourne, about to develop its third site, announced first full year turnover of more than £6m.
Primeur (right) won the Sword of Excellence at the GIMA Awards for its Tierra Verde recycled rubber planters.
Mike Withers sold the Trebaron centre built on land bought from Rick Astley’s dad in 1991 to Newbank, who became the north-west’s biggest garden centre group.
Smart Garden (far right) was voted the GCA’s supplier of the year at the GIMAs and associate of the year in the GCA’s annual awards.
REVIEW OF THE YEAR
...and people Let’s hear it for… Brian Talman, Mr Fothergill’s trials manager, who celebrated 60 years in horticulture – having rejected a career in engineering on his doctor’s advice because of asthma. Colin Squire of Squire’s Garden Centres, who handed over the chairman’s role to his daughter Sarah after 30 years. Mark Portman, MD of Evergreen Garden Care, Vicky Nuttall, Director of GIMA, and Lowri Walker, National Account Manager at SBM Life Science, who each stepped beyond their comfort zone to do a wing walk strapped to an aircraft to raise £20,000 for the Greenfingers Charity.
for £310m and installed Nicholas Marshall as CEO. The new boss decided to ditch the Wyevale branding in favour of ‘The Garden Centre Group’, highlighting place names to foster an illusion of a local independent business (but without the independent culture) When the financial crisis started to bite in 2008/2009, Sir Tom reduced his stake to 25% in a debt-for-equity swap with HBOS (later Lloyds) and later stood down as chairman. Three years on, he and HBOS took a sizeable write-off as the board agreed to sell for £276m to Guy Hands’ Terra Firma. When Hands announced last year that WGC was up for sale, many asked: What took him so long? Seven years is a pretty epic stretch in the world of private equity. Buyers were soon knocking at Terra Firma’s door…and at the dawn of 2019, after disposal of the first 40 centres had injected much needed cash into WGC’s coffers, the queues stretched around the block and back as chief financial officer Anthony Jones, in the new role of COO, took over from departing CEO Roger Mclaughlan. Back then, it was taken for granted that the remaining prime Wyevales would be quickly cherry-picked by the deep-pocketed – but no-one was sure whether a buyer would emerge for the rest of the group as an entity, or indeed if WGC themselves had plans for such an entity. That riddle kept us guessing for another few months as the steady drip of disposal announcements continued. When, we asked, would the curtain finally come down on the Wyevale era? The answer was: November, when Sprowston earned the distinction of being the last centre to trade under the Wyevale banner before re-branding by its new
Dougal Philip and Lesley Watson of New Hopetoun Gardens near Edinburgh who, after 40 years of running the business, transferred ownership to an employee trust to secure the centre’s future for its staff. John Ravenscroft, founder of Bridgemere Garden World (now owned by Blue Diamond) and former GTN columnist, who was awarded HTA’s Pearson Medal for outstanding contributions to the garden industry. John receives the award from HTA President Boyd Douglas-Davies (right). Among those we lost… Michael Cooling, son of the founder of Coolings Nurseries. Mike Dunnett, former MD of Blakedown Nurseries.
“Taupe – a once-fashionable dirty-beige choice for paint, wallpaper and curtains – was adopted by more and more growers as the go-to colour for plastic pots” owners, British Garden Centres, whose WGC buying spree put them in second place behind Dobbies in terms of outlet numbers. After the WGC sell-off, the next biggest talking point of the year centred on the challenges of sustainability – and in particular, what to do about the knotty problem of the garden industry’s mountain of black plastic pots. Following the widespread move across the industry in 2018 towards carbon pigment-free pots suitable for kerbside recycling collection, Nurserymen Porters Fuchsias were among the first of the year to engage with consumers on the issue…by adding a recycling print directly to the Poppelmann blue pots on almost all the 3 million seasonal pot bedding plants due to leave the nursery during the year. Taupe – a once-fashionable dirty-beige choice for paint, wallpaper and curtains – was adopted by more and more growers as the go-to colour for plastic pots. Its arrival should, by rights, signal the imminent demise of the cheap (and nasty?) black pot. The HTA’s superb sell-out ‘Sustainability Matters’ one-day conference in May airs this and many other urgent issues, sending the clearest message to date that the garden
industry has a key role to play in the climate and environmental crisis. Yet, despite this, ITV still saw fit in late summer to screen an investigation by its consumer editor Chris Choi accusing the industry of not being as green as people believe – not doing enough to eliminate peat usage, encourage pot recycling or cut the risk of imported plant pests and diseases. It was widely slammed as simplistic and onesided, failing to explain the complexities of the issues or to give the industry credit for its progress towards solutions. For example, during 2020, the newlydeveloped Responsible Sourcing Scheme will be available for auditing the environmental impact of all growing media components, with the resulting scores eventually appearing on bag labels. On the issue of plant imports, HTA launched a Plant Healthy website offers a free self-assessment tool to help horticulture businesses and organisations to improve the biosecurity of sourcing systems and advance plant health management practices, as well as adding new features to its plant passporting information campaign. Just two instances to demonstrate that the industry is hardly fiddling while Rome burns… Finally, the ongoing weather…which came good in a big way to set up a record Easter week-end for garden centres. “Best ever” “Bonkers!” “Very encouraging” “After this, who knows what is achievable?” “It was mental” “Fantastic weekend” “Easter Monday one of the best days ever in the business” “Unbelievable” “Amazing” “We ran out of parking” were just some of comments we recorded. More in 2020, please!
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Sprowston the last Wyevale garden centre On Monday 18th November 2019 the last Wyevale Garden Centre at Sprowston in Norwich changed ownership to British Garden Centres, and as such ended a trading history that started in 1932 when Harry Williamson opened a nursery in Hereford. The business started in the West of England as a result of Harryâ€™s pioneering of container growing, using reject tins from a local jam factory. But the sun set in the East when Wyevale COO Anthony Jones handed over Sprowston to Charles Stubbs, MD of British Garden Centres. Looking back on those early days, it took 35 years after starting the Wyevale Garden Centre in Hereford before a second garden centre was opened at Thornbury near Bristol. It then took a further 50 years to grow to 151 garden centres at its peak, floated on the London Stock Exchange, changed its name to The Garden Centre Group and then back to Wyevale Garden Centres under Terra Firma ownership. Then in May 2018 Terra Firma put all 145 trading garden centre sites up for sale and it took 18 months for all the centres to be sold. A total of 131 were sold as trading garden centres. Sprowston is one of 37 bought by British Garden Centres. Dobbies also bought 37 of the Wyevale sites and Blue Diamond purchased 16 centres, including the very first centre in Hereford. A total of 31 different purchasers acquired trading garden centres as part of the process which was made up of 57 separate transactions, including those sites sold for development.
Above: Sprowston in Norwich, the last Wyevale garden centre, November 2019. Right: Charles Stubbs and Anthony Jones raise a glass to the last Wyevale Garden Centre becoming the 47th British Garden Centres site.
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GARDEN CENTRES Last images of Sprowston trading as a Wyevale Garden Centre
Harry Williamson at the first Wyevale Garden Centre in Hereford 1932. Anthony Jones, who was due to leave Wyevale Garden Centres at the end of December, said: “It’s sad now this is the last centre to transfer, but I’m proud that we got so many positive outcomes along the way. 95% of the centres are still in the industry and 97% of our colleagues have kept their jobs.” An example of how hard Anthony and his team worked to keep centres trading and in employment was at Windsor which was purchased by developers Wates in September 2018. Wyevale kept operating the site, which was a Top 10 centre, under licence. “We really had nothing financially at stake at Windsor,” explained Anthony, “but there were 35 passionate colleagues and a really great garden centre that serves the local community. I was desperate to keep Windsor. So Charles and I had a conversation and as a result we entered into a discussion with Wates to assign the licence to British Garden Centres which would save us making the people redundant and that would be a real win, win. I passed on to Charles what I would have spent on redundancy and tidy-up costs, so everyone’s a winner and everyone keeps their jobs. It is a profitable site and local customers get their garden centre, the only one in the area.” There just remains the possibility of the Wyevale Garden Centre website being sold on for internet trading but other than a small skeleton staff that are tidying up loose ends that is the end of the Wyevale Garden Centre era.
Above left: The last Wyevale team at Sprowston. Above right: The Sprowston team, led by manager Paul Marlow, are now in British Garden Centres
RIP Wyevale Garden Centres 1932-2019 www.gardentradenews.co.uk
December 2019/January 2020 11
CULTIVATION STREET David Domoney and Mark Portman (Evergreen Garden Care Managing Director UK & Ireland) shake hands on the sponsorship deal.
Cultivation Street announces Miracle-Gro as new sponsor The national community, school, and gardens for better health campaign, Cultivation Street, enters its eighth year in 2020 and is excited to announce Miracle-Gro as the sponsor. This national campaign supports thousands of communities and schools all over the UK. It has over 300 Ambassador garden centres, its own YouTube Channel and a phenomenal database of information, as well as guides and support for communities and schools. To date, the campaign has awarded £150,000 and 30,000 plants to neighbourhoods, children and those living with disability. It also has an annual national competition promoting gardening as well as celebrating and rewarding the best of British community and school gardens. The campaign’s founder, David Domoney, said: “We are delighted that Miracle-Gro, the No. 1 garden care brand, shares our belief in guiding and supporting the nation to garden together. This is a campaign the industry is
About Cultivation Street Cultivation Street is a community and school gardening campaign that provides help and advice to schools and community gardens up and down the country. It has a helpline with a dedicated support team, a newsletter, Cultivation Street TV on YouTube, a Community and Schools Forum, planting guides and blogs, a national competition with cash prizes, a national Garden Centre Ambassador support network, a Media Centre, fundraising ideas, and more. Keep up to date and follow Cultivation Street on Twitter @cultivationst, Facebook and Instagram @cultivationstreet.
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proud of, giving free advice to thousands on how to get started with gardening together and the many health benefits it brings. I am looking forward to working with the Miracle-Gro team as we spread the word that gardening together is good for you.” Mark Portman, Managing Director for Evergreen Garden Care (owner of the MiracleGro brand), said: “The Evergreen team are looking forward to working with Cultivation Street. Our vision is to unlock the love of the garden to create a green oasis for all to enjoy, and this partnership between Cultivation Street and Miracle-Gro enables us to support community gardening helping to bring people together in neighbourhoods and schools. We recognise Cultivation Street as one of the brilliant initiatives of our special industry
and we are honoured to be part of helping to deliver this wonderful work”. Cultivation Street is Britain’s leading community gardening campaign and is the longest-running campaign in the horticultural industry thanks to our previous sponsors the HTA and Calliope. Cultivation Street links the gardening public to the industry through the hundreds of garden centre ambassadors in garden centres like Bents, Old Railway, Webbs, Ayletts – to name a few – and groups such as Hilliers, Notcutts, Dobbies and many more. 4Cultivation Street is looking to grow its Ambassador network and any garden centres that would like to get involved can contact us via email@example.com or 01926 641 997.
Time to bid farewell to 2019 and look ahead to an even brighter 2020 VICKY NUTTALL DIRECTOR OF GIMA It seems like only yesterday that I was writing this column this time last year. 2019 has passed by in a blur, but there is no question that the impact of events that took place this year will be felt for a long time to come. What’s more, the events of 2019 are leading us into a new year that is shaped by optimism and an industry that is armed with more content, inspiration and future-proofing innovation than ever before. According to Euromonitor’s forecast the UK Garden Products market in 2020 is to be valued around £2.7 billion, with this value rising to £3.1 billion by 2023. With a healthy growth rate forecasted for the next three to four years it’s crucial that suppliers and retailers work in tandem to develop retail offers in line with consumer demands. There is no doubt that sustainability, community gardening and accessing a millennial market will have a role to play in this, as discussed at both our Day Conference in April, and the Scarlet Opus-led Trend Seminar in May. The impact of sustainability has certainly been felt more this year than any other. As eco-conscious consumers make their voice heard, suppliers have been forced to address their environmental impact and how their products suit a sustainable consumer mindset. From the reduction of single-use plastics and the introduction of more recyclable packaging, to the increased visibility of organic and veganic gardening, and the launch of exciting new material innovations, the next generation of products hitting stores in the coming season are a true reflection of the garden retail sector’s willingness to adapt.
Sustainability may be opening the doors for new brands to find a home within retail, however the actual face of garden retail has changed significantly in 2019. The conclusion of the Wyevale divestment has seen the UK garden retail sector have a complete reshuffle, with brands such as British Garden Centres zooming up the ranks to become the second biggest chain. Whilst the end of an era for Wyevale – an era that closed off with absolute dignity and respect by all involved I must say – the future is looking exciting. With 145 centres sold, and 31 different businesses snapping up a store or two (or 37 each for Dobbies and BGC, and 16 for Blue Diamond) there will be a huge surge in new retail hitting the market in 2020. Elsewhere discount retailers are leading the charge, with the high street continuing to lag behind as consumers look to spend their money online. I’m sure the next 12 months will see even more change, but for now I’m looking forward to seeing how the new leaders of garden retail will shape their offering. Another aspect of 2020 that I am looking forward to is the development of new initiatives such as the GIMA Single-use plastic project, which will see many brands get their house in order regarding their reliance on single-use plastic and look to seek alternatives. I’ve no doubt that this, and the increase in
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sustainable and environmentally friendly products will help to place UK gardening on the national stage. Another growth area, the millennial pound, is continuing to cause many to scratch their heads, but with this consumer group driving the revival of houseplant sales there is no doubt that they will continue to provide us with a real spending opportunity. Elsewhere, at GIMA we’ll be continuing to work hard on behalf of our members, providing them with the necessary insight, assistance and knowledge to navigate the current retail picture, ever changing supply chain and consumer demands. We’ll be kickstarting the year with the Garden Press Event (March 4th) and are also looking forward to seeing members and retailers at the forthcoming Glee at Spring Fair exhibition (February 2-6). Throughout the year we will, of course, continue to offer a raft of events and services such as the GIMA Awards – which will be celebrating its 40th anniversary in July – Golf Day, Knowledge Exchange Workshops and Buyer Connect sessions. We will also look to build on our existing collaborations with other trade associations, as well as providing a successful programme of content with our consumer and design trend intelligence agency partners, Scarlet Opus, as well as market intelligence agencies such as Euromonitor and MoneyCorp, and recruitment experts, MorePeople. Our aim is to arm our members with everything they need to thrive in the year ahead. For now, I am left with just one thing to say, and that is to wish everyone a very Happy New Year. I hope 2020 treats you all well!
As the third annual ‘Glee at Spring Fair’ gets ever closer, the show’s Event Director, Matthew Mein, provides an update on what the industry can expect. Glee at Spring Fair (February 2-6 NEC Birmingham) will give retailers the opportunity to see new and bestselling ranges ahead of the spring season. The event will give retailers an additional destination to refresh and make impulse buying decisions ahead of key retail spikes. It will also provide garden buyers with valuable insight into the latest concepts and trends for 2020. Core gardening will remain at its heart, with key brands such as Charles Taylor Trading, Creative Products, Dizmes, Neat Ideas, Chirpy Bird Foods, Euromedia, Fargro, Riverco Trading, Logs Direct, Juice & Jam, and Laurica Plants showcasing their 2020 ranges. The concession will retain Glee’s signature boulevard aisle and highly-recognisable branding throughout. A Glee Café will act as a hub for Glee’s supporting trade associations – the HTA, GIMA and Gardenex. Offering a wealth of knowledge and benefits, the presence of these trade associations will add some fun and interactive elements to the five-day event. The Glee New Product Showcase will be making its home within the Glee Café. This dedicated area will bring together the most exciting new products from Glee at Spring Fair exhibitors, and will provide a source of inspiration for retailers looking to find exciting new product innovations. 4Visit www.gleebirmingham.com
The only gardening gloves endorsed by the RHS Jayco, a family-owned company celebrating its 48th anniversary, is the proud owner of the Gold Leaf Gardening Glove range - widely recognised as the world’s finest gardening gloves. Launched at Glee 2003, the company’s unique Gold Leaf range continues to reign as market leader in the premium quality category of the gardening glove sector both in UK and export markets around the globe. The feedback that the Hampshire-based business attracts from purchasers of its products is remarkable, with the upmarket range recently attracting a social media following of serious gardening enthusiasts and professional gardeners alike who clearly appreciate and understand the uniqueness and superiority of its luxurious products. It is therefore not surprising that Gold Leaf’s attendance at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show was its most successful in its 16-year history, and it is clear that the extraordinary levels of brand loyalty and referral based sales continue to strengthen year on year and attract loyal legion of customers from around the globe. In 2006, the ultimate recognition of the Gold Leaf brand as the finest available, came with the announcement of an endorsement from The Royal Horticultural Society, a true mark of gardening excellence – the first brand ever to receive this exclusive honour. To mark this achievement all of the company’s product lines carry the RHS logo
on the packaging and gloves themselves, uniquely setting them apart from all other glove manufacturers, especially those who have attempted to capitalise on Gold Leaf’s success by producing similar looking designs using inferior quality materials. Kelly and Peter Cooney from Gold Leaf are committed to upholding the company mission statement: ‘There is NO substitute for quality’. With this mindset clearly visible throughout the business, from the unprecedented quality of its superior products, the extremely high level of brand loyalty that they maintain, to the exceptional customer service that the company provides – the passion for their brand is undeniable.
Continuing its work with the RHS, Glee 2017 saw the launch of the company’s new product range ‘The RHS Collection’ – a small beautiful range of deerskin leather gardening gloves for ladies. The family firm was thrilled to be awarded the accolade of ‘Best New Product’ in the Gift, Home and Clothing category, as voted for by respected power buyers within the industry. The three stunning designs of ‘The RHS Collection’ take their names from World famous RHS shows, and were inspired by beautiful, historic botanical artwork from the RHS Lindley Library. The three floral images used have been carefully chosen for the sentiments that they convey from Victorian ‘Floriography’ or flower meanings – Remembrance (Poppy), Friendship (Yellow Rose), Hope & Wisdom (Iris). Kelly feels strongly that “ladies will particularly respond to this distinctive approach” and “we are delighted that The RHS Collection is really proving suitable for any gift purchase for any lady, be that a birthday, retirement, anniversary, Christmas, Mother’s Day…this list is endless!” The message is clear...if you want to offer your customers the best, there is NO alternative!
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Cultivating sustainability Senior figures from across the UK garden retailing industry gathered in Nottingham for the second Cultivating Retail conference, jointly organised by the HTA and GIMA. The overriding theme for the conference was sustainability with every presentation touching on the importance and opportunity this presents for our sector. Even Guy Toppings’ enlightening presentation about The Flower Bowl included mention of their CO2 curling rink cooling system that has no refrigeration gases, is efficient to run, cools the cinemas and fridges too and also heats hot water for the kitchens and toilets as well as the underfloor heating in the foyer area. In conversation with HTA President Boyd Douglas-Davies, Dr David Bek, Sustainability Economist from Coventry University, spoke about the positives that the industry brings in terms of producing plant material and products that store and convert carbon. “With a changing climate, there is a real opportunity to adapt and challenge our approach to gardening embracing the more chaotic style of nature creating a new normal. The horticulture industry needs to be bold, innovative and nimble and connect with consumers to make a substantive impact on biodiversity and climate change,” said Dr Bek. Plastics, or the replacement of plastics, were high on the agenda with Stuart Foster from RECOUP highlighting the challenges faced of over 2,300,000 tonnes of plastic packaging placed on the UK market each year, 1,500,000 tonnes of which are consumer plastics and 800,000 tonnes non consumer. The UK 25-Year Environment Plan is to eradicate all avoidable plastic waste by 2042 and Sir Terry Leahy highlighted
this as an opportunity for garden centres and related suppliers to take the lead: “Sustainability brings new business opportunities for the garden industry to respond to. With changing weather patterns, increasing emphasis on biosecurity and provenance, garden centres are better
placed and more relevant than many high street retail outlets to meet consumer demand as they provide the solutions for many of these issues.” GTN will be producing a Sustainability Directory for 2020, details of which you can see in the panel on the right.
Crazy profit potential from leisure developments Leisure can be a very profitable diversification to a garden centre site, according to Guy Topping of Baron Grange. In his presentation about the Flower Bowl Leisure Development, he said: “It’s something, if done in the right way, that can appeal to our customers and it is going to be a profitable entity. If nothing else consider crazy golf, it is the most profitable area of our development.” Guy told delegates that turnover for year 2 will top £5m. “The exciting thing with leisure is the cost of sales at 22%, mainly because for a lot of the activities, there isn’t really a cost of sale.” As a result, Guy is predicting turnover of £7m and a trading profit of about £2m by year five. The £11m development includes a 4 sheet Curling Rink, 8 lanes of Ten-Pin Bowling, 3 Cinemas, 2 Virtual Golf simulators, 2 restaurants, a coffee bar and crazy golf. All indoors under a green roof that has real sheep grazing on it during the summer. While 40% of the Flower Bowl customers are
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also garden centre customers the overall effect on the garden centre has been plus 7% on footfall with significant increases in catering sales and farm shop. With many new garden centre owners having taken on sites from Wyevale Garden Centres that have unused spare space the leisure concept and particularly
the crazy golf certainly got a lot of retail delegates thinking. Guy added: “It does have to be done properly, of course. With anything we do, it’s no good doing it half-heartedly. And you’ve got to think it all through as to what might work in your location.”
A trip to the garden centre is not a chore The former CEO of Tesco, and current investor in Dobbies, Sir Terry Leahy, told delegates in his keynote speech: “I think you should, as an industry, bang your drum a lot louder. Make clear the vital role you play. Map out ambitious plans for the industry and for Britain, your role within the country, and then challenge government to support those plans. “From a consumer perspective, you’re well placed. Certainly, when compared with the turmoil experienced in other sectors, such as media and many parts of retail caused by changing consumer interests and digital technology, now you can see a discernible shift in the things which motivate consumers, today. “In the past, it was all about owning a home and filling it with nice products, having a car on the drive. Today, that’s not the case, in part because the homes are out of reach for some people or more often because many people now feel they have got most of the consumer products that were once a luxury. So, it is other needs that are growing in importance. First and foremost, among those is the desire to look good and live forever, if you wanted to sum it up. This most fundamental driver of behaviour, fuelled now by social media and from compelling evidence linking lifestyles to health and wellbeing, is really behind much of the growth you see in consumer industry. “People feel busier than they’ve ever been. It’s a mindset, really. People are not working more hours, but they certainly feel busier than ever before. They seem to plan less, but
they have fewer set routines. They’re always on the go. As a result, they place a premium on convenience and will pay for someone else to do the work. ‘Do it for me’ is replacing DIY. And they don’t want complexity, even though you could argue they don’t want too much choice. They’re looking for tailored solutions, which are satisfying and easy to use. “I’ve always thought that garden centres were a good sector in retail with good prospects for increasing spend combined with strong defensive characteristics. Yes, DIY, non-food discounters and the supermarkets have taken some share in some categories, but none of them can quite replicate what a garden centre offers and that’s why I was happy to be an investor in Midlothian Capital’s acquisition of Dobbies a couple of years ago. “Garden centres for me start from a better position than most retail formats. Garden centres are pleasant, spacious, semirural or at least they are full of nature. The restaurant’s a big feature of the trip, it’s as much about eating out, about seeing what’s new, what’s in season. Sharing some time with friends as it is about crossing things off a shopping list. Most people come with a leisure mindset. They’re not trying to get in and out in the shortest possible amount of time. They don’t see a trip to the garden centre as a chore. “I want to wish you individually as business leaders and collectively as a fine industry, every success in those future endeavours.”
Following many conversations with garden centres post Glee and at Cultivating Retail, there is a real need for more information about sustainability initiatives from suppliers. As a result GTN is compiling a Sustainability Directory to be published in January 2020 that will provide a guide for garden centre buyers and staff to those sustainability initiatives. Suppliers will be able to take a FREE sustainability listing in the directory and there will also be opportunities for advertising and advertorial content to emphasise sustainability activities. To take advantage of this FREE listing, companies should use the form below or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org For information about advertising and advertorial opportunities please call Alan Burdon or Ben Greenwood on 01733 775700. Please select from one of these product categories: 4Plants, Seeds and Bulbs 4Growing Materials (Plant feeds, pest and weed control, growing media, cloches, seed trays) 4Growing Containers (all pots, planters, hanging baskets) 4Garden Decoration (garden ornaments, lighting, plant supports, wall art) 4Garden Machinery & Tools (hand and powered garden tools, garden gloves, garden kneelers etc) 4Garden Landscaping (paving, statuary, garden buildings) 4Garden Leisure & Entertaining (barbecues, garden furniture and accessories) 4Wild Bird and Wildlife Products (wild bird feeds, feeders, wild life products) 4Pets & Aquatics 4Garden Giftware, Home and Clothing 4Food Hall 4Garden Centre Catering 4Garden Retail & Industry Services
GTN Sustainability Directory FREE listings entry Company Name......................................................................................... Adresss........................................................................................................ ....................................................................................................................... .........................................................Postcode............................................ Telephone................................................................................................... Genienis aut etur re estemquatis deles eic tem Email............................................................................................................ fugiae custorit que cullicipsus, cumenist et exerio
Website........................................................................................................ evelessimpor aut voluptis est que oditaquas nonsendi odita consed et essi veliqui beatiusdam
Ourvolest Sustainability is: (noEtmore than 40 words)…........ antentoribusInitiative quam veliantio. laccusium rae sequae voloriti is animilici ut anihita tquodit ...................................................................................................................... volestor ma vitatur aut alitatusdae eum esse
oditatectata vollorem illorum faccatque nobist ..................................................................................................................... mo molori doluptur seni corest andisin eum vori
...................................................................................................................... occulpa velles inumqui tendi audi volor seruntium quae.
...................................................................................................................... ...................................................................................................................... ...................................................................................................................... Each listing can also contain a small image and/or small logo. Please e-mail these to email@example.com
December 2019/January 2020 17
Major pet companies book stands at PATS Sandown Following a hugely successful show at Telford in September, PATS Sandown on February 9-10 2020 looks set to be another must-visit event for pet retailers and buyers. Bookings for the Sandown Park showpiece in Surrey are impressive, with many industryleading exhibitors having committed to attending the event. These include previous exhibitors such as Anco, Beaphar UK, Danish Design, Dorwest Herbs, flexi, IPN, Johnson’s Veterinary Products, Kong, Marriages, Natures Menu, Petlife International, Pet Munchies, Pet Trade Innovations, Royal Canin, Sky Pet Products, Symply Pet Foods and Trixie, amongst many others. For a full list see the PATS website www.patshow.co.uk. “We are really excited about our exhibitions in 2020 after two wonderful events at Sandown and Telford this year,” said organiser Gordon Thomas. “The new show dates for PATS Sandown in 2019 – a Sunday and Monday in February – allowed exhibitors to launch products to the trade early in the year, giving retailers the chance to stock them in time for major consumer events like Crufts. So we are pleased to announce we’ll be sticking to this winning formula. “The major pet brands have already booked their stands along with a host of new suppliers, and visitors to this premier Spring show can be certain of seeing all the new launches under one roof. It’s reassuring to know that the pet industry continues to get right behind the UK’s number one pet retail show brand.” Inspired Pet Nutrition (IPN) was the first company to book a stand at PATS Sandown when the exhibition was launched in 2009. It has showcased its popular Wagg and Harringtons brands at every show since. IPN’s sales director Ben Anderson said: “PATS is always an extremely well-organised event and it’s great to see such a broad
range of exhibitors across all sections of the pet trade. “The show is the perfect platform for new product launches, and we are already looking forward to Sandown where we will be showcasing our new Harringtons treats.” PATS prides itself on attracting the key decision-makers and buyers from UK and international companies. The recent winner of the PetQuip UK Pet Retailer of the Year - Just for Pets - is one of the many major retailers to make the PATS Sandown and PATS Telford shows key dates for its calendar. The chain has 16 stores across the Midlands and Cambridgeshire. General manager Paul Lewis said: “PATS is a great showcase for everything that is available under one roof. It gives you the opportunity to build relationships not only with suppliers but also with other retailers, so you can continue to build your business, ask for advice and help each other out.”
Make sure you book your place at the show Visitors to the show will be able to see an unrivalled array of new-launch products, watch demonstrations from the country’s leading dog groomers and listen to talks from prominent industry figures. To register for entry to PATS Sandown visit www.patshow.co.uk
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All the new launches under one roof The New Product Showcase is designed to help visitors discover the latest and most exciting products to hit the pet industry, all gathered together in one, extensive display in Surrey Hall’s Brasserie Bar. Once you’ve seen what you like, you then have the opportunity of visiting the stand of the manufacturer or supplier of that product to discuss it in more detail.
There is an information card beside each product, giving details such as suggested retail price and where in the show you’ll find the item’s exhibitor. All entries in the Showcase, sponsored by pbwnews, will judged by a panel of independent retailers for the New Product Awards on the first morning of the show, so the results will be known and highlighted throughout the Surrey and Esher Halls for the rest of the exhibition. Winning an award can be the launch pad to huge sales. Manufacturers can be confident that successful products have a great chance of becoming bestsellers because a panel of pet retailers decides the awards. And past winners admit that it can certainly increase the profile of the items to the trade. This year PATS Sandown have added a new award – Best in Show – which will be awarded by the judges to what they believe is the best overall product from the category winners.
PATS is the BEST place for garden centres to source new pet products PATS, the UK’s number one pet industry exhibition, is the best place to source new products, according to a growing number of garden centres. As the pet sector has become an increasingly essential part of garden centre retailing, PATS Sandown and PATS Telford have become vital dates in the industry calendar. Dobbies is now the biggest garden centre group in the UK and the company views the pet sector as an important growth opportunity. Sean Kelly, Head of Pets at Dobbies Garden Centres, said: “I have visited the PATS show for several years. I always find it’s a great opportunity to catch up with all of the key suppliers from the industry under one roof. “There’s always a lot to see and the show certainly inspires me to fill the Dobbies pet department. It’s always interesting to see the new product innovation manufacturers are bringing to the market. “It’s also an extremely friendly show, from both exhibitors and attendees – it’s what makes the PATS exhibitions so enjoyable.” Hazel Oswald from Raemoir Garden Centre, who travels down from Aberdeenshire in Scotland to PATS every year, said: “The exhibition provides great opportunities for sourcing new products and ideas for our pet department which is an integral part of the garden centre business. PATS has grown so much that a two-day visit is now essential.” It’s a similar story for Hayes Garden World in the Lake District, whose pet buying team have become regular visitors to the pet trade exhibition. “As a
prestigious garden centre with a massive presence in the North West of England it is essential that we stay on top of all trends, and PATS allows us to do just that,” said a spokesperson. “Sending buyers to trade shows involves considerable expense in staff man-hours, travelling expenses and hotel bills so having a show like PATS, which covers everything, is hugely beneficial.”
The Awards will be presented at the New Product Showcase display at lunchtime on Sunday, 9th February. Visitors are invited to attend and cheer on the winners. Entries will be displayed under the following award categories: • Cat Food and Products • Dog Accessories and Toys • Dog Food and Products • Dog Treats and Products • Dog Harnesses, Leads and Dog Wear • Grooming Products • Pet Care Products • Small Animal and Bird Products
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Great show with festive atmosphere Some of us will only just have packed away the home Christmas decorations for 2019 and the planning for Christmas 2020 will commence. The spa town of Harrogate plays host to the first Christmas & Gift Fair of the year and both exhibitors and seasonal buyers will freely admit it’s a great show and a wonderful atmosphere. As they have done for many years now, National Tree Company will exhibit their remarkable collection of luxury artificial Christmas Trees, wreaths and garlands. The family operated business is one of the largest wholesalers of artificial Christmas trees, with a wealth of international awards and accolades. National Tree Company joined forces with the team from Norfolk Leisure to ensure that their finely crafted trees and decorations are available more widely in the UK and Ireland and with a better service experience. “In its sixth year, this partnership is even stronger,” says Nick Anderson, MD of Norfolk Leisure. “We are holding increased stocks of the National Tree Company products with the capability and capacity to deliver from our large Norfolk warehouse and offer a comprehensive drop ship service.” You may be familiar with some of the more well-known innovations including Feel Real® PE branch tips that are so realistic in appearance and to the touch, it is very difficult to tell the difference between Feel Real® trees and their living twins. Pair this with the pioneering technologies
and light design innovation, to achieve the most advanced collection of artificial trees available. Norfolk Leisure also stock an extensive range of the Fibreglass ornaments – including a LIFESIZE Santa – many of which have LED lights and music options. The musical and mechanical drummer boy will actually play his drum to your favourite Christmas tunes.
Focusing on the environment Environmentalist Trewin Restorick has been announced as one of the headline speakers booked for the Garden Centre Association’s annual conference in Bristol on January 26-29. “This year’s conference has a real focus on the environment and what we can do as an industry to be more environmentally-friendly and aware, so we’re thrilled to announce environmentalist Trewin as the first of our speakers for the event,” said Iain Wylie, Chief Executive of the GCA. “He will be speaking about corporate social responsibility, behaviour change to combat climate change, green living and charity and business partnerships. We think he will be a real inspiration to our members and help them to think more about the issues we’re facing, not just as an industry, but as individuals and as a country.” Trewin is the founding CEO of Hubub, a charity which makes environmental issues fun. It works to bring issues of climate change, carbon footprints and global warming into the public eye in a fun and light-hearted way. He is also the former CEO and founder of independent environmental charity Global Action Plan. Under his leadership, the charity ran programmes to reduce carbon emissions, energy consumption and waste with businesses, schools,
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Environmentalist Trewin Restorick community organisations and households. Trewin acted at the Chair of the Environmental IT Leadership Team (EILT) and sat on the Defra Third Sector Advisory Board, is a trustee for Sustainability and Environmental Education, and co-chaired Defra’s Compact Group. He has also been trained as one of Al Gore’s UK Climate Change Ambassadors and is a frequent media commentator on environmental issues for Channel 4 News, Sky News, BBC Breakfast and CNN.
“A visit to the stand is a must for any Christmas buyer,” says Nick. “The quality stands out clearly from the competition, the range is exceptional, and the designs are truly unique and stunning.” 4For more informnation call 01553 811717, visit www.norfolkleisure.com, or email Christmas@norfolkleisure.co.uk
Attendees at this Sir Tim Smit conference will also hear from co-founder and Executive Vice Chair of the award-winning Eden Project Sir Tim Smit KBE. Tim will talk to GCA members on Tuesday, January 28 about the value of leading by example, how to engage teams and meeting challenges head on. Iain Wylie added: “Everyone who is familiar with the Eden Project will know how successful it has been. It has received more than 20 million visitors since it opened its doors in 2001 and is both a showcase for world-class horticulture and an architectural symbol of human endeavour. “Eden has taken a pivotal role in local regeneration, showing that sustainability is about good business practice and citizenship. It has contributed £2billion to the local economy and its next planned development is a huge geothermal plant, designed to meet all Eden’s energy needs and power 5,000 homes.” Tim is a trustee, patron and board member of several bodies. He has received the Royal Society of Arts Albert Medal and was voted ‘Great Briton of 2007’ in the environment category of the Morgan Stanley Great Britons Awards.