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INTERVIEW Continued from page 3 Of course, there will be the quality of farm shop food as well as restaurant that was initially created at Beckworth Emporium and developed further at Rosebourne. “The items in the restaurant menu will be available in the butcher’s so there will be a good synergy there.” Quality retailing has been a part of Carol’s business life since she joined Harrods in 1987 where she suffered her worst retailing experience. “Having worked almost exclusively in the equestrian department, where I was completely at home, I was promoted to look after other sports departments. This included the rugby area. I was keen to impress my new boss so thought I would re-merchandise the whole department. The colours had been very badly put together so I was delighted with my much better adjacencies. I was awaiting the praise of my boss when he returned, only to hear the angriest man in the world loudly complaining about which f***ing idiot has mixed up rugby union and rugby league. I had no idea there were two different sports involved.

Carol Paris is also a non-executive director at Briers, here with Jackie Eades at Chelsea 2018 just before the Wyevale sale process was announced.

I had to stay late to sort it out.” After Harrods Carol moved to Edinburgh Woollen Mills in 1993 where her role was new store openings, including putting concessions into garden centres, which eventually led to her becoming Operations and Buying Director for the £45m turnover Garden & Leisure Group.

Melbicks was one of Carol’s great successes.

“My biggest retailing success was definitely Garden & Leisure new store openings. My favourite would have been Melbicks as a complete new build. Therefore, despite the working through the night for several nights you finally get the reward of seeing everything you had planned come to fruition. It is an amazing experience and one I know I will enjoy again at Somerton. “We already have a couple of interesting sites we are investigating and we are looking for further potential sites from the M40, through the M4 corridor and to the south.” To get in touch with Somerton regarding potential sites contact Carol by email at carol@somertongroup.co.uk

Plant sales will be key.

GTN COMMENT Back in December 2014, Guy Topping predicted that the steady stream of acquisitions by Wyevale Garden Centres could actually lead to a smaller but stronger independent trade. And so he proved to be correct. As independent garden centres have grown in the past four years we now see how the turnovers at the sites acquired by Terra Firma have dropped in the ‘For Sale’ particulars distributed during Chelsea Flower Show. So, will the sale of 145 centres be an improvement for the UK garden retailing sector, its suppliers and its customers? Judging by the level of interest from prospective buyers there are plenty of existing garden centre operators out there who believe they can improve on the current situation to make a potential acquisition worthwhile. They always say you should leave room for improvement when selling a business to make it attractive – perhaps that was the plan all along. And for customers, if the new owners buy into the ‘part of the community’ ethos that so many excellent businesses excel in, then they could get a more varied,

4 July 2018

more caring and enjoyable experience. Guy Topping also said in December 2014: “This all spells disaster for suppliers who are going to struggle without a listing at the all-conquering empire formerly known as The Garden Centre Group.” Whilst there has been consolidation during the past four years the strength of the independents and the sale of Dobbies from Tesco has more than made up for that threat. If the Wyevale group is split up now, as many expect, then suppliers will have an interesting time dealing with the different buyers involved. Our hope, above all, is that whoever takes on the ownership of these centres does so with a sense of nurture and love for plants, food, coffee and all the good things garden centres can be famous for. Great independent garden centre operators have proved that when their staff and their retail ambience truly reflect ‘nurture’ that even when the weather goes against us, as this spring, good will always shine through and our businesses will grow. Business as usual – page 8

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GTN July 2018  

GTN July 2018  

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