UK’s The Garden Centre Group has reported a 50% profit jump in the last financial year to £42.7 million ($70.8 million USD). Originally a disparate group of over 100 separate gardening retailers, Terra Firma, equity owner of The GCG since 2012, has worked to integrate the mostly family-owned businesses…..and it continues to expand.
With research showing that garden centre visitors were spending between 2 and 4 hours there, and 95% of them arrived without a specific product purchase in mind, The Garden Centre Group has improved and expanded its restaurant chain, and brought in specialty food retailers like butchers and beer brewers.
Mr. Hands, founder of Terra Firma says:
“They look at the flowers. They buy something. They have a cup of tea.”
He added that for British men over 45, gardening is the most popular past-time after television. Yes, ahead of sex.
Expensive products like high-end outdoor furniture, cookware and decor have been replaced by more budget-conscious lines, including a range of resin animals which grossed more than £1 million last year, making resin bunnies, the “new gnome”.
The Garden Centre Group has been busy buying up many smaller independent gardening retailers throughout Britain, with a new centre added every few months through 2013-14, although the centres retain their familiar local branding.
Many independent garden centre retailers have found it financially very tough to stay independent, lacking the capital to make these customer-attracting ‘lifestyle’ improvements. That there’s a ready investor willing to buy them, keep them open and turn them around is good, but the centralised buying system of large group retailers seems inevitably to lead to a loss of plant stock diversity, and an insensitivity to the appropriateness of plant choices for local climates and soils.