Update: Dobbies doubles up with garden centre swoop

Dobbies Garden Centres is to almost double in size after snapping up more than 30 centres from rival Wyedale to become the largest operator of its kind in the UK.

Dobbies said the deal makes it the largest garden centre operator in the UK. Picture: Stewart Attwood.

The Scots group, which is based at Lasswade in Midlothian, is acquiring 31 sites south of the Border from Wyevale Garden Centres (WGC), increasing its number of branches to 69 and taking annual sales over the £300 million mark. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

It also said the store portfolio is “highly complementary” to its existing estate. The centres will continue to trade as WGC over the coming weeks with completion of the sales phased from late May through to the end of June.

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The deal also marks WGC’s third transaction with Dobbies following the sale of five centres, plus a single site sale, both in October 2018.

Dobbies chief executive Graeme Jenkins said: “We are very pleased to have agreed this acquisition from Wyevale and we look forward to welcoming our new customers, as well as 1,400 new team members to Dobbies as we drive the growth of the business and deliver against our strategic plan.”

Also commenting was the firm’s chairman Andrew Bracey. “We are delighted to have now acquired a total of 37 garden centres from Wyevale.

“Since acquiring Dobbies in 2016 we have doubled it in size, expanded Dobbies’ national footprint and strengthened our position as the UK’s leading garden centre operator. All of this will benefit Dobbies’ customers.”

WGC said that following the sale it remains a top three garden centre operator in the UK with 60 sites and a further four that are operating under licence. The business reported strong trading in the first quarter of 2019 with a 26 per cent year-on-year jump in sales, profitability “significantly improved” and elevated levels of liquidity.

WGC chief operating officer Anthony Jones said: “We are pleased to have agreed the sale of a portfolio of our centres to Dobbies Garden Centres.

“I am delighted with our strong start to the year and am excited about trading for the rest of the main gardening season. Meanwhile, we also continue to evaluate a wide range of options as part of our ongoing sale process.”

Christie & Co, the specialist business property advisor managing the sale process on behalf of WGC, has run a two-phase process that has achieved “considerable” interest from a wide variety of buyers. “The opportunity to run one, a small group or a portfolio of garden centres has ignited interest within the sector and beyond, and there are still opportunities to acquire strongly located well-performing centres,” WGC said.

Jones also said WGC is “seeing strong footfall growth, and looks forward to a strong peak season”.

Dobbies was in 2016 sold by retail giant Tesco to an investor group led by Midlothian Capital Partners and Hattington Capital for £217m.