In an interview published in the October issue of GTN, Justin KIng, Chairman of Wyevale Garden Centres and one time CEO of Sainsburys said: “I'm not one of the doomsayers about the so-called High Street, I believe that the reports of the death of the High Street have been exaggerated. I do I like the channel that is garden centres, because in many ways it already is and has moved itself towards what all retail has to think about.
“Retail can never be just about having physical shops where people buy stuff. The garden centre industry has naturally moved towards being a destination. It's never been purely just about buying stuff, it's always been an experience for the senses. I was amazed when I came to Wyevale that some of our garden centres had coach parks because people took day trips to them and there are not many retail channels that do that. That tells you they're occupying a piece of space that's beyond just selling stuff it is a day out, it is entertainment, it is an experience of the senses. Some of them at Wyevale were both before and during my time improving the food, improving the concession offering and of course that's what some of the very big operators have done and indeed the sites the bought from Wyevale are the ones that best fit their platform to do that.
“But this is also an industry where I see a long and vibrant future for independent operators. I do, feel that way for retail more generally too. Although you hear news about shops closing down there are many new shops opening on High Streets up and down the country today, pretty much as ever there have been, and garden centres are a perfectly suited sector for a vocational business run by a family, perhaps a small group of friends, maybe a small chain of two or three locally. And it is a truly local business. I can't even plant the same plants from one end of my garden to the other as they are on different soil. So, we know this is a local business where local knowledge and expert knowledge plays a part. I see a vibrant future for the chains, I think they'll keep growing if they keep doing a great job. I also see a vibrant future for the independents as well. I think this is a sector in 20 years time that will still have a strong independent core within it.
“The direction of travel in all retail will see some consolidation because size does matter and it matters because there are a lot of things that you can do better for customers with size. But whenever I talk at retail conferences, I always say that if you don't have size, then you need to be better. If you are small you've got to be more fleet of foot, more focused on your customers at a local level, more prepared to take risky and local decisions and this is a sector that lends itself to that perfectly. Both will thrive."
In the same issue of GTN, Wyevale Garden Centres CEO, Anthony Jones thanked all of his Wyevale colleagues: “We'd like to record our thanks to all of our amazing colleagues who have helped deliver everything and we're immensely proud of everything they've done in what are quite challenging circumstances. To deliver all the things that they did at the same time to trade the business well, whilst reducing it back in scale in the context of a quite complex sale process was a testament to them all. I'm very proud of them.
“Glee was fantastic. And to be honest, I'm humbled by the reception I got to be honest. Many of our buyers, as well as our suppliers, were quite complimentary about the process. It was nice for me to go back to Syon and pass on those kind words onto our team.”
Read the full interviews in your October issue of GTN, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to receive a regular copy, or read the on-line version via this link