Reports circulating online sources this week suggest that life is not getting any easier for Terra Firma’s Wyevale Garden Centres operation, which is facing re-structuring and re-financing after disappointing earnings.
The 149-centre chain’s latest review of retail operations, appears to restore a previously abandoned reporting procedure involving a team of regional managers instead of a north and south area set-up.
In a statement, retail operations director David Anderson (right), who was appointed in May, announced changes to his leadership team designed to “deliver excellent customer service and improve retail standards, whilst also providing support and development to colleagues in centres”.
Chris Brannigan, who has been with WGC since 2007, has been promoted to director of garden centres and will lead the transformation agenda. The Area Manager roles are being axed, and replaced with 11 new regional managers. Anderson says many of the existing area managers are being retained as regional managers, and recruitment is under way to fill existing vacancies.
Jeremy Byfleet, who joined the business in January 2014, will assume the newly created role of director of central operations and customer services. Like Brannigan, he will report to Anderson.
Elizabeth Oddy, previously regional operations director, takes on the newly created role of head of horticultural development, reporting to Brannigan. Oddy has more than 16 years’ horticultural experience with WGC, and will be tasked with driving commercial performance and horticultural excellence in the marketplace. Recruitment is currently under way for a new head of retail visual, “who will ensure our centres reach their full potential as inspiring places to shop and will bring consistency across our estate”.
Anderson added: “The new structure and the appointments we have put in place provide a fantastic opportunity to build on WGC's past successes. Through working together as one team, we'll deliver exceptional service to our customers and give our colleagues the support they need to reach their full potential.”
WGC offered no comment on reports that it had launched a key time working initiative designed to deliver a workforce that can react more flexibly to seasonal and weather variations. One online trade publication source suggested the company was looking for more part-time contracts.
Meanwhile, insiders confirmed reports that Wyevale is negotiating a refinancing deal before it publishes its annual accounts (usually filed at the end of June) by the Companies House deadline of 30 September. New auditors KPMG are reported as saying the accounts are being finalised but, again, WGC declined to comment.
Meanwhile, further reports suggest WGC has been struggling to meet its sales targets and is exploring ways in which it can hit its EBITDA goal of £34 million.
With cash clearly tight, the recently-revealed sale of Handcross Garden Centre in West Sussex for development following a successful planning application, will generate much-needed funds.
WGC said work on the A23, which had left the site with no direct road access, had affected sales. The site will close on 24 September, with 24 jobs affected. Observers say two more disposals are on the cards.