Former directors James Barnes (right), Sharon Brown and Johnny Trotter joined current CEO Nicholas Marshall (left) at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh on wednesday last week at the launch of an Exhibition of the history of Dobbies and the unveiling of new branding for 2018.
The exhibition includes original records and flower show awards that were rescued from a skip during a previous office refurbishment covers the history of Dobbies from 1865 through to the re-branding that goes live in three stores initially in early 2018.
The exhibition will tour aroound all Dobbies stores during 2018. Could that include a few new stores as Dobbies investors look to expand the group? Watch this space...
See our picture gallery below for a flavour of the new branding.
During the evening event at Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, Nicholas Marshall spoke of their desire to "make Dobbies the leader in everything we do and plants are centre stage to our renaissance." Adding "we already know that our customers would prefer to buy locally grown, Scottish plants and the weakness of the pound against sterling now gives our nursery men and women, a great opportunity. Scottish nurseries, we want to do business with you." Read the full transcript below.
The Scottish Government Minister for business, Innovation and Energy, Paul Wheelhouse, also spoke at the event about the importance of the garden centre and plant trade. "I am delighted Dobbies remains committed to its Scottish roots and Scottish supply chain."
Nicholas Marshall speech at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh 26th September 2017
"Good evening Minister, ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the Royal Botanical Garden Edinburgh. It is a great honour to be joined this evening by the minister for business, innovation and energy, Paul Wheelhouse.
"We have invited you here this evening to talk briefly (very briefly I promise you) about our plans for the future and to recognise and celebrate Scottish horticulture which in recent years has suffered from intense competition from abroad, notably Europe.
"We are at Edinburgh because it is the birthplace of horticulture in Scotland and dates back to the 17th century. Due to the hard work of generations of brilliant botanists, it is still today one of the world’s greatest botanical Gardens.
"There is another reason why we are here this evening and that is due to an extraordinary coincidence. Exactly 200 years ago two babies were born. One in Scotland and one in England. Both were educated in Scotland. One would found the oldest gardening business in Britain and the other would become a renowned plant hunter and botanist.
"James Dobbie at an early age was interested in growing plants and had some success at the Highland Agricultural Show in1840. He became Chief Constable of Renfrewshire in 1855 but his love of growing plants persisted and in 1865 started a seed business which flourished and enabled him in 1866 to give up his day job as Chief Constable. After James’s death Dobbies moved south to Kent where it continued to flourish. It wasn’t until 1934 that Dobbies moved north again to Edinburgh to where the head office is still located today. It was not until the latter part of the twentieth century that Dobbies became a household name under the stewardship of the Barnes family.
"The other baby born 200 years ago was Joseph Hooker, my great great grandfather. He was educated at Glasgow University where his father was professor of botany. I like to think that he bumped into James Dobbie in Glasgow, possibly at a flower show or more likely, at their age, in a bar. After university Joseph became a plant hunter travelling the globe and getting into all sorts of scrapes in his quest to bring back new plant species to Britain (the forerunner of the gap year).
"Prior to travelling to the Himalayas Joseph was persuaded by his father to apply for the post of Regius Keeper of the Edinburgh Botanic Garden due to the recent death of the incumbent Robert Graham. However much to the dismay of the entire international botanical community (and these are not my words) the chauvinist Edinburgh Town Councillors gave the job to a local boy, John Balfour.
"Now it is well known that my family do not bear grudges which is why we are here this evening, and anyway the prospect of travelling the world was a much more exciting prospect for a young man like Joseph.
"Based on his travels, Joseph wrote a book called Himalayan Journals which he sent to his closest friend to get his advice. His friend wrote back to him to say that he thought the book was excellent and complimented Joseph on his ability as a great botanist, geographer, artist and writer. However his friend continued with a word of warning. “Joseph, old chap, you may be all of the things I have mentioned above but your offer to dedicate the book to me shows your complete lack of commercialism. Joseph, you must find someone really famous to dedicate your book to who will thus help to sell your excellent work” Signed, your affectionate and admiring friend, Charles Darwin.
"Joseph was considered one of the greatest British botanists and for twenty years served as Director of the Royal Botanical Gardens Kew.
"Dobbies has a long history and is a wonderful brand which attracts great loyalty from both customers and staff, an oasis in a world of cynical retailing. I have known and admired Dobbies all through my career, as I am a friend of James Barnes, who as you all know, was responsible for building Dobbies into a national brand. I am delighted to say that James, Sharon Brown and Johnny Trotter all previous directors are here this evening.
"Dobbies spent the last few years owned by Tesco but last summer it was acquired by private individuals including an old friend, Andrew Bracey who asked me in March if I would like to run Dobbies. I didn't need asking twice and jumped at the chance. I am very fortunate to have been joined at Dobbies by a host of old friends. Most of them have worked with me for many, many years and now, together with existing Dobbieites, form a very experienced, cohesive, loyal and vibrant team. There are also representatives here tonight from all our garden centres in Scotland and the north of England. From Inverness and Aberdeen in the north to Ayr and Carlisle in the west and Newcastle in the east.
"We are ambitious and completely aware of what we have to do and will work tirelessly to achieve it. We will cherish Dobbies and polish up the somewhat tarnished image of the last few years. Our ambition is to make Dobbies the leader in everything we do and plants are centre stage to our renaissance.
“Now is the time for British Nurseries to step up to the plate”, so wrote Horticulture Week, and they are right. I realise we live in uncertain times. Brexit is upon us and scare mongers are trying hard to frighten us BUT it is a real opportunity for the horticulture industry and we should grasp the nettle! We already know that our customers would prefer to buy locally grown, Scottish plants and the weakness of the pound against sterling now gives our nursery men and women, a great opportunity.
“Scottish nurseries, we want to do business with you” but we want a fresh approach. Our customers will support you but, in return, they deserve to be offered the best quality, range and value for money. We will work with you to provide what the customer wants. You will then be pushing at an open door. Our gardening market in the U.K. is worth 4 billion. The sky is, therefore, the limit.
"Brexit is an opportunity which should be grasped with both hands. This is the time for all of us to step up to the plate.
"Now, there was another Joseph Hooker, known as Joe, who was born a couple of years earlier than James and Joseph, in America, and a distant cousin of Joseph’s. His story was told to me by Catherine Hooker the internationally renowned dress designer. Joe was, she informed me, responsible for our good family name to be linked to a different trade altogether, but that is another story much too indelicate to be told here.
"General Joe Hooker, fought in the American Civil War and was promoted to command the army. His letter of promotion contains some exhortations which I would like to borrow this evening to encourage our Scottish nurseries to achieve success. You may guess the author from the eloquence of the hand; I quote “ I wish to place you at the head of the army. And yet I think it is best for you to know that there are some things in regard to which I am not quite satisfied, however I do believe you have the skill, confidence and ambition. Beware of rashness, beware of rashness but with energy and sleepless vigilance, go forward and give us victories” Yours very truly, Abraham Lincoln.
"I therefore would like to propose a toast to our nurserymen here tonight “ Dobbies needs you, your country needs you” . Ladies and Gentlemen “To our great Scottish nurseries”. Thank you."
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