Woof woof! Me again… all four legs working and raring to go. But where does your old faithful Newshound start scratching?
Enough of Trump (there are other snooker players) and Brexit (which means what, precisely?), there must be far juicier bones to chew on, if only one could find the right trail…
Hang on, what’s this? A hastily scribbled Post-it from ’im upstairs suggesting one should be pointing one’s tracker kit northwards in the region of Liverpool and Edinburgh.
Liverpool…home of the Premier League’s current top goal scorers… but I guess the boss isn’t sending me to watch football. Merseyside also happens to be the home turf of B&M, those very cheap (or should one say ‘best value’) and just as cheerful discounters who have opened more stores in the past year than I’ve had hot dinners. (Sorry, boss, but you forgot the tripe again).
And Edinburgh? That’s where Dobbies the garden centre chain lives, under shiny new management, now including the not-so-new Mr N Marshall (of whom more later), who in the past week was installed as the CEO to replace John Cleland.
So what have they got to do with each other? Well, here’s a clue. A certain Knight of the Realm who once ran Tesco, which once owned Dobbies, is now chairman of B&M (tee-hee, it’s Leahy!). And the word on the street is that the buyers from Dobbies and B&M have been working closely together of late. Coincidence, that, wouldn’t you say?
Now, it could be, of course, that they just like taking coffee together. But I have a teeny weeny hunch they might be more than just café society pals.
Let’s see…Dobbies needs to be able to compete with the big boys at Wyevale GCs, who operate more than four times as many garden centres and enjoy the extra buying clout that goes with them. Meanwhile, B&M, whose revenues sailed past £2 billion a year ago, operates from 533 UK stores, having opened at least 34 in the past year (one loses count) and signalled an ambition to get to 850 in not too many years from now.
Now that carries the kind of buying clout Dobbies could make use of, not to mention the two massive distribution centres in which B&M might have a spare sq.m or two right now.
And Sir Terry Leahy, with his intimate knowledge of both parties, may well have seen how mutual benefits could be engineered.
If B&M also intends to make more of the gardening business in its stores, then staying close to Dobbies could be quite useful (no, make that very useful).
A Dobbies presence in B&M stores where there is not a Dobbies garden centre nearby? A few useful percentage points on the margin for Dobbies when buying core brands?
Who knows…I don’t, you don’t….but a resurgent Mr Marshall might be thinking about the possibilities.
Mr M, you will recall, was in the queue for Homebase before the Bunnings acquisition. It’s well-known that he is itching to get back to mainstream garden centre action, having had to let go of The Garden Centre Group (Wyevale ) when Terra Firma flashed the cash.
Sir Terry likes Dobbies (it was he who persuaded Tesco to buy them), and Mr M will quickly grow to love them, I’m sure. If they were to get their heads together, 'Sir Terry meets M' could be a double-act worth wagging my tail for…
For now, though, a lie-down beckons….woof woof!