Alan Roper welcomed staff and suppliers to an evening event on Monday at Bicester Avenue Garden Centre to celebrate the completion of the refurbishment from a Wyevale Garden Centre that they bought last summer to a Blue Diamond Centre that is ready and raring for Easter 2019.
"Welcome to Bicester. The new Bicester. The best manifestation of Bicester in its history since it was built, I think you'll agree. We've been refurbishing many of the ex-Wyevales: Cadbury has been going through some refurbishment, Nailsworth, my old centre has been completely finished and Endsleigh in Devon is being done currently. It's about to start at Weybridge with a new restaurant and at Melbicks. We're working on all the ex Wyevales to get them to a standard.
"Their level of turnover when we bought them was around £38 million. When all the work's complete over the next two to three years they will be around £82 million. That's the uplift that we're looking for. Currently they are 50% up on themselves in terms of turnover and they're heading on the right path.
"Both the staff here and the customers have been really positive about the changes that we're bringing into the centres.
"It's a big pressure on my team. They're looking exhausted. It's been a lot of work for all of them for all the centres. I was here two weeks ago, this is the first day I've been back and the work they've put in the last two weeks is phenomenal.
"We've got Jazz Edwards as the manager of Bicester and she's been ably supported by Nick Jones who's been working long hours and keeping the team here together. I'd like to thank Nick for everything that he's been doing here. We have Max who has been working on the shop fit along with Helen Taylor, who's been with me for 20 years, and Adam has been working with me on the design.
"There's a lot of the team are here tonight and they've done a great job. It's a good looking centre.
"The next phase here is at the end of April when we're building an Atrium that will link the main building with the next building along the Avenue. We'll be taking the wall down between the restaurant and the Atrium and that will become an extension to the restaurant with trees and a nice seating area. Then in the building next door to the Atrium we're putting in a gin distillery where we'll be making our own gin for sale across all the centres.
"We've also developed a new concept cafe called Kipling. As you can see from the prose on the wall Kipling wrote about making a cake a couple hundred years ago which is where the connection with Kipling and cakes came from. You can also see my new concept for a sweet shop. We're going to get some rock made with people's names through the middle so you can choose your name.
"From tomorrow we'll be launching on social media and shouting about Bicester. Thank you for coming this evening. You are our partners. You're very important to us. I'm glad so many of you turned out and we look forward to doing plenty of business with you through Bicester and the other centres of which we have some more coming up in the pipeline. So, thank you all and enjoy the evening. Thank you."
See GTN Xtra's photo tour of the refurbished centre below
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