It was August 2018 when Blue Diamond took on the first 9 of the 17 garden centres it acquired at the break-up of the Wyevale group.
At the time of purchase, their combined turnover was £36.5m and managing director Alan Roper realised what an opportunity this presented.
In the next two years Blue Diamond has increased sales by +65%, having invested a relatively modest £4.5m in partial upgrades of the shop fittings, some of the plant areas and some restaurants.
Bicester increased product sales by 87% in 2 years
Sales have risen sharply at every centre. Margins have improved as well.
Excluding restaurants as they have been closed for part of the year due to Coronavirus, Bicester product sales have risen from £3.8m in 2018 to £7.1m in 2020.
At Melbicks they have increased from £3.4m to £6.4m. Cadbury has improved from £4.9m to £8.3m, while Percy Throwers has grown from £2.8m to £4.6m. This growth has been achieved despite the 2-month spring closure last year due to Coronavirus.
How has Blue Diamond achieved this?
Alan Roper says the real story is how badly the Wyevale garden centres were run. He said, “it’s unbelievable how badly those people were running the business. There was no understanding of the customer or the sector. No customer profiling and no retail strategy. No energy, no passion.
“It’s been a question of getting the right product and the right staffing levels to give the right service.”
Where has the growth come from?
Roper prefers to use gross profit growth rather than sales growth to assess the performance of his sites.
The biggest earner was the category for gardening products, where the gross profit has been boosted by £2.5m (84%).
Fashion has blossomed +512% adding £1.1m to GP. Christmas sales increased by +160% and plant sales by +44%, adding £1.8m to GP. Garden leisure GP has lifted +134%.
Investment to follow
While restaurants are closed due to the Covid-19 lockdown, Blue Diamond is investing. Cadbury and Weybridge will each have 2 new restaurants. The Costa coffeeshops are being upgraded to Blue Diamond’s own Kipling format first introduced at Bicester.
Also planned this year is an extension to the Sanders retail space and a new Atrium at Bicester.
Next year Endsleigh, Cardiff and Percy Throwers will have refits and upgrades.
Source : Reproduced with permission from George Bullivant at GardenForum / insightdiy