Despite major upgrades to a number of its centres, Notcutts has recorded strong growth in the year to February 2019, with operating profit up 52.5% to £1.5m.
Gross margin increased by 0.6% basis points to 47.5% and stock turn improved from 3.4 to 3.9 during the year. Sales were level at £74.7million in a year when four of the group’s garden centres had trading patterns disrupted for extended periods of time due to redevelopment and improvement projects.
Work carried out across the group during the year included restaurant redevelopments at Woodford Park and Dukeries (Worksop) garden centres, as well as full-scale centre redevelopments, covering both retail environments and restaurants, completed at Booker and Rivendell (Widnes) Garden Centres. In each of these schemes Notcutts’ iconic show gardens were included as part of the developments. Capital expenditure for the year was £10.5million.
The sizeable refurbishment projects that were carried out in the past year form part Notcutts’ five-year strategic plan to reposition and upgrade its garden centre estate. The group confirmed today that it has also secured planning permission for further upgrades at its Solihull and Tunbridge Wells garden centres.
Chief executive Nick Burrows said: “With the completion of major projects at Rivendell, Woodford Park and Booker we are now some two thirds of the way through our planned programme of improvements. Our attention now turns to further projects at our Garden Pride (Ditchling), Woodbridge and St Albans Garden Centres which will be completed in 2019/20.”
Commenting on these results, chief executive Nick Burrows said: “We are pleased with our progress during a year in which we were able to deliver good growth in operating profit. A focus on margin and a successful cost efficiency programme helped underpin this achievement. This during a year when we completed our new brand rollout and launched a new website and online store.”
Chairman Nicky Dulieu also commented on the overhaul the business has given some of its sites and also emphasised the importance of continuing to redevelop remaining garden centres in the portfolio. She said: “We have now secured planning permission for further upgrade projects at our Solihull and Tunbridge Wells Garden Centres. With both of these developments we will be improving and extending our restaurants which are now so important to the overall Notcutts customer experience.”
Ms Dulieu, with all members of the Notcutts board, has also championed the company’s developing e-commerce and digital capability, which is seen as a key component for the company in attracting the emerging millennial customer to gardening.
In keeping with this ethose, the business also launced new website and e-commerce platform during the year and Notcutts’ new brand rollout was completed across all 18 garden centres.
Notcutts introduced further show gardens in the year and now have these attractions in 14 of its 18 garden centres. Vice chairman Caroline Notcutt has hosted events for customers, partners and local communities as each show garden has been unveiled. “Our show gardens are attracting customers in great numbers,” she said. “They are an important part of the Notcutts brand and customer proposition now and really showcase Notcutts’ horticultural credentials which extend back over 120 years. We have designed them to inspire customers with ideas for plant combinations and garden layouts. They are true wellbeing spaces and are becoming a real focal point for our customers as well as a sense of great pride for our garden centre colleagues who look after them throughout the year.”
Last month DIY Week attended the unveiling of a show garden at Notcutts Maidstone and, further official openings will take place this week at Notcutts Victoria Garden Centre in Pontefract on July 17, and Ashton Park Garden Centre in Greater Manchester on July 18.