The extent to which catering facilities are becoming integral to the financial performance of garden centre retailers has been illustrated by the latest set of results from one of the leading lights of the sector.
Wyevale Garden Centres’ earnings grew by more than 30% last year in what was a solid year for the company, but the growth was as much driven by the addition of coffee shops and restaurants as it was flowers and plants.
Figures published by the Daily Telegraph reveal that Wyevale reported a 5% in sales to £2904m last year, while operating profits rose 55% to £34m.
Revenues were lifted by a re-launch of its Garden Kitchen restaurants and the roll-out of its in-house coffee shops, called Coffee Ground. Additionally, it also operates the Botanic Kitchen café while a around 5% of its stores now house Costa outlets.
Wyevale’s move into catering mirrors developments elsewhere in the multiple retail sector, with supermarkets such as Asda and Tesco refining their in-store and third party foodservice offering, and high street stalwarts such as Debenhams, Selfridges and John Lewis doing the same.
“Wyevale Garden Centres has had a transformational year, strengthening our position as the UK’s largest garden centre retailer,” said chief executive Kevin Bradshaw. “We adopted our national brand identity, building our horticulture heritage, strengthened the core of our business through modernised operations, broadened our retail proposition and award-winning restaurant offer, invested in improving our centres for customers, and increased our number of high-quality garden centres to 148 during the year.”
The company’s accounts show that Wyevale spent £5.8m on what it calls “transformational projects” related to an overhaul of the group’s strategy.
Wyevale claims to serve “delicious food” in a great atmosphere. Its menu offers contemporary twists on classic favourites and rich organic coffee.
Last month it acquired Armitage’s Pennine and Birchencliffe garden centres in Yorkshire. It noted the fact that both benefit from strong customer bases and “popular restaurants”.
18 months ago Wyevale appointed Jason Danciger, formerly head of hospitality at Marks & Spencer, as its food and beverage director. Having had responsibility for more than 300 cafes and 80 casual dining eateries, he has brought tremendous foodservice experience to the role.
At the time, chief executive Kevin Bradshaw said: “Jason has a strong pedigree in food and beverage management. I am delighted to welcome him and very excited about the opportunities that lie ahead in making our restaurant offering the best it can be.”