The new owners of Dobbies Garden Centres have vowed to add more stores to the chain and boost the retailer’s ecommerce offer.
Tesco confirmed today it has agreed to sell Dobbies to a group led by Midlothian Capital Partners and Hattington Capital in a deal worth £217m.
Speaking to Retail Week today Midlothian Capital’s Andrew Bracey – one of the investors and former Ocado chief finance officer – revealed ambitions to add “many, many more stores” to the 35-strong garden centre chain across the UK.
Dobbies is currently the UK’s second largest specialist garden centre retailer, after market-leader Wyevale.
The group of investors, which includes Bracey, Aidan Clegg, Neil Currie, Barney Burgess and Frederick Goltz, said they have visions of the “iconic” Dobbies becoming “the market leader in the garden centre sector”.
Bracey said: “There is huge scope for new stores. We can see towns across the whole of Scotland where we would add stores.
“There are lots of places where you can go with this business, where the additional stem mileage from a distribution perspective is limited and you can therefore achieve a great return on sales.”
He added, however, that the group is “not in a rush”.
Bracey said: “We would work with the outstanding team of colleagues at Dobbies, who have opened 17 stores in the last eight or nine years and have a strong track record at doing this and lots of experience.”
Bracey said the group did not plan to close any stores because they are all “well run” and “make their own contribution”.
Protecting staff and headquarters
Earlier today, Dobbies’ new owners made a commitment to protect jobs. Bracey told Retail Week that he did not yet know the management team well, but that “the proof is in the pudding”.
”They are clearly a very capable bunch of people,” he said.
Confirming that the investors have no current plans to relocate from Dobbies’ headquarters in Scotland, Bracey said he would be reluctant to “betray his Scottish heritage” and that he was ”looking forward to spending a lot of time in Edinburgh”.
Bracey also said that Dobbies would soon have a ”leading online platform”.
He said the group would bring in capital and draw on his experience at online grocery retailer Ocado to quickly grow this side of the business.
Bracey said the group is committed to the chain’s longterm growth.
He added: “We’re not a private equity firm, so we’re not driven by a short-term horizon of three or four years.
”All of us are passionate about the custodianship of this business: Dobbies has found a good home with our group.”