Sale prospect of Garden Centre Group blooming

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The Independent Online

More favourable weather and a stronger focus on plants has helped the Garden Centre Group return to sales growth this year after its profits tumbled in 2010.

The 130-store retailer, which is up for sale for as much as £300m, has grown total sales by 7 per cent so far this year, lifted by a storming performance on horticultural products during April's heatwave.

The Garden Centre Group, formerly called Wyevale, has also been boosted by its acquisition of Country Homes & Gardens in August. Before this, Lloyds Banking Group put the UK's biggest gardening specialist up for sale in July by hiring advisers at Rothschild.

Private equity firms and Tesco – which owns the Dobbies garden centre chain – as well as rival grocer Morrisons have requested to see sale documents for the Garden Centre Group. The chain's property has been valued at about £300m.

But the Garden Centre Group's pre-tax profits fell to just £860,000 in the year to 26 December 2010, down from £13.21m the previous year. The unfavourable weather conditions, notably the snow in December, contributed to flat like-for-like sales.