Posted: 14/05/2019

More foodie garden centres incoming as Dobbies chain doubles in size


Dobbies Garden Centres has snapped up 31 branches from rival Wyevale in a move that is expected to boost the sites’ food offerings and pose further competition for local independents.

Rumoured to be worth £135m, the deal nearly doubles the chain’s estate and could see nearby speciality food retailers challenged on price and vying for customers especially for mutually-stocked food and drink.

A Dobbies spokeswoman told FFD the new stores would be phased over to Dobbies’ livery and format – which includes food halls and restaurants – between May and June.

“We are working to get all of our ranges into the new stores as soon as possible,” she said.

The retailer has already demonstrated its focus on speciality food by striking partnerships with high-end supermarket Booths and Loch Fyne Seafood last year.

Matthew Grindal, owner of Manor Farm Shop in Lutterworth, Leicestershire, is about 15-20 minutes from one of the acquired Wyevale outlets and said it would be harder to compete on mutually-stocked lines.

“With their scale they can undercut which is why we made a decision five or six years ago to forget about selling lines like pasta and make sure that whatever we sell cannot be bought elsewhere,” he told FFD. “That is the only way we’ll survive.”

Emma Mosey, co-owner of Minskip Farm Shop near York, another location in which Dobbies has acquired a site, said the more speciality food businesses the better because they encouraged people to shop in them more regularly.

“Dobbies is far enough away that local people can still use us,” she said. “The better the existing businesses are, the better for the industry.”

Melanie Scragg, who owns Melanie’s Kitchen in Bristol near where one of the newly acquired Wyevale’s is located, said the upgrade would pose a threat but it was not “a game changer”.

The food offer in other Bristol garden centres had reduced and she thought they were all struggling.

The deal with Wyevale takes Dobbies to 69 branches. Tesco owned Dobbies between 2007 and 2016 before a group of investors bought the garden centre chain for £217m.

The new outlets take annual combined turnover to more than £300m. Chairman Andrew Bracey said the deal would benefit customers with “broader ranges, national coverage, a leading online offer and great prices”.

This story appeared in the May issue of Fine Food Digest. You can read more on the digital edition here.

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