Notcutts investment focus after cold snap hits sales

A woman gardening. Picture PA.

A woman gardening. Picture PA. - Credit: PA

Notcutts is hoping investment in its garden centres will pay dividends after an 'unseasonably' cold spring at the beginning of last year dealt a blow to its retail sales.

Andrew Staff, chief operating officer, said 2014 had been an 'extremely important' period for the firm as it moved forward with plans to bolster its retail offering with more restaurant and leisure facilities.

The move comes after the Woodbridge company – which has a store on Daniels Road, Norwich – saw sales hit by a cold snap in 2013, but managed to recover some 'lost ground' thanks to a stronger-than-expected performance later that summer.

According to its latest accounts, the group's pre-tax profits fell 57pc from £2.743m to £1.168m, while turnover increased from £53.75m to £55.86m in the period to February 28, 2014.

Mr Staff said: '2014 has been an extremely important year for us in terms of investing in both new and current retail sites, so it's encouraging to see this work is reflected in our turnover growth.

'In April this year, we reopened our flagship Tunbridge Wells centre after completely rebuilding the site. Since then, we have invested in a similar refurbishment at Wheatcroft. We understand that customers are looking for more than just a retail outlet when they visit our centres so we're investing in developing other areas, in particular our restaurants, in order to offer a wider leisure experience.'

Reviewing the business in its accounts to February this year, chairman Roger Pedder stated: 'The retail environment continues to be challenging and was further compounded by an unseasonably cold start to the spring season which impacted garden centre retailing particularly hard. Whilst in line with the sector, the spring performance was down on what was already a difficult previous year.

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'Trading improved in the summer and second half of the year beating the previous year's results and reclaiming some of the lost ground for the full year.'

The EDP Top100 firm, which runs 18 garden centres across the country and employs more than 1,000 people, recently won a national retail marketing award for its website campaign to create the UK's first Santa's Grotto Street View.

In partnership with digital agency Crafted, the company used a festive display at its Norwich store to build a virtual tour for Christmas shoppers.

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