Dobbies Garden Centres acquired

Investment firm Ares Management said its funds will drive ‘long-term growth’


The UK’s largest garden centre retailer Dobbies has been acquired by funds managed by long-term investor Ares Management which has committed to financially support the business.

Founded in 1865, Dobbies has 4,000 employees, and recently opened its flagship 70,000 sq ft store in Tewkesbury, one of the largest in the company’s 75-outlet portfolio, with a large greeting card section along with a diverse range of products covering gardening, plants, homeware, and pets.

A statement by Ares Management said its funds “have been lenders and shareholders since the business was acquired from Tesco in 2016. With the support of Ares’ funds, we will continue to execute on our strategy to drive the long-term growth of Dobbies”.

Above: Dobbies has 75 outlets
Above: Dobbies has 75 outlets

Tesco bought Dobbies Garden Centres for £155.6million in 2007, then sold the business on to a group of investors led by Midlothian Capital Partners and Hartington Capital for £217m using funds managed by Ares – which describes itself as a “leading global alternative investment manager offering clients complementary primary and secondary investment solutions across the credit, private equity, real estate and infrastructure asset classes”.

The business bought 37 stores from Wyevale Garden Centres in 2019 to double in size, and the flagship store was announced in June 2020, finally being opened last November by broadcaster and Dobbies’ ambassador Jo Whiley along with ITV This Morning’s gardening presenter Daisy Paynes, with Toasted Crumpet being one of the publishers prominently featured in greetings section.

Above: Toasted Crumpet’s display in the flagship store’s greetings section
Above: Toasted Crumpet’s card and gift display in the flagship store’s greetings section

The launch came just in time for the Christmas sales period at the purpose-built eco-friendly outlet where heating and lighting are generated by energy-efficient low-carbon technologies while rainwater harvesting has been incorporated for plant irrigation and all timber used in the fitout is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council plus EV charging points are available in the car park.

Part of the developing Cotswolds Designer Outlet, Tewkesbury created around 100 jobs for local and neighbouring communities, and is expected to serve more than 750,000 customers each year – its opening was billed as “underlining the company’s ongoing growth across the UK”.

The acquisition is the latest in a recent series of garden centre moves with Blue Diamond buying Van Hage’s three sites to increase to 42 outlets, and Hillier taking over Rosebourne’s trio to reach 22, while British Garden Centres added Whiteleys as its fourth buy for 2022 to take the family-run operator to 62 outlets in England and Wales and cement its position as the second largest UK group behind Dobbies..

All the groups have a wide range of products on offer in addition to their horticulture sides, with large greeting card and gift sectors, plus restaurants, crafting, toys and clothing areas, as well as special Christmas shops.

Top: Jo Whiley (in pink) and Daisy Paynes (in yellow) opened Dobbies’ flagship store

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