Following the easing of restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, the return of consumer confidence and a surging interest in gardening, Notcutts delivered a strong trading performance during the year ending February 2022. Turnover at £79.6m was up 23.8% on the prior year. Operating profits grew strongly to £8.42m underpinned by additional sales, strong gross margin and close cost control.
The 2021/22 financial year, ending in February, saw Notcutts resume its capital development programme with projects in Woodbridge, Solihull, Dukeries (Worksop), Ashton Park (Aston Under Lyne) and Oxford. Significant investment was also made with the commencement of two IT system replacement projects.
Nick Burrows, CEO of Notcutts, said: “It’s terrific to have completed phase 2 of our Woodbridge redevelopment project. Woodbridge was the first Notcutts garden centre and also the site where it all began for us when the company was originally founded by Roger Crompton Notcutt in 1897. A sparkling new entrance, a new canopy with a rainwater harvesting installation, the introduction of wild meadow zones, extended car parking and the addition of a new garden buildings showcase were all part of this project. These works have complemented our new restaurant which was completed in March 2020 and our woodland nature walk which we opened in 2019.”
Burrows added: “At our Solihull garden centre, we have completed a new glasshouse which has substantially increased our covered plant area. We have introduced a range of new visual merchandising displays and are now able to offer our customers wider plant selections over an extended season. As with our Woodbridge project we have also introduced a rainwater harvesting installation here.
“Other projects completed during the year included the first stages of planteria works which form part of our wider Oxford garden centre development project; an internal refit of Ashton Park; improvements across our Dukeries garden centre which have included a new car park, the restoration of a former ornamental pond and the introduction of new wild meadow zones.
“Significantly we have also invested in two new IT systems which are due to go live within our business later this year and will support new efficiencies in our core business and customer relationship management processes,” said Burrows. “Our e-commerce operation has also been strengthened with ongoing system development and the establishment of a new picking, packing, despatch and order management centre based at our Solihull garden centre.”
Bridget McIntyre, Chairman commented: “As we look forward to the year ahead we are delighted to have completed the acquisition of Frosts Brampton in August which becomes Notcutts’ 19th garden centre. This is a great addition to our portfolio. I’m also especially pleased to see the continuing progress we are achieving in supporting colleagues throughout the business with their personal development and skills training. We now have over 100 courses available on our My Learning platform and we are supplementing this with a variety of in-person training sessions which have included: equality, diversity and inclusion; environmental awareness; social media and digital marketing and horticultural skills where we have a three-stage learning programme available to all colleagues.
“A positive culture is something I believe is essential to a flourishing organisation and it was pleasing to see that, for the third successive time, our annual colleague survey showed another step forward on so many measures that contribute towards this. Recognition is an important part of the culture that we have in Notcutts and it was therefore wonderful to see the return of our annual awards dinner celebrations after a two year hiatus brought about by the Covid pandemic,” said McIntyre.
Caroline Notcutt, Vice Chairman, expressed great excitement about the forthcoming year: “We are continuing to look forward with a busy agenda. Bringing Brampton into the Notcutts fold will be an important area for our focus as we continue to celebrate our 125th anniversary year. The next phases of our Oxford garden centre redevelopment with a new car park and a complete interior refit; the planned restoration to bring back the beautiful Messenger glasshouses in Dukeries; new plant area canopies in our Cranleigh and St Albans garden centres; an internal refit in Solihull; and a suite of environmental projects including solar installations at a number of our garden centres, new wild meadow and wild life zones, rainwater harvesting projects and recycling projects. All these will continue the progress we have made in recent years.”
Caroline Notcutt added: “I’ve been especially pleased to see the huge focus that Nick and his leadership team have placed on the delivery of superb customer service by our colleagues. Our customer satisfaction scores have strengthened again this year. This is so important to me and all the Notcutt family. We will be running a company wide programme this Autumn when all colleagues will be participating in team sessions on the delivery of brilliant customer experiences. These will be engaging and uplifting occasions and we will be closing our garden centres early when they take place to enable all colleagues to participate.
“Our community engagement programme has also continued to flourish. All our garden centres and our Woodbridge support office support charities and community groups within their localities. We also have an established partnership with Pennies which enables customers to support charitable causes with us. At a company level we have enjoyed a rewarding partnership with Thrive through the Charles Notcutt bursary over recent years. We have now entered into a new partnership with the Green Light Trust whose mission is to ensure that everyone has equitable access to the power of nature. Embracing the themes of gardening, wellbeing, environment and nature, Green Light Trust very much reflect our values and aspirations,” commented Caroline Notcutt.