Notcutts have recorded another good sales performance in the year ending February 2018 with turnover up 4.8% to £74.7m. This followed a 5.3% sales increase in the previous year.
As experienced by many in the retail sector, increased costs particularly from unfavourable movements in the pound sterling/dollar exchange rate, contributed to a more challenging economic backdrop. Consequently operating profit fell by 51.5% to £1m with gross profit margin decreasing by 1% point to 46.9% in the year.
Chief executive Nick Burrows said: “We are pleased to have delivered another year of sales growth against a more challenging economic backdrop than in recent years. Like others in the sector we experienced pressure on margins and increased costs associated with transportation, business rates and the national living wage.
“In such an economy we opted not to pass cost increases directly onto customers. Our approach was therefore very much on driving increased footfall and gaining market share as a solid foundation for new growth for when the post Brexit economy stabilises. We were pleased to see footfall grow strongly during the year with conversion rates also improving in our garden centres.”
Notcutts continued apace with a programme of developments and refurbishment projects during the year which form part of a longer term five year plan. Chairman Nicky Dulieu commented: “Refurbishment works at Cranleigh, St. Albans, Peterborough, Victoria (Pontefract) and Solihull were all completed, significantly improving the environment for customers. Upgraded colleague facilities were also completed in a number of our garden centres.”
Notcutts have also just opened two major redevelopment projects with new format restaurants in Rivendell (Widnes) and Woodford Park (Stockport). Planning permissions have also been secured for future developments in Woodbridge, Garden Pride (Ditchling), Solihull, Wheatcroft (Nottingham) and Booker.
By the end of 2018 the roll out of the new Notcutts brand across all 18 centres will be completed. There will also be an updated website and online store coming early in 2019.
Notcutts will continue the introduction of their iconic show gardens. These already feature in ten of their garden centres and are proving a real point of difference for the Notcutts brand as well as becoming popular draws for customers seeking fresh ideas and inspiration for their own gardens. Vice chairman Caroline Notcutt said: “I am so proud to see these superb show gardens being built in our garden centres. They really play to our horticultural expertise and support our goal of bringing an ever wider experience for our customers.”
There have been a number of other key milestones for Notcutts in the last year. Nick Burrows added: “We were particularly pleased to see notable step ups in both customer and colleague satisfaction during the year. This follows the introduction of a range of new initiatives including our own customer service training course, a wide programme of colleague recognition awards and the launch of a new Future Leaders programme for rising stars within the business.
“We also introduced a new menu throughout our restaurants which includes a range of healthy options and a new afternoon small plates menu. These have received positive comments from many of our customers and are another part of our strategy to widen the Notcutts’ visitor experience.”