Can Leighton Buzzard Garden Centre be saved as Home and Garden Group call in administrators?
Leighton Buzzard Garden Centre is facing closure after the company that rescued it less than two years ago hit financial problems and called in administrators.
The popular Hockliffe Road centre was taken over by the Home and Garden Group (H&G) when site owners Martin and Stuart Hammond decided to retire.
Now H&G, which leases the site, has informed its staff that the Leighton Buzzard operation and its nine other garden centres in the Midlands and the South (including Willington Home and Garden Centre near Bedford) have been put into administration. It’s understood financial issues were exacerbated by a prolonged winter and the late arrival of Spring.
Customers were emailed by the company on Friday announcing a “Closing sale now on”, with reductions in the price of all products.
It’s understood that London-based administrators Mazars are continuing trading on the H&G sites with a view to securing a sale of the business.
A spokesman for Martin and Stuart Hammond, who developed the family owned business after purchasing the then-derelict three-acre site in 1994, said: “As landlords, we are disappointed with the latest developments affecting the H&G activities on our business centre, which has been well supported by the local community since they took over our operations there in June 2016.
“We will continue to liaise with the H&G management and their administrators in their endeavours to maintain a viable ongoing business on the Leighton Buzzard site after what has been a difficult trading period for many similar businesses.
“Other business activities on the site, ranging from a children’s nursery to the popular aquatic centre and pet shop, are not affected by the H&G decision, and will continue trading as normal.”
Based at Upper Caldecote, near Biggleswade and founded in the 1960s, H&G, which negotiated a 15-year lease on the Leighton site, also operate a vast nursery facility, with around five million plants under cultivation at any one time - including around 600 varieties of roses - supplying products to a range of commercial outlets as well as to its own garden centres.
Back in 2016 when Home & Garden took on the lease, H&G director Karen Gill said: “We believe Leighton Buzzard fits comfortably into our horticultural portfolio. It has great potential which we hope to unlock by providing top quality products at very competitive prices.”