Busy Bees adds to string of acquisitions

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The UK’s largest group has bought six more nurseries, continuing its run of deals this year.


Rockwell House Day Nursery in Wantage, one of four Bramleys Nurseries bought by Busy Bees

Busy Bees has bought four of the six family-run Bramleys Nurseries, adding a further 351 childcare places to its portfolio.

The Bramleys Nurseries bought by Busy Bees are Rockwell House in Wantage, which has recently increased its registration to 115 childcare places, Bramleys in Ardington, with 102 places, and Ladygrove in Didcot, which offers 88 places – all three are based in Oxfordshire. The fourth Bramleys nursery bought by Busy Bees is the 46-place York House in Salisbury.

Couple Sue and John Watson started the business 27 years ago. Mr Watson told Nursery World that they plan to take semi-retirement and have scaled down the business to two nurseries, which have been re-branded as Aurora Childcare.

The remaining sites are workplace nurseries for Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust - Pippins Day Nursery and Nursery School at Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, and Horton Day Nursery at Horton General Hospital.

‘We’ll be supporting our daughter Jessica [Bowen] and the team over the next few months while we get everything bedded in,’ said Mr Watson, confirming that around 135 staff have transferred to Busy Bees.

Mrs Watson added, ‘The decision for us to downsize was not taken lightly, as Bramleys Nurseries has been my life’s work. The process has been exciting and exhausting, but ultimately, very satisfying. I watched with pleasure as my long-serving members of staff welcomed in Busy Bees and I know they will go from strength to strength together. We wish them all well.’

The deal adds to the Busy Bees buyout of two more single-site providers in the past month - the 132-place Herriot Hill nursery in Edinburgh and 73-place Toybox nursery in Great Denham, Bedfordshire.

Commenting on the Bramleys Nurseries' acquisition, Marg Randles, managing director at Busy Bees Childcare, said, ‘We have very specific requirements when choosing who we buy. It has to be an environment that allows children to be happy and to thrive.

‘It has to be a place that either gives children the best start in life or where we think we can make it happen. We look for great leadership and committed teams willing to strive to deliver exceptional opportunities for children and support services to parents. We can provide support tools and training opportunities expertise in child development, nutrition, health and safety, but staff are the key to success.’

Rosie Adlem, associate director at Christie & Co who managed the sale, added, ‘It was an honour to work with Sue, John and Jess throughout the sales process of Bramleys Nurseries and I wish them all the very best for the future. It was clear from the outset that they strived for excellence in everything they do and the quality of their group, and the way in which they approached the process was no different.

‘The children’s day nursery market continues to show strong growth and the sale of Bramleys Nurseries demonstrates the desire for good quality regional groups. We fully expect the remainder of 2017 to continue in the same vein.’

The latest acquisitions by Busy Bees follow the purchase of two New Town nurseries in Edinburgh in June.

The biggest UK deal of the year so far for the nursery group was the buyout of the 61-strong nursery group Treetops in March.

Busy Bees now operates around 340 nurseries throughout England, Scotland and Wales, catering for more than 35,000 children and employing and training more than 8,000 staff.

The group is also continuing to expand globally, completing the deal last week on 78 BrightPath nurseries in Canada.

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