About Us
After 150 years of trading, our various companies are now involved in a variety of enterprises from garden and hardware retailing, landscaping, contracting, construction, manufacturing, hospitality, real estate and property development. Our modern garden centres offer not only the best quality plants and gardening products but a range of services covering all your gardening needs including landscaping products and services and garden consultation. We even have a pet centre to cater to the furry and feathery members of your family.
150 Years of Trading in Otago & Southland

From horse and coach to railways and whaling, from seed and grain to poultry and stock food, from garden fertiliser to garden centres – the Nichol’s brand is a proud Otago and Southland tradition spanning over 150 years of enterprise. 

Our History


Nichol’s expands further throughout the region with the opening of a purpose built complex in Cromwell, with garden centre, landscape supplies and garden café.
The Dunedin garden centre sees a major renovation and expansion and the main part of store is moved into the former Nichol’s Stock Food and Fertiliser Factory after an innovative re-use and renovation project. A Nichol’s Café is added along with Nichol’s Pet Warehouse which now occupies the former garden centre space. Together with the landscaping centre this award winning complex is now a mecca for garden and pet lovers. Coffee lovers also benefit from our incredibly popular onsite cafe, the "Good Oil Café".

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Plant Production Introduction

Nichol’s becomes involved in plant production with the purchase of Invercargill’s Evandale Gardens, one of the South Island’s oldest and leading growers, established in 1930. Evandale has progressively expanded and now supplies leading retailers quality Southland grown plants throughout the South Island.

Building & Growing...

  • 2000 - Central Machine Hire Ltd, a Wanaka based contracting and civil construction company is added to assist with an ever increasing amount of land and subdivision projects.
  • 1998 - Nichol’s purchases Precision Paving and starts manufacturing paving and concrete products including Natural Earth Bricks which are sold throughout NZ.
  • 1996 - Nichol’s expands further, adding a landscaping branch in Wanaka and increasingly becomes involved in a more and more diverse range of business and development activities.
  • 1995 - Nichol’s buys Young’s Garden Centre in Invercargill and returns to Southland. Nichol’s is now firmly established as one of NZ’s leading garden centre retailers.
  • 1993 - Martin buys Jac’s Mitre 10, puts on his hardware cap and branches out on his own. Willowridge Developments is formed in Wanaka and the company subdivison projects commence.

Fire Guts Nichol's Invercargill Store.

A disastrous fire destroys Nichol’s main factory in Mersey Street, Invercargill, and Nichol’s Bros again faces an uncertain future. Despite this, Bob Muirhead continues to trade together with fourth generation Nichol's son: John, son of Ernest.

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Allan Dippie Joins the Business

  • 1988, Allan's brother, Martin Dippie, joins the business commencing trading with an initial staff of just three.
  • Allan joins in 1985 and establishes Nichol's Landscaping division
  • Neville & Gaynor Dippie purchase Nichol's Garden Market from the Nichol Family in 1984
  • 1979 - Allan & Martin Dippie start working after school in the fertiliser factory and bagging woodchips for the garden centre

Photo: Allan Dippie - from after-school yard boy to managing director





New ventures in gardening

Nichol's expands again into gardening. The Nichol's Garden Market is opened in 1976 adjacent to the stock food and garden fertiliser factory in Timaru Street.

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Sandy Sinclair 1919-2005

  • Sandy joins Nichol's in 1975 starting out in the garden centre
  • He becomes the garden centre's longest serving staff member retiring in 2004 at 85 years old

Photo: Sandy Sinclair








Another fire, this time Dunedin.

In 1969 a disastrous fire destroys the Dunedin stock food factory in Bachop Street. 

Nichol's moves to new factory premises on Timaru Street in 1973 - today's current site. 

Neville Dippie Joins the Business


  • Ernest Nichol asks Neville Dippie to move from his role at National Mortgage to manage the Dunedin Operations of Nichol's.
  • Neville joins in 1965. In 1975 he moved to the Garden Centre and retired in 2004



Photo: Neville Dippie






A century of trading celebrated!


  • 1965 and Nichol's celebrates a century of trading at a special function in Invercargill. 
  • Nichol's expands again into garden fertilisers and automates its stock food factories in Dunedin and Invercargill: push button manufacturing begins. 


Branching into machinery

  • 1960 finds Nichol's expanding yet again but this time into machinery with the NZ agency for the 'Alvan Blanch' grain dryer. NZ's first grain dryers are imported and sold. 
  • By 1955 Nichol's reaches an annual turnover of 250,000 pounds across the three stores as business booms through the fabulous fifties.
  • After difficult years of trading through the Depression years of the 1930s, in 1954 Ernest Nichol proudly opens a new department store in Bluff with hardware, timber, grocery and drapery departments. This store eventually becomes one of the founding Mitre 10 stores in New Zealand. It is Nichol's first venture into the retail activities that will dominate its future later on. 

Third generation

  • A third generation Nichol, young Ernest, son of Ernest, takes the helm in 1946 having a marked influence on the future fortunes of the company. 
  • Nichol's expands in Invercargill into stock and poultry foods. 
  • 1948 sees the opening of the Dunedin Branch. 
  • 1951 and the first production of sheep nuts in the South Island is achieved. 

Photo: Gathering of staff of Nichol Bros in Invercargill (circa. 1951)


Passing on the reigns...2nd Generation



  • The original founder, Mr Samuel Nichol, dies in 1924 at age 83.
  • Second generation Nichol son, Ernest, and his tow sisters continue to control the business.
  • ​Photo: Staff assembled outside the Bluff premises of Nichol's in Bluff (circa. 1926). 







Taking on whaling

  • Nichol Bros operate two whaling ships 'Celestia" and the 'Chance' - the most famous whaler on the NZ coast.
  • The end of whaling in 1890 sees Nichol Bros put the Celestia to work as a coal hulk, importing coal from Newcastle, Australia. 
  • Nichol's expand their operations in the grain and wool trade as well as general merchants. 
  • George Nichol is founding director of the Southland Frozen Meat Company, that eventually included operation of the Makarewa and Mataura freezing works.
  • 1917 and a disastrous fire destroys the Nichol Bros grain stores in Bluff. 

Brothers unite



Samuel's brother, George, enters the business. The Nichol Bros expands into wool and grain storage. One of the first staff is office boy, Joseph George Ward, the future Prime Minister of New Zealand and later Sir Joseph Ward. 








The move to railways

Nichol's operates the Bluff-to-Invercargill railway line. The charge for bringing a prisoner from Bluff to Invercargill jail was 5/- (5 shillings) (no return ticket required!).

In the beginning...1865

  • Mr Samuel Nichol founds the company as the first agent for Cobb & Company's Bluff to Invercargill coach route which carried passengers and mail pre-railway days.