Insight into the UK Day Nursery Market 

Nick Brown, Director & Head of Brokerage – Childcare & Education, Christie & Co

19th June 2023

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Whilst 2023 has been busy in terms of transactions across the country, we have also seen some larger and single-site operators looking to buy, take stock and review the performance of their portfolios to ensure their cost base is under control. This has resulted in most operators needing to feed this through to parents through fee increases, to levels we have not seen in recent times.

The integration of acquisitions has been made slightly more challenging for everyone due to the shortage of staff across all qualification levels. We have seen high-quality staff being lured or poached between operators as the pool of options becomes smaller. Some operators are now focussing on their own training academies to try and make sure they have the necessary talent in their settings.

So far this year, not much has changed in terms of what buyers are looking for; at the top of buyers’ wish lists are high-performing individual settings and small clusters, and we have seen some of the larger groups become targets for PE looking to gain further ground in the sector. All the major hubs across the UK saw activity and, for the right assets, there is plenty of competitive tension between buyers, resulting in owners continuing to achieve superb prices for their settings.

We have also seen an increase in the number of operators being approached directly by buyers – time and time again we have shown that selling through an agent rather than directly maximises the business’s value and ensures that you speak to a range of buyers which will result in finding the best match for your nursery in terms of value and who you are passing your business on to. Having an experienced broker is essential to guide you through what can be a tricky and sometimes daunting process.

Case study: Kids Play Nurseries – Milton Keynes

Kids Play Nurseries comprises four high-profile settings, offers day care to up to 455 children aged zero to five years, and boasts group revenues in excess of £3 million. Located primarily in Milton Keynes, with one setting in Bury St Edmunds, this is one of the leading childcare providers in that area. The established group has been owned by Paul Sharp for the last 17 years and, with support from us at Christie & Co, was acquired by Family First Day Nurseries earlier this year.

This was a superb deal to be part of. At the flagship setting in Milton Keynes known as ‘The Hub’, no expense has been spared in creating a premium environment for all the children to enjoy; with a Forest school, rooftop five-a-side pitch/activity area, and signature outdoor climbing wall! We are very confident that all these settings will continue to thrive under the ownership of Family First.

To find out more about the day nursery market in the UK, or for a confidential conversation about your business options, contact Nick Brown via email at or telephone – 07764 241 316.

Visit the Christie & Co website here.

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