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Bank holiday weather misery predicted for retailers

What a difference a year makes. On May Day last year millions of Britons were rubbing on sun lotion and firing up their barbecues.

But following an April full of floods, even more dismal weather will strike this weekend as temperatures drop around the country and the rain continues. The south-east and south-west of England are set to be the hardest hit, with many flood warnings still in place.

And there is little sign of the clouds clearing – the UK is expected to endure unseasonably poor weather until June. The combination of downpours in the south and snow and sleet in the north has left some forecasters predicting the coldest start to May for 70 years.

For DIY chains and garden centre retailers, the first May long weekend is the biggest of the year, accounting for roughly 5% of annual garden industry sales. The stakes are even higher this year after the wettest April on record wiped out half of the planting season.

"The bank holiday is even more important than usual given the exceptionally bad weather we have had during April," said Gary Scroby, policy manager at the Horticultural Trades Association. "It was very bad news for the industry because people didn't go to garden centres and buy plants."

The May Day holiday used to see Britons press the button on neglected DIY tasks, but a stagnant housing market means people are more reluctant to undertake supposedly value-adding projects.

Households now spend £1.2bn less on DIY than they did in 2008, according to retail experts at Conlumino, making life tough for specialist chains such as B&Q, which has posted 100 demonstration videos on YouTube in an attempt to get beginners in the mood.

While in 2011 parts of the country were hotter than the Mediterranean in May, this year Met Office spokesman Dan Williams said the temperature would be 3-4C lower than the seasonal average of 15-16C.

Source : Jamie Doward & Zoe Wood – The Guardian

05 May 2012
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