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Garden Centres Report Positive Start To Trading

Female garden centre pink flowers shutterstock_124047661 725 x 500.jpg

Following the re-opening of garden centres in England and Wales last week the constant queues of customers were indicative of the pent-up demand everyone hoped there was.  GTN Xtra asked garden centres how their first real Saturday of the season had been and how their teams had coped with the “new normal" - here is a selection of their comments:

At Coolings, Paul Cooling said: “Even at Coolings Green & Pleasant, we’ve been inundated with requests for plants of all descriptions and compost is still selling like there’s no tomorrow. There is also a huge pent-up demand for BBQs and garden furniture. We’ve sold almost as much in the last 4 days as we did all through the shutdown online!” 

Chris Francis at Hilliers told GTN Xtra:  “We had an outstanding Saturday which followed 2 incredible days trade. Currently we are on track to match the full weeks like for like sales of last year in just 4 days. The 5 new centres are also performing well above expectation. We have sold over 22,000 plants from our nursery in just 3 days. Sales very much in core garden categories with majority of sales in veg plants, bedding, particularly zonal geraniums, nursery stock and Hillier multipurpose compost (10,000 bags). The team have coped exceptionally well and all customers have been very respectful of social distancing measures. A positive start. Let’s hope our suppliers can keep up with demand.” 

Mike Burks, The Gardens Group told us: “The new systems worked really well with customers behaving well in just about every case. We have a had a few who have been difficult, but the vast majority are loving being able to shop with us again and to do it safely. Coping with the numbers has been straightforward, average spend is well up and its gardening stock that is selling. We haven't yet re-opened furniture. Sales have been between 50 and 60% up on the same days last year. Stocking up again hasn't been straightforward as suppliers are also having to catch up. But overall very positive.” 

Carol Paris, new CEO at Rosebourne said: “It’s great to be back open. All centres have been very busy since we opened on Wednesday. Saturday was a fabulous day. The majority of customers were wanting plants and gardening, although we also did well on garden furniture. Very pleased with trade, clearly much pent up demand. Plants, compost & seeds all top sellers. Staff and customers coped very well with the new layout of the stores and the social distancing requirements. We have put entrances from the carpark into our plant areas so that the core gardening customer does not need to go indoors unless they want to."

Alan Roper, Blue Diamond reported that Saturday was a huge day at £1.6m ex VAT all gardening with plants over 50%. "The team worked tirelessly for 7 weeks on Home delivery racking up £10.6m and now have seamlessly readied businesses to deal with the huge instore demand. Credit to them all." 

Carl Chambers, InExcess was a little more sceptical: “If you observe the rules properly, I suggest that you can’t make enough money to cover costs. Yes we are very busy now but the cliff edge is a few weeks away! The “new normal“ is going to be tough!” 

At British Garden Centres, Boyd Douglas-Davies reported: “Sales have been much bigger than we expected over the first few days. Saturday was the busiest day so far by a considerable margin with garden plants - both hardy and seasonal - being in huge demand along with compost, pots and gardening goods. Comparisons with last year are a little tricky as BGC only had 16 of the now 57 centres but safe to say yesterday was a record day whichever way you look at it. Suppliers have been excellent, getting stock to us as quickly as possible and working with us throughout the weekend ensuring we can restock at the earliest opportunity in the coming days."

David Yardley, Klondyke, while still awaiting the decision to re-open in Scotland said: “Trade has been good and as you say especially plants and gardening. Customers shopping habits have changed and they are visiting throughout the day with a slight lull over lunch. Basket spends are much higher and overall visits are shorter with customers not browsing too much. We have had some queues but no traffic issues and customers are very accepting of the situation. We have had lots of comments from customers and staff that they are very happy with the measures we have put in place to keep them all safe.

“Overall since Wednesday like for like excluding restaurants and Scottish centres we are 84% up on last year until Saturday night. I don’t expect sales to continue at this level but hopefully we will still see some good figures for the next few weeks. Furniture has started to sell well in the past few days both in store and online.” 

Also awaiting the decision for re-opening in Scotland, Graeme Jenkins at Dobbies told GTN Xtra: “Trade has been very strong, with record days across the estate. Customers have been particularly keen to buy plants and gardening, as they continue to enjoy the Spring. I would hope that news we can re-open in Scotland comes very soon from the Scottish Government and I know the HTA are working very hard to support this.”

Simon Bourne at Perrywood said: “Yesterday was really busy and lots of money in the till. Plants have been flying out as well as compost, garden furniture and barbecues. Social distancing measures are working well but it is hard work. It will be interesting to see what will happen over the next few weeks. Can we sustain the trade or is it a surge which will slow down? Will suppliers keep up if sales carry on strong?” 

Gerald Ingram at Planters reported on Sunday evening: “We are expecting 10 days of bank holidays! Pent up demand, money saved up, no holidays this year, time off work furloughed, new interest in the garden! We had a good first day, unbelievably smooth followed by three record breaking days and a very good Sunday. Our big issue is lack of plant stock especially bedding and we will soon be short of Garden Furniture. The big sellers are bedding, hardy plants, furniture, gravels and garden sundries.”

Matthew Bent, Bents Garden & Home says: “It seemed to be that the Thursday and Friday were busy, but then Saturday was extra busy.  We did not have any expectations but we are up on last year (excluding restaurants) which is great and hope it continues. The team are on board and are happy with the new normal, the customers are also ok with the new normal, although there are a few of customers are struggling and want to go back to how it used to be. Plants, plants, compost and pots are selling like mad, I have never seen so many full trollies going through the tills.  We have less customers their average sale is a lot higher and they are spending less time on site.”

Source : Reproduced with permission from GtnXtra

19 May 2020

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