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The horticulture business: end-of-summer report

The extreme weather of 2012 has taken its toll on the horticultural trade, but autumn sales should see gardeners benefit.

This year the early Bank Holidays, so crucial to garden-centre business, were cold and wet, and gardeners lost the impulse to buy. Sales of bedding plants were badly hit, although water butts, slug pellets, weed and moss killers did phenomenally well.

The horticultural trade is now looking to make up sales in autumn, so watch out for big promotions on plants and all sorts of sundries. Autumn is an excellent time for planting, and buying British will help our home industry. Bulbs are starting to sell, which is an encouraging sign.

As Paul Hansord, MD of seed and plant retailer Thompson & Morgan says, the see-saw weather significantly affected gardeners’ purchasing patterns and spend: “Sustained aberrant wet weather meant many gardeners were not able to get going. The hosepipe ban also had a depressive effect on demand as people were already thinking it would be hard to keep their gardens watered.”

Even in February, Peter Burks, the chairman of the Garden Centre Association, representing 200 garden centres, considered retailing “very challenging” as cold weather hit sales of plants and sundries and centres relied on catering to boost business. Warm weather in early March saw plant sales rally, but continual deluges after April deterred many gardeners, with sales of barbecues, furniture and plants plummeting by around 50 per cent. Hot food and warm clothes were the only winners. Conversely, parts of Scotland seeing more sun than usual enjoyed a windfall.

Nicholas Marshall, the managing director of The Garden Centre Group, representing 129 centres in England and Wales, including Wyevale, was similarly affected. “This year has been the most challenging in my 30 years of experience, with sales of bedding and vegetable plants being particularly badly hit,” he says. “Thankfully, we had already weatherproofed our business by developing restaurants and concessions.”

Keen to entice gardeners back with a strong offering this autumn, Marshall is upbeat. “Gardening is robust, considering what has happened we’ve not done too badly, but lots of work is required to repair the damage.”

Source : Ian Hodgson – The Telegraph

01 September 2012
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