Category expansion sees Gloucestershire garden centre Christmas sales up 50%

Highfield Garden World in Gloucestershire has reported a 50% year on year increase in takings across their Christmas category in the last quarter of 2016.

Highfield Garden World
Highfield Garden World

Annual turnover for Highfield Garden World as a whole currently sits at £6.2m, with concessions on the site bringing in an extra £3.5m (exc. VAT).

The management team at the long-established independent is putting the buoyant festive figures in part down to some tactical decisions made hot on the heels of Christmas 2015.  

Their success comes amid mixed figures across the garden centre industry at Christmas.

Joan Greenway, of the Greenway family which owns and runs the business, said: "Christmas has always been busy for us, but this year has been especially good.

"With our Christmas category (covering decorations plus some gift and homeware) gaining ground every year, we took the decision to expand the range and dedicate significantly more floor space to it in 2016 - around 40 per cent more. It worked. In fact during one peak week our Christmas category generated even more sales than the restaurant."

Takings were up by 11 per cent overall across the business for the same period year on year, and by 12 per cent in the restaurant.

Referencing the strong restaurant sales, she said: "We might have 450 covers, but there are times when we could still do with more. This year we found a way to change the restaurant layout a little to fit in a few more covers in time for the Christmas rush without compromising on the spacious feel and walkways.

"We also decided not to take Christmas group bookings. That was a tricky one as we enjoy good links with many local groups and usually cater for quite a number of their Christmas events.  But having groups in the restaurant can interrupt the flow of customers in and out, and impact on the wider customer experience."

Every year Highfield stages a Christmas shopping evening at the end of November. With a 20 per cent discount offered across almost the entire store, the event attracts big crowds.

Greenway said: "We’re used to being busy, but managing such a sudden and massive influx of shoppers requires a different approach.  We learn something new every year. This year we were sure to have clearer cashpoint and queueing areas, plus a member of staff in a central position who was dedicated to directing customers to specific queues, and well placed to interact with them and keep the Christmas spirit alive when the tills were at their busiest."

Elsewhere in the business, Christmas trees were sold in higher numbers and with even more speed than in previous years. Around 75 per cent of the 1,100 trees sold had been bought by the end of the second weekend in December. And Highfield reported some strong post-Christmas sales of high ticket garden furniture which was fresh out on the sales floor as soon as the Christmas shop had been packed up. 

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