Early plant sales driven by spring reservations

Plants reserved by customers for payment on delivery in spring are the key to driving early nursery sales, say suppliers of QVC. The TV shopping channel began garden sales in the first week of January and several suppliers reported sell-outs.

Image: HW
Image: HW

Mont Rose of Guernsey co-owner Rupert Precious said: "The key thing is customers only pay when delivered. They can reserve with confidence when cash flow is difficult post-Christmas." Precious was pre-selling geraniums from Delamore as well as giant fuchsias for April delivery. He reported 6,000 unit sales.

"Sales were very good. You never know what will happen. You wouldn't see garden centres selling that sort of volume on that weekend." He will sell clematis later in the year - clematis breeder Raymond Evison is co-owner of Mont Rose.

Plants 2 Gardens owner Ken Evans said he was surprised how well early sales went. Bare-root peonies, camellias, edgeworthia and primula sold well, with 1,000 peony 'Shirley Temple' and 500 primulas selling. "I'm not sure the QVC customer crosses over with the garden centre customer," he added. "TV customers enjoy the offers and information and are not expert gardeners."

Evans said he has 7,000 rhododendrons from Osberton Nurseries to sell as QVC plant of the month for February, plus pelargoniums from mother stock bought from Fir Tree Pelargoniums.

De Jager owner George Clowes said begonias, petunias, lupins and foxgloves sold out. Future plants on offer include agapanthus, busy Lizzies and poppies.

QVC presenter Richard Jackson said: "We were delighted with the sales over the weekend. In fact, it was our best-ever garden launch on QVC. Sales for the two Richard Jackson garden shows were way above forecast and achieved spring-like levels. Everything sold exceptionally well, from plug plants to Flower Power plant food. Sales of compost sales were exceptional too - we sold just under 2,500 70-litre bags of compost, which is pretty amazing for the first weekend in January."

Thompson & Morgan, now back at QVC after two years with Ideal World, reported three out of four lines selling out. Products featured were Begonia Majestic Mixed, Lily Romance Series, Busy Lizzie Divine and Lobelia Cascade. The company said it will feature on air "at least a couple of times a month for the year".

T&M remains for sale after owner Primary Capital said it had been seeking a buyer in August 2015. Evans said the window for selling the company is closing ahead of the main season. Westland or a management buyout remain the favourite possibilities. Westland said it has "a lot on its plate" after buying Sinclair in 2015, but has not ruled out a purchase.

Former T&M employee Precious said T&M remains a strong brand that will continue whoever buys it. A non-gardening mail-order business might be interested, he suggested. T&M almost sold out to a mail-order business in 2011 but private equity company Primary Capital continued its majority ownership, which it has held since 2002. T&M reported "no news on the sale". Primary Capital did not comment.

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