Extra bank holiday for royal wedding sets up best fortnight ever for garden centres

Garden centres are preparing for their "best fortnight ever" after the date of the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton was announced.

The big day is 29 April and has been declared a public holiday. Good Friday falls a week earlier on 22 April and the May Day bank holiday is on 2 May, meaning the sector has 11 days of hectic activity for which to prepare.

West Yorkshire garden centre Armitage's director Will Armitage said: "It could be a gold mine for us but if we don't get supplies right we could disappoint customers. With Easter and May Day so close together and now the wedding, we are going to need to order well in advance."

Scotsdale managing director and HTA president Caroline Owen said: "This is a tremendous opportunity and will bring a feel-good factor in the doom and gloom. There is the potential for it to be the best 10 days ever for garden centres. Lots of people will watch the wedding but there will plenty of time for them to shop." But she warned: "Four bank holidays in 11 days is going to put a lot of pressure on suppliers and retailers. Logistically it will be a nightmare."

She added that new tags for Container Centralen Danish trolleys "will put even more pressure on everybody", but garden centres that sign up to the new system will get deliveries quicker.

Worcestershire grower Bransford Webbs sales director Adrian Marskell said: "We've got three straight weeks that are made up of three working days, four days and three days and they are the busiest three weeks of the year." He added that most of his garden centre customers had "taken their heads out of the sand" and were signing up to the new trolley tagging system. But many will not buy scanners, meaning growers will have to scan the new tags themselves.

Wholesaler Solus Garden & Leisure managing director Nick Davies added: "It is going to be an extremely interesting challenge for retailers and suppliers alike to meet what could be high demand, especially if the weather is kind. Solus is working on its delivery schedules and warehouse operations to help retailers during that period."

Garden product supplier Gardman representative Lorian Coutts said: "This will make more planning necessary, but at least there is enough time to prepare for the extra bank holiday."

Staying ahead of the rush

Retailers who have failed to work with their suppliers and completed pre-season orders will be running blind, warned Garden Industry Manufacturers' Association director Neil Gow.

"Shortages of actual stock are the least of your problems," he added. "The biggest will be having transport to move stock and having skilled, competent staff to pick and load it. For the plant suppliers, the main issue will be finding trolleys to put stock on and swap when they get to retailers. Will the retailers be staffed and organised enough to turn it around quickly when it arrives?

"Eight days of public holidays with only three full working days between them should be fun. Get orders in the pipeline to call off in February, March and April. Focus on the key essentials. Retailers in the garden trade who think 'just in time' need to readjust. In garden product retailing, 'just in time' means 'just missed it'."


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