How have the first six months of the garden retail season been?

HW polled delegates on last week's HTA tour of Scottish garden centres.

- "Very good. We had a poor April because we're mainly a plant nursery in glasshouses and that's very weather-dependent. But we more than caught up for the poor April in May, with May turnover up 30-40 per cent on last year.

"In April we were £80,000 down but in May we were £100,000 up on a £1m annual turnover.

"Year-on-year we have an upward trend because we're quite a young business as far as garden centres go. We're a past winner of the fastest-growing business in our Retail Business Improvement Scheme."

- John Jackson, co-owner, Swarkestone Nurseries, Derbyshire

- "Anecdotally, I believe centres are down four to five per cent for January to June.

"GCA Barometer of Trade and HTA RBIS data would support that. Garden furniture is down, as is paving and fencing. This is not just due to the weather. Big projects and high-ticket items have been hit because the economy has been trending downwards as people defer buying decisions. In garden furniture the lower-end products such as tea-for-two sets are doing OK and the very top end stuff is holding its own because a small number of purchases is all it needs.

"But the mid-range is suffering. Plants, compost and pots are not brilliant but are not a major contributor to the shortfall."

- Andy Campbell, consultant

- "The season has been acceptable - fair to middling. We've been up every month since last November, mainly because we have a new cafe.

"Our events bring people in and we have new product ranges and have tidied up on gifts. More people want to fill their days by coming to garden centres, and having a cafe means they will stay longer and often spend. That's the case in most garden centres.

"We're always doing new things such as kids' teatime to give mums a break, and over the summer holidays we have birds of prey and reptiles. That keeps people interested.

"You have to keep proactive."

- Richard Henn, co-owner, Dutch Nursery, Hertfordshire

- "This year has been better than last year. It has been up and down because the weather has been funny. It has not always rained but it is always threatening to.

"I think people are talking themselves into a recession. May made up for April so, overall, April and May were the same as last year, but the other way round in terms of takings. June was fairly flat compared to June 2007.

"Plant sales are doing well but big-ticket stuff isn't. People are not building ponds, for instance, and not buying more expensive garden furniture. They're buying pond plants but not building ponds."

- Mark Yates, representative, Kershaw Garden Centre, West Yorkshire.


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