Food-based, newly established or revamped garden centres fare best in first six months of the year

The garden centre half year for 2017 has evened out after a strong start, with revamped centres performing well and mature centres tracking slightly up on 2016.

Longacres Bybrook Barn in Ashford, Kent has seen some days 360% up and has trebled turnover since Longacres took over a year ago and revamped the centre.

The established Longacres Bagshot, Britain's biggest turnover garden centre, was 10% up in April on big numbers from 2016 but the first three weeks of May knocked that back. By the end of June potentially the centre will be 4% up on 2016, particularly with good weather forecast for the rest of the month.

Klondyke's David Yardley said for the six months to the end of June, overall sales are up 16%, with May up one per cent like-for-like, at the group's 22 centres, which are in the north, North Wales and Scotland. He said better weather in the north, particularly in May, had helped sales.

The HTA said year to date overall garden centres sales were 12 per cent up by the end of April and 10% by the end of May, with May 6% down on 2016. The GCA said member sales were up 22% in April and were 11% year-to-date at the end of the month, but look to have slipped since.

Overall sales in May were down just below 5% on average. Plants and sundries were 8% down and garden furniture 12% down. Under £4m turnover centres are up 11% year to date on average and larger ones up 5%. Sundries are up 10% year to date, catering 7% and houseplants 3%.

Bradford-based Tong's Mark Farnsworth said overall sales were 30-40% up by the end of June with a £7.5m turnover for the whole year. March and April were 42% up and May and June 9% up. Tong came under new ownership in 2015 and has more than doubled turnover since then. He said 15 degrees centigrade was the key temperature to provoke gardeners to get outside.

The long-established south coast four-centre group Haskins' chief executive Julian Winfield said overall sales by the end of June are likely to be flat compared to 2016. Tamworth's Planters is 1-2% up overall this year. Essex's Perrywood's Simon Bourne said overall turnover would be 8% up by the end of June.

Britain's latest new-build garden centre Rosebourne, which has a 60% food and horticulture 20% split is already reaching turnover of £4.4m. It opened in October 2016. Sister centre Beckworth turns over £5.5m, with £2.6m from food.

Green Pastures' food take is 60% of business, including the farmshop. Potential is to reach 70%. This season the Norfolk centre was 30% up in April, 40% up in March and one per cent in May.

Owner James Debbage believes summer is becoming the new autumn in garden centres as less experienced gardeners who do not think autumn is a good time to plant become the norm.

Hillview Group's Boyd Douglas-Davies said turnover was 30% up at the end of April but is now likely to be 10% by the end of June.

Douglas-Davies said summer was increasingly about an "instant meal brigade" gardener who would buy curry or pizza from Waitrose and easy plants by Ball Colegrave from the garden centre.

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