Garden centre plant sales boom during bank holiday

Garden centre sales have bounced back over the end of May bank holiday leading to some bedding shortages.

Alton Garden Centre director Andy Bunker said: "The bank holiday was great. I’m sure like many the plantaria in particular will be showing a lot of records broken.

"We had our best day ever by some 15%. What is very interesting is the type of sales while of course bedding was big sales are still extremely strong in shrubs, trees and perennials with lines like our home grown dahlias at 3 for £20 bringing in £2,000-2,500 worth of trade.

"Normally this bank holiday is all about bedding so huge volume but not as much cash but not the case this time round with trolley upon trolley of plants going out in excess of £150 purchases."

Buckingham Garden Centre's Chris Day said: "Sales were ok on bank holiday Monday and plants were nicely up, bedding especially, and alpines, which is quite encouraging. Leisure - garden furniture and barbecues were up nicely and so was aquatics but things like lawncare went back a bit because of the weather.

"Bedding is 4-5% up on last year and because of the early start to the bedding season in April, there are shortages there and we're having to look around other suppliers to keep the momentum going. We have a lot of pre-booked bedding but there are little gaps because demand has been so strong. There's lots of blank availability and we're having to rethink and buy in different lines to keep up the volume. I suspect growers are in catch-up mode and maybe that's putting more strain on the system."

He said surfinias and ivy leaf pelargoniums were experiencing particularly strong demand.

Woodlark Nurseries managing director Colin Edwards said: "Obviously, it was a great start for bedding in April but the first three weeks of May were cold and we lost the gains from April. We gear up for the first May bank holiday but Easter took most of the stock for that bank holiday and that led to a slight shortage, but we have caught up a bit now. There's never going to be over stocks because of the great start.

He said geraniums were harder to get this year: "We've been playing catch-up with geraniums since the start."

Edwards added that because most growers now only grow what customers ask for "there is very little fat in the system now so if we start spring sales early, there will be a shortage. Everything is programmed now."

He added that after the strong April, sales have been "quite a bit" down in May until the last week, which saw "very strong" figures, matching 2016's. He said the six weeks from 1 May to mid June were good in 2016, when sales "dropped off a cliff" and it is too early to sum up 2017's season yet, though it "generally feels ok looking at stock levels". He added that garden centre customers are hungry for product at the moment.

Edwards said he has had to throw away a couple of thousand Potunia Papaya orange petunias from Dummen Orange because of the GM scare. He has grown them for several years for garden centre chains but they are now not allowed to be sold after GM was detected this May. Edwards says he will be "disappointed" if a compensation agreement is not reached with the propagator and that it is a "shame" that the plants will be wasted.

Meanwhile, John Lewis said in the week to 27 May, while home sales were down 4.8%, the warmer weather resulted in record BBQ sales and a record week for outdoor living with sales up 54%.

The Garden Centre Association said garden centre sales were 13% up on 2016 after April, which was 22% up.

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