Garden centres cautious as sales return

Pre-Christmas sales at garden centres bounced back last weekend, but with more heavy snow forecasted, many are unsure about their overall December performance.

Squire's Garden Centres managing director Dennis Espley said garden centres' December sales figures should be OK provided there was no more heavy snow.

He added: "We are not unduly concerned and we think come Christmas Eve it will sort itself out. But if we have another weekend of snow, it will be a worry."

He said Squire's had not been badly hit by the big freeze, with sales down only seven per cent on last year and sales of Christmas trees and gifts going really well.

Aberdeenshire-based Ben Reid Garden Centre managing director Simon Fraser reported a record December weekend, fuelled by consumers panic-buying amid fears of further snowfall.

He said: "We have had a tremendous weekend with probably the best December day of retail ever. If we can just keep trade ticking over, I'll be very happy.

"We think the forecast has added to the rush and we are hoping to sell the majority of our Christmas trees by next weekend - sales of rock salt, sledges and bird care have also done fantastically well."

Fraser continued: "The big problem has been getting supplies in and because of the backlog in hauliers we had to go down to the central belt to collect some stock."

Kent-based Coolings Garden Centre chairman Paul Cooling said sales were keeping up with last year but reported difficulties in sourcing extra snow shovels, sledges and other winter goods.

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