Garden centres hope strong summer extends into autumn

Good weather fuels late-season uplift in August sales.

Coolings: garden centre pleased with two per cent plant sales increase recorded in August
Coolings: garden centre pleased with two per cent plant sales increase recorded in August

After a strong summer, garden centres are hoping for good sales to continue into the autumn. Good weather has led to a late-season uplift in August garden retail sales, while Garden Centre Association figures for July showed double-digit growth, with garden centres up for the year. The biggest were up six per cent in July, bringing them level for the year.

A lack of proper rain for a month across some areas has not dampened plant sales, with many garden centres 10 per cent up in July and showing similar growth in August.

Coolings managing director Gary Carvosso said: "August has been very good on the plant side. Things have been very dry and in the South Thames everyone is in the same boat. Our August plant sales were up two per cent, and considering the dry weather we're pleased with that. In the end, the sun drives footfall and people pick things up. There's no sign of a hosepipe ban." Summer bedding still looks good in the garden so autumn bedding sales could be slow to start, he suggested.

Alton Garden Centre director Andy Bunker said strong sales "bodes well for autumn", with pack bedding sales double normal levels over the past two weeks. "There's a lot of people still gardening and we're very, very busy. It's been one of the best bank holidays we've had and it's been a good year."

Carvosso added that garden maintenance turnover was up 30 per cent after adding a fourth maintenance team, while cafe sales are up seven per cent and shop sales up 17 per cent. A "20 per cent off" weekend offer saw bulb sales rise 40 per cent. He said the outlook was "shaky" ahead of the summer because of the Brexit vote, but even Dutch suppliers are now reporting growth. "People have factored in the exchange rate."

Met Office figures show the UK's mean temperature for this summer has been 14.9 degsC, which is around half a degree warmer than average based on data from 1981 to 2010. Rainfall was average, though East Anglia and the South East were driest, with some parts seeing less than 50 per cent of their average.

Mappleborough Green Garden Centre in Redditch has seen "about a threefold increase for the centre plus steady growth in the coffee shop" over the past few weeks after expanding following redevelopment, according to a spokesperson.

Hillier director Chris Francis said August garden centre sales were "very good", with "nursery stock sales being particularly strong".

Perrywood's Hannah Powell added: "In the first three weeks of August the garden centre was up seven per cent compared to last year. This is a similar increase to previous months of 2016 here at Perrywood. We've kept well stocked with plants through the summer and as a result sales have been good - good sales of discounted furniture, coffee shop similar to last year."

Hayes Garden World e-commerce manager Lyndan Orvis said: "It's certainly been one of those years where the weather has not played ball as often as we would have liked. But some nice weather of late has meant that the season has run a little longer so should end up being a good one."

CBI figures show 35 per cent of retailers saying sales volumes were up in August compared with a year ago, while 26 per cent said they were down, giving a balance of plus nine per cent, beating gloomy post-Brexit forecasts.

Michael Wooldridge, director at garden pots supplier Woodlodge, said: "With predictions for a mild September, customers will make the most of the weather and spend as much time in the garden as possible. This means strong sales are likely to last well into autumn and early winter."

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