GCA conference remains positive

There was little evidence of the worries affecting the high street and the world share markets at the GCA's annual conference in Manchester at the weekend.

Former chairman David Danning said 2007 had been "very good" for member garden centres and while it looked like it started off being a bumper year before the rain set in during the summer, most centres still reported a "substantial increase" in revenue.

Autumn and Christmas sales had held, with December a particularly strong sales month despite complaints on the high street.

But, in his final speech as chairman, Danning told operators to avoid complacency. The coming year would be a challenging one for the industry and they needed to join together to provide a united front, he said.

New chairman Martin Davies agreed, saying: "(This is) not the time to be out there on your own. We need to face the future together." He urged those in attendance to focus on ways to encourage staff to increase sales.

It was not good enough just to promote design and quality of stock, and retailers needed to explore how they could turn staff into sales people, Davies said. "You have to get staff to learn to sell, not just show."

- Davies said half of the GCA's members have signed the intent to join the GCA's new buying group Garden Retailers' Organisation (GRO) but many still needed to supply three years' worth of accounts to join the credit system.

While some members were unsure where the group was going, he encouraged them to be patient. "It was always going to be a period of time to get the thing built up."

Five product shows highlighting various product lines were already planned, with a menswear clothing showcase being run this week.

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