Good retail, weather or not

Seasoned garden industry professionals know all too well not to expect too much from an early Easter - irrespective of whether centres are, or are not, allowed to trade on Easter Sunday.

As Hillier's Lee Hopper reminded us in the run up to the holiday weekend (HW, 18/3) March Easters "never reach their full potential". And that was well before we all woke up to the reality of Storm Katie, which left the team at Perrywood in Essex "chain-sawing a tree" from the road to their garden centre at 7am on Easter Monday. Given all of the above, the fact that garden retailers are reporting that sales over the holiday period were overall "satisfactory" is no mean achievement.

In large part this was of course down to great weather for many areas on Good Friday. But the result will have been helped along in no small part by the investment so many have made in upgrading their catering offer.

As Garden Centre Association chairman and Haskins director Julian Winfield says: "Thank goodness for our restaurants. Garden centres that have diversified will have done quite well - or not as badly as others. But smaller centres that are very gardening oriented will have suffered and will always be more susceptible to the ups and down of weather."

The same is true of the investment made in better structures to weather-proof the outdoor retail environment. As Polybuild director Graham Van der Hage tells us in our special report on the subject, a big part of his business comes from supplying canopies which take centre customers from an insulated building, through outdoor plant and other sales areas - and then all the way back to their car without ever getting wet.


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