How important is Christmas to your garden centre?

"We've always been a big Christmas centre. December is the third- or fourth-busiest month of the year. Our business started selling Christmas trees so Christmas time is special for us. It fills tills in an otherwise quiet time. If you put the extra effort in, it pays dividends. There are three centres in the group - Planters at Tamworth and Bretby and Garden King in Derbyshire - we work hard at Christmas time at them all."

- GERALD INGRAM, managing director, Planters Garden Centres

"We want to promote Christmas but lots of our customers are serious gardeners and we don't want to upset them. We still feel gardening is a key point of the business. So we don't want to turn off our customers by turning into a Christmas house. But by 20 November all our Christmas stock is in and we start our main Christmas tree business.

"We also do tree recycling, where we collect and shred for £3.95-£8.95 and donate the mulch to the local allotment society. We grow 5,500 cyclamens and 5,500 poinsettias so we have the advantage of being seen as locally grown."

- ADAM WIGGLESWORTH, director, Ayletts Nurseries

"Christmas is something we have to do rather than want to do. But we're getting into it.

"We're a 'gardening' garden centre but this year we've gone a bit silly for Christmas. We've been doing Christmas for six years but this is different. Because you aim to keep the same number of staff through the year you have to do Christmas better and better - in the face of competition, customer expectations grow.

"We have a model-village display for that instant wow factor as visitors enter, and our new £25,000 gingerbread Santa grotto opens on 1 December."

- JOLYON MARTIN, managing director, Chessington Garden Centre

"We've doubled Christmas sales every year for the past five years through word of mouth and mailouts to existing customers. Display is the biggest thing for us. We merge gift lines with Christmas sections. An offering of more unusual Christmas food is on trial this year and it is proving popular.

"We pretty much complete preparations early in October and are fully Christmas-themed by the second week. Our peacock theme has done well this year and we also get inspiration from the Frankfurt January fair. We're already 40 per cent up on early Christmas figures."

- EAMON LOUGHREY, Sunshine Garden Centre.

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