Reader Panel - What products are selling best at centres so far this year and why?

Garden centre sales are already 20 per cent up at many outlets, according to Garden Centre Association figures. HW asks what is selling and why.

DIRECTOR - Andy Bunker, director, Alton Garden Centre

"We have kicked off very well considering the weather and the long winter. January and February were up more than 20 per cent and March is looking good as well.

"Core gardening is holding up, but plants are becoming a smaller percentage of total turnover.

"This is the case for us, even though we are still a traditional centre and not one of the new generation of destination centres with huge food halls and many non-gardening items."

MANAGING DIRECTOR - Dennis Espley, managing director, squires

"We have had a fantastic February. Centres are 20 per cent up, except for Badshot Lea and Shepperton, where we have been doing work.

"We've been selling a lot of plants, compost, grow your own and some furniture. All cafes were up eight per cent in the first two months.

"Shepperton reopened on 28 February and is 16 per cent above budget. Catering is doing particularly well, at 50 per cent above budget."

CHIEF EXECUTIVE - Nicholas Marshall, chief executive, garden centre group

"The season has started well. Our tails are up. We've moved our headquarters from Slough to Syon Park and we're thrilled with our new offices. How many people can say they go to work in a Capability Brown landscape?

"We're well up on 2010 - by close to 20 per cent. The growth has been led by plants, particularly nursery stock and bedding plants. It's our core business that we want to see going well."

EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN - Ed Webb, executive chairman, Webbs garden centres

"We're pushing ahead towards a very strong spring. Our overall business is marginally up. For the year to date we are pushing ahead day by day. Some days we are up 30 per cent.

"Plants are what is really going best, and core gardening. They are the main drivers.

"People are buying a lot of replacement plants because our customers are staring at large gaping holes in their gardens. They have lost a lot of evergreens."

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