There have been big questions about speculative growing this year with. What is your view? Most growers, when they put anything on the floor, it's speculative. In most places they would like to make reserves or orders against it, but it's actually all speculative. Baginton grows quite a bit for councils and that's as firm an order as you can get, and maybe they got their fingers burnt growing for the open market so went for a safer approach.
What is your strategy? Our business model is 50 per cent speculative stock. A lot of our sales come past the point of production, so in 2014 we'll be slightly cautious but equally recognise our business model is one of having stock and selling at the last minute. We won't see a fundamental change. Off the back of 2012 we revised and during 2013 have a taken prudent view of what speculative stock we put on the floor, so change in 2014 will be very small.
How much has the late season helped you? This year has no doubt helped us, particularly with fast product like Surfinia, lobelia, seed-raised petunia and premium product like osteospermum, dahlia and penstemon, where bedding had run out. Some growers were not prepared to pot a lot more bedding but were prepared to plant more premium product. Lobelia has been a bit short but not too bad, though there could now be instances where things run out because nurseries have not moved enough through their greenhouses to see them through to next spring. An empty glasshouse equals success for nurseries but if you're only turning them twice instead of 2.5 or three times you have less revenue.
What about retailers letting down growers this year? There's no doubt that retailers' commitment to their growers has been severely challenged in the past couple of years. You have to have some sympathy with retailers in what they can achieve. If they're not selling, they don't need plants.
How can you fix supply-chain issues? If marginal risk was shared, but my suspicion is retailers would not be receptive. But those retailers need growers. They can't continue to suffer off the back of weather and allow their suppliers to suffer but also need to acknowledge these businesses aren't doing well when things aren't selling. People are looking towards the end retailer but the same problems apply all the way round the chain to the compost companies, young-plant suppliers, energy companies - the whole chain has to eke something out. If our production is looking tight, forecasts are recast. We try and take our minimum contract to keep these relationships strong. Some retailers are looking shorter-term. These problems test your resolve but you have to fight to drive better sales, cut costs, ensure more efficient production and use less fuel.