Bedding sales defy the drought

Nurseries report strong demand for plants in March with consumers undeterred by hosepipe bans.

Sales of bedding plants are up on last year as customers fail to be deterred by the drought, growers have said.

Despite the impending hosepipe bans in some areas, customers are not yet being deterred from buying bedding plants. The recent good weather has led to strong sales and many growers are optimistic that this will be a good season.

Overall March sales were up at least eight per cent on 2011, according to figures from the Garden Centre Association and outdoor plant sales were around seven per cent up against strong 2011 figures.

"At this stage, garden centres are making the most of the relatively good weather and we haven't seen a downturn at all," said WD Smith director Mike Smith.

"We are still concerned about drought and it probably will have an impact at some point, but we are taking good orders and stocking up for Easter. We are obviously worried about drought but we are nicely on target."

Woodlark Nurseries managing director Colin Edwards added that there had been no cut in orders as a result of the drought. "The water companies have been quite responsible in not panicking the public too much," he said.

"People will still plant their gardens. As long as the weather is good I don't think that it will be a problem. For shrub growers or people putting in new lawns, it might be more of a problem, but not for general bedding growers. Sales-wise, I'm optimistic for a good season. None of our customers have said that they think there will be a problem."

But Burston Nurseries director James Alcaraz warned that problems could come later. "People ask how the credit crunch is affecting business, and I tell them that my biggest concern is drought. It doesn't seem to be having an impact yet."

He added: "People aren't too concerned at the moment. They are thinking more about it and I have heard that demand for water butts is up, but you need rain to fill them."

Gardeners are ready to watch their lawns go brown, he said. "But having spent cold hard cash to see bedding and shrubs shrivel up and die is going to be upsetting for them."

Garden centre reports plant replacement shoring up sales

Andy Bunker, director, Alton Garden Centre

"We don't have a hosepipe ban in Essex but 35 per cent of our customers will live in areas with bans. Pack bedding is slightly down with an element of people thinking that their little plants are going to die. But no-one has asked me about it on the shop floor. It is a year of people buying replacement plants after losing Cordyline and hedging in winter 2010. That's up 15 per cent with Photinia, leylandii and laurel going out for hedging. Petrol prices mean that customer numbers are down, but the turnover for the year to date at the whole garden centre is slightly up."

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