Big-name centres plan 'pop-up' shops to catch Christmas trade

Notcutts, Bents and the Garden & Leisure Group will create mini-outlets in large shopping centres.

Garden centre Christmas pop-up shops are expected to be just as popular this year, despite the snow that hit seasonal sales last year.

Notcutts will have two Christmas shops this year, at Chapelfield shopping centre in Norwich and the Harlequin Centre in Watford, said marketing manager Sally Reed.

Last year Christmas sales of gifts, food, games, trees, lights and decor its "Deck the Halls" at Bluewater and MK shopping centres had gone well so the company was running the "pop-ups" again, she added. It was hoped that the Chapelfield shop would drive footfall to Notcutts' Norwich centre.

Notcutts has recently refurbished its Victoria garden centre pet centre to bring it up to the standard of the new pet centres installed at the five other former NWF centres it acquired.

Reed added that more restaurant refurbishments were likely for 2012, after a successful trial at Solihull. Plant sales had also "gone like a train" in 2011 at the group, she said.

Elsewhere, Bents will have a Christmas shop at Liverpool One, while Webbs will have shops at Gloucester and Merry Hill in the West Midlands.

Garden & Leisure Group operations director Carol Paris said shops at Yeovil and Bristol Galleries would run again this year. The Yeovil shop has operated all year as an "All Seasons" discount shop, but has now reverted to its "Christmas time" format.

"Last year would have been better without losing nine days at the busiest time because of the snow," said Paris.

"Christmas shops are a good way of getting to people. We have a lot of customers from rural areas and not necessarily from city centres. It was surprising how many people didn't know we were at Cadbury, 15 miles away from the city centre."

"We give vouchers at the Christmas shop and monitor uptake," she pointed out.

Garden centres gear up for peak trading period

"Christmas sales start in the first week of August with Christmas cards and peak in the last week of November and first week of December.

"December is certainly our busiest month of the year. Last year we had up to 28,000 till transactions a week in December, compared with half that number in January.

"It's difficult to know how much growth can be directly attributed to our investment in Christmas displays in the past two years. It's more about listening to your heart, and not your accountant, on these occasions.

"The second half of the year total sales are greater than the first. Without the direct sales of Christmas and the spin-off custom, it would be the other way around by a big margin."

Russell Winteridge, general manager, Barton Grange

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