Christmas push will start later

Garden centres target extended autumn sales and aim to avoid Christmas tree needle-drop issue.

Christmas displays look set to be held back slightly by garden centres to avoid tree needle drop (image - Horticulture Week)
Christmas displays look set to be held back slightly by garden centres to avoid tree needle drop (image - Horticulture Week)

Garden centres look set to hold Christmas back slightly this year to prolong autumn sales and to avoid Christmas tree needle drop caused by harvesting too early.

Alton Garden Centre director Andy Bunker, who buys 50,000 trees a year from Needlefresh to sell via the Tillington garden centre group, said: "We're probably the worst in Europe for bringing trees in too early - 1 December is far too early.

"I used to go to Scotland in September in my thermals to check the trees I will buy but now I go with sunglasses.

"If the big multiple DIY retailers want trees on 10 November, they get them on 10 November, and we need to get them then too. But ideally customers would buy trees on two weekends, 8-9 and 15-16 December. Then there's the four-week rule - they will last four weeks inside until after New Year."

He added: "Last Christmas was the worst year ever for needle drop but luckily most of it happened in garden centres before customers took trees home. That got us off the hook with returns.

"We'll have a selection in on 26 November and most of our trees delivered in the week beginning 3 December.

"Nordmann are the most popular still but Fraser firs are a super tree from Scotland where the growers are getting the quality and habit right. Norway spruces have gone by the by in the UK but they are fine for two weeks indoors if you bought on the 15-16 December weekend."

Garden centres finalise timing and strategies for Christmas sales promotions

Dennis Espley, managing director, Squire's

"We're putting Christmas in a bit later this year. We're not doing any work until early October in the centres and will try and put in all Christmas in three weeks, ready for autumn half-term."

Chris Day, plant manager, Buckingham Nurseries

"The 12th-night philosophy works well and the best way to keep Christmas trees going inside is with a stand with a reservoir. It's an opportunity for a linked sale - perhaps a quality stand."

Neil Gow, director, Garden Industry Manufacturers Association

"If there is too much focus on the Christmas season too early, then people will miss out on trade."

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