Councils cut back bulb orders

Suppliers report falling orders for bulbs from local authorities as spending cuts bite ever deeper.

Some bulb suppliers have reported a fall in orders from local authorities as spending cuts are implemented.

Councils have put in smaller orders than last year and some are opting for lower price varieties to cut costs, they said.

"Orders are quite low," said Top Score Flower Bulbs general manager Myra le Sage. "I don't think the business is there. I'm assuming they are putting the money into hard landscaping instead."

Eurogarden Wholesale Flower Bulbs director Don Teeuw added: "They have cut back considerably. It's surprising when expenditure on roads, for example, is still up.

"The piddling amount they spend on flowers has been hacked like hell. They have also been ordering a lot later, which actually helped us a bit because stocks were down after the dry weather."

He said some larger customers spending £20-30,000 had cut back to half of what they were spending before. "One ordered one-third of what he ordered last year then complained about the price. But it's based on palette cost and if you order less the transport will be higher."

The quality that councils are buying is also very poor, Teeuw added. "They are going on price only and it's a false economy. It's an advert for an area - if there is a good display in a park, people want to go there."

Taylors Bulbs director Adam Taylor said overall landscaping was likely to be up on last year, although he could not say how much of that was being undertaken by local authorities.

"There are a lot of bulbs being planted, but I can't differentiate between local authority work and other landscaping," he said.

"The snow last year meant a lot of bulbs didn't get planted and there is quite a lot of catch-up going on. People have learnt their lesson from last year and they want them earlier."

He added that displays in parks were important for garden centre sales. "If people are seeing bulbs in local parks, it's great for our product. It creates interest and people can plant them the following autumn."

Focus on quality

"I expect overall our sales will be much the same as last year. Some contracts we've won and some we've lost. There has been a lot of competitive quoting. We sell bulbs on quality, and that's what we push all the time. Some local authorities go for that and some just go on price." - Bob Willard, general manager, De Jager.

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