December sales lift for centres

Latest figures confirm a major uplift for garden centre sales in the lead-up to Christmas 2012.

Garden centre sales for December were 8.45 per cent up, helping claw back some of the lost ground from earlier in 2012, according to latest Garden Centre Association (GCA) figures.

The late upswing leaves 2012 sales overall two-to-four per cent down. The HTA suggested that the year will be seven-to-eight per cent down when it finalises figures next month.

GCA interim chief executive Iain Wylie described Christmas as "a bright spot".

In December, houseplants were up (4.5 per cent), as were seeds and bulbs (1.6 per cent), furniture and barbecues (1.3 per cent), pets and aquatics (16.4 per cent), gifts (10.3 per cent), Christmas (10.1 per cent), clothing (4.4 per cent), food (11.3 per cent) and catering (11.6 per cent).

But hard landscaping was down (3.9 per cent), as were outdoor plants (2.6 per cent) and sundries (0.5 per cent).

Alton Garden Centre director Andy Bunker said he was up three per cent on the month. "Christmas has turned the year from being disappointing into satisfactory," he added.

Garden Centre Group regional manager Peter Burks said: "Sales were very good and have carried on well afterwards."

He added that the 129-centre group has not bought in sale items for January as it has done in the past.

Buckingham Nurseries general manager Mike Easom said: "Christmas was booming for us. We sold out of all our stock of 400 Christmas trees."

Meanwhile, high street sales were just 0.3 per cent up on December 2011 like-for-like, according to the British Retail Consortium.

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