Differences in weather create north-south divide

A north-south divide in garden centre sales is opening up. Weather differences have led to northern centres being 40 per cent down on 2009 while southern centres were level with last year this Easter.

Northumberland-based Cowell's Garden Centre owner Alan Cowell said Easter was poor because of ground conditions, temperatures and weather.

"No-one has any enthusiasm. If it's not the weather then we're in deep trouble. We've not had a good run of weather yet. We were 40 per cent behind on last Easter, though last April was incredible.

"People are not going to bother with certain spring lines. A lot of herbaceous has hardly shown any growth. It's not rooting properly and there are no good light levels." He said tomato plants were not selling because gardeners did not want to have to heat greenhouses.

"If it doesn't pick up there will be some very scared garden centre owners. Last year we had a good time but it ended up being not so good because of the long winter.

"From 16 December my business might as well have closed the gate. Wage bills don't get any less and gas and electricity have gone through the roof. We're not taking enough to cover the costs."

In the south, Cambridge-based Scotsdales managing director Caroline Owen said Easter was "a lot better than we expected. The weather turned out well." South-east-based chain Squires was even with Easter 2009.

GCA chief executive Gillie Westwood said: "There is definitely a north-south divide. It is all weather-related."

Easter Sales

Worcestershire-based Webbs Garden Centre: "Easter was much better than expected, with sales down 8.5 per cent against last year - pretty good considering the awful weather."

South coast-based Haskins: "Bird care was up 10 per cent, food five per cent, Easter gifts 14 per cent and food five per cent.

Chester-based Grosvenor Garden Centre: "It was a disappointing weekend compared to last year but far better than when we had feared the worst earlier in the week."

Lothian-based Dobbies: "We obviously had a disappointing Easter weekend due to the extremely adverse weather."

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