Easter footfall up at garden centres but outdoor sales struggle as cold keeps gardeners indoors

The Garden Centre Association (GCA) says Easter 2013 footfall was up compared to Easter 2012, with catering and gift sales up on last year. However plant and sundry sales both fell.

GCA chairman Peter Burks said: "The Easter weekend is a key time in the gardening calendar and so we were all hoping for some good weather during the weekend. Thankfully the sun put in an appearance so it wasn’t all doom and gloom.

"There were plenty of people visiting our member garden centres during Easter but the cold weather appeared to have put people off going out in their gardens as most had come in for a wander round, a cuppa in the restaurant or to pick up a gift. Unfortunately, overall sales were well below what was expected.

"Our members all know that it’s imperative to give customers something to come in for whatever the weather so many also ran Easter-themed events to draw families in."

Many GCA members also had a petition on Easter tradling laws available during the weekend for customers to sign.  Said Burks: "Lots of people mentioned it was the first they had heard of the law and were outraged that they couldn’t come and visit their local garden centre on Easter Sunday if they wanted to.

"Traditionally the Easter weekend is one of the busiest gardening weekends of the year. Easter Sunday trading could be worth 25 per cent of the total sales for the Easter week."

Sales figures for the week to 31 March compared to the same week in 2012, supplied to Horticulture Week, found aquatics down 40 per cent, books up 20 per cent, clothing up 50 per cent, craft up 18 per cent, and food up 60 per cent.

Furniture was down 60 per cent, sundries down 50 per cent, gifts up 18 per cent, houseplants up five per cent, outdoor plnats down 60 per cent, pets up 10 per cent and restaurant up two per cent.

Overall, sales figures were 27 per cent down on the same week in 2012.

Dorset-based Groves Nurseries owner Charlie Groves said: "Good Friday was OK, Saturday and Monday were both good, still not as good as this time last year - but good for this year.  We had a 'Cuddle a lamb' event on Monday which brought a lot of people in despite the bitterly cold weather....people came in to see the lambs, then stayed for a roast or at least a hot drink."

Norma Moore, general manager of Monkton Elm Garden & Pet Centre near Taunton, said: "We made sure we had plenty going on at the garden centre to attract people, even if they weren’t going to be picking up essential gardening supplies.

"On Easter Saturday we invited families to come and meet some chicks, a turkey, a Richardson’s Ground Squirrel, as well as guinea pigs, lizards, spiders and our pet snake Rex. We also had an array of reptiles, dogs, aquatic crabs and a spiny mouse. These were hugely popular and a great success with all our visitors.

"Our restaurant was busy during the weekend and we had lots of visitors that braved the cold to bring their children along to take part in our activities."

Retail analysts TNS Omnibus say more than half of all gardeners have still not ventured out into their gardens this year.

Meanwhile  45 per cent of DIY enthusiasts say they have done less home improvement this year than last as a direct result of the cold, the rain and the wind.

The most popular Easter activity was watching TV/box sets/films, with 44 per cent of people including that in their plans, just ahead of the 43 per cent who visited friends and relatives.

More than a quarter of UK adults agree that they have changed their plans for Easter because of the weather.  More than half (57 per cent) – including 65 per cent of those in London – said the weather makes them want to do nothing over Easter.

However, some people were determined to get into the open air – 14 per cent said they plan to venture out into the garden. The weather has ensured that half of all gardeners (54 per cent) say they haven’t got into the garden at all this year.
In spite of the cold, a significant number of people say that, over Easter, they would get out to the DIY store (18 per cent of all adults, including 58 per cebt of DIY-ers) or a garden centre (13 per cent of all adults and 37 per cent of gardeners).

Overall, British people said they were planning to spend an average of £44 on improving the home this Easter. The home improvement capital is in the North East/Yorkshire/Humber area, where average planned spending is a third higher than the national average, at £59. Those making plans for their gardens expected to spend £87.

TNS Omnibus interviewed 1023 GB adults between 26th and 28th March.

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