First Riverside open day hailed as success

An open day at Europlants subsidiary Riverside Nurseries in Buckinghamshire marked a step away from a 'diabolical' start to the year.

A good turnout and a 20 per cent bounce in March sales were further indication of a strong return to confidence in premium Italian stock used for prestige developments.

General manager Paul Hayden said: "We had a lot more people than we expected and there was real buoyancy about those who came. I think both the bad winter and the increasing confidence got people buying.

"Last year was tricky sales wise - this year we are expecting it to be much better and certainly so far it is living up to that." More than 100 trade visitors attended the event.

January and February proved "diabolical," according to Hayden, but the 23 March event helped things "really kick off".

At the Europlants open days earlier this year, owner Renato Canale said they had switched to higher volumes of lower-value and smaller stock to help navigate the recession.

But Hayden said he had seen almost the opposite effect. "People doing prestige jobs have been going crazy," he explained.

"So we have been seeing good sales in top lines. High-value builds are on the increase and there are rumours about a couple of large swathes of more affordable housing bubbling under - but that's got a way to go before it comes up to speed so I'm not expecting the affordable side to bounce back particularly quickly."

He attributed the trend to the area's affluent economic microclimate. The company has experienced some stock damage from the harsh winter but has also seen increased sales as a result.

Hayden added: "It takes with one hand and gives with the other. We have certainly had some stock roughed up and we had a few problems with things you would normally expect to be fine, like Phormiums and Pittosporums.

"On the up side we have sourced new stock and there is plenty of production going on and ultimately people don't seem to be that shy about replacing plants because it was a particularly difficult winter," he continued.

Sales were boosted by 30 per cent discounts for Italian stock bought on the day and 25 per cent off everything else.

The business has been open for four years now and Hayden said this would be the first of annual events to promote the company.

Canale added: "Riverside is able to punch well above its weight in terms of the range of stock and stock levels. I am really pleased with the progress here and it is a real compliment to the team that the day has been such a success."

- See feature, page 21.

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