Keeping flexible, standing out from the crowd and staff that "really know their stuff" will help retailers deal with the weather-related ups and downs of business, say garden centre consultants.
Garden Centre Association inspector Ian Boardman said: "The sun is shining at last and customers are flocking in. It's the first real gardening weather for many regions of the UK for over a year - so make the most of it.
"The one thing about change is that we cannot stop it - it's a certainty that it will happen. It's how we manage it.
"Flexibility in your business must be the key. Out of adversity comes innovation and creativity. There are many initiatives taking place in the garden retail world that probably would not have been happening had the weather been kind."
He added: "While the weather has been bad, I have never seen such tidy garden centres, as staff have time and few customers. And long queues in catering - so should this be an area for further expansion?"
Consultant Liz Hutson advised: "Ensure hotspots are always used effectively, wherever they are. Have the best possible food and beverages.
"A good restaurant can be a life-saver in a year like this, but there are so many places fighting for the food and drink pound, you really have to up the ante and stand out from the crowd. Promote afternoon tea and breakfast.
"Ensure staff really know their stuff. By giving good tips and selling rather than just answering questions, they can up the average spend considerably.
"Make sure displays are commercially driven rather than just making the place look pretty and that stock used in displays is easy to locate and buy. Showcase your offer at the start of the customer journey. Flag up seasonal activities."
She added: "Keep a smile on your face. Move quickly with hotspots and have contingency plans for when the weather changes."
Consultant Andy Campbell said: "Increase covered retail space, enhance your non-gardening offer, maximise sales when weather is good, have a proactive event programme regardless, and promote what gardening activities to do when the weather is poor."
Consultant Roger Crookes said: "The route to the coffee shop is key. Fully exploit its hot-spot opportunities whatever the weather."
Ian Boardman's advice
- Allow for flexibility in staffing to cope with wide variations
- Liaise with suppliers about how to organise deliveries and supply in varied conditions
- Get back to old-fashioned face-to-face selling
- Review ranging and sourcing of product to allow for these changes