Operators cite February's three weekends of good weather as the catalyst for driving gardeners into stores. The ongoing influence of the "grow your own" trend has seen sales of vegetable seeds and seed potatoes (up by 20 per cent, as reported in HW, 28 February) continue to rise, but demand has been reported in all categories.
Bents managing director Matthew Bent said sales for February were up by 29 per cent. "The extra increases in sales have predominantly been driven by the weather and early plant sales. Our footfall (in February) is around 1,000 people down but the people we have had have been spending more, which is great."
Scotsdales Garden Centre managing director Caroline Owen agreed February had been fantastic. "I think it's got to be the weather. Even after the very heavy frost we had (recently), with the warm days we were trading really well. We've had three record February weekends."
She said the "grow your own" trend was giving garden centres something to sell that consumers wanted. "We're selling over £10,000 worth of seeds a week."
Woodthorpe Hall and Brigg garden centres managing director Charles Stubbs said the two centres were up 14 and eight per cent respectively in January - he expected even stronger growth from February thanks to increased footfall.
"Core gardening has been the strongest department - a nice change because we've had several years of that not being as strong."
Coolings Nurseries chairman Paul Cooling described it as "boom time", saying: "We're looking at a 30 per cent increase (so far) but then last year we had a lot of snow on the ground and sub-zero temperatures - it was miserable. My only concern is the bad weather might come when we don't want it."
GCA BAROMETER OF TRADE FIGURES FOR JANUARY
Pets and aquatics +12%
Catering + 9.88%
Outdoor plants +4%
Garden sundries +5.26%
Seeds and bulbs -1.89%
Hard landscaping -12.49%
January sales average -6.5%
Turnover below £2m +8%
from £2m-£4m +5.84%
over £4m +5.45%