Around 20 garden centres are installing ice rinks to increase revenue this winter. This is almost double the number put in last year.
Typically, garden centres are installing ice rinks in winter "dead space" - hard landscaping and underused planterias - and are shifting their focus from opening pop-up shops to creating destination on-site events.
Centres hosting ice rinks this year include Whitehall Garden Centre, Lacock; Ruxley Manor, Kent; Webbs of Wychbold; Hilltop Garden Centre, Oxfordshire; Van Hage at Great Amwell, Hertfordshire; and Huntingdon Garden & Leisure.
Arena Group has supplied seven centres with a full rink service this year, as well as installing and supplying ice rinks for venues such as the Natural History Museum, which attracts 120,000 skaters per season.
Account director James Thomas said: "If it's a dry and bright Christmas everyone will want one for next year. It's a big commitment but there's massive potential."
It costs £5 a head on average but this can be increased with add-ons and catering.
A 120sq m rink can cost from £50,000-£60,000 to install.
Thomas said 300sq m is the most cost-effective size for many centres, depending on the size of the centre and its footfall. Opening is typically eight weeks from December to January.
He added that each skater needs 3sq m and centres can run up to 10 sessions a day, attracting more than 1,000 skaters. Staffing levels are about 10. Thomas said the rinks are good marketing tools for garden centres. Arena production manager Rebecca Owen said: "Having an ice rink gives additional revenue streams, improves customer experience and helps to turn a retail outlet into a destination in its own right."
Winter attractions Ice rink, grotto and trail
Until 6 January 2013, visitors to Webbs in Wychbold, Worcestershire, can follow an illuminated trail through the Riverside Gardens from 3pm until an hour before the garden centre closes.
Webbs is offering 45-minute sessions on its ice rink from £5. It also has a grotto but no pop-up shopping centre outlet this year, following the trend set by other centres. Notcutts is the only group to open pop-ups for 2012.