Garden retail sector remains optimistic despite sales performance setbacks

The HTA Retail Management Group has found that 2008 sales are level with 2007 at its latest meeting.

Retail group chairman Caroline Owen said: "Everyone is there or thereabouts, compared to last year. Life is tough because of the economy, but maybe that's when garden centres do well - if people aren't going on holiday abroad. Big-ticket items are struggling but people still want to use their gardens."

Garden & Leisure operations director Carol Paris said: "It's been a very strange year. January and February were good, March was poor, April appalling, May good and June was disappointing. We're where we were last year but not on budget. Members of the retail group say they are between flat and four per cent down. Plants and garden sundries have been good with us but big-ticket furniture and barbecues are poor. But given the poor April we've done OK."

An HTA representative said: "There was a degree of optimism about the meeting and a feeling that despite the credit crunch people were still visiting garden centres (footfall and average sales were up for the majority).

"They also felt that the garden centre offered a 'sanctuary', somewhere for people to visit instead of going to a shopping mall although it was recognised that increased fuel prices may have an impact on out-of-town destination centres."

- Bird care, catering, plants and sundries are up, while furniture, barbecues and water gardening products are down.

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