Good Easter holiday sales 'put a smile back on retailers' faces'

Plant sales and catering helped garden centres continue their momentum this Easter, despite rain hitting the East and South East of England.

Some centres broke records and all did better than in weather-hit Easter 2008.

Scotsdales in Cambridge had a record Easter Monday. CEO and HTA retail group chairman Caroline Owen said: "This is just what the industry needed. It demonstrates that despite the recession people are still keen to spend their hard-earned pounds on their gardens with many having a go at 'growing their own' for the first time and investing in their garden."

HTA marketing director Andrew Maxted said National Garden Gift Voucher sales were up 28 per cent in the two weeks leading up to Easter.

Trelawney garden centre owner David Danning said: "We're very pleased. Giftware and houseplants struggled because people are outside in the garden. That doesn't worry us because plants and the restaurant are doing so well. It puts a smile back on your face.

"We need to regain our confidence and a few weeks like we've just had helps with that and then we'll be inclined to invest again."

Loss of Sunday trading hit centres but Webbs chief executive Boyd Douglas-Davies said a "garden centre-friendly" Gardeners' World programme on Good Friday advised gardeners to go to centres on Saturday because they would be closed on Sunday. He said: "At last they're really working with the industry."

Owner Ian Barlow of Garden Retail Award-winning Sidmouth Garden Centre, in Devon, said Easter Monday was "£500 off being a record" and the weekend compared favourably to 2007.

London-based Greenhouse Garden Centre owner Malcolm Scott said: "Easter was not brilliant due to the weather. But we're up on last year because we had such a brilliant few weeks from March. We had great hopes for Easter but the weather was just not there."

Cardiff-based Pugh's Garden Centre owner Graham Pugh said: "We're flat out, which is good news. The decent start to the season takes all the pressure off. Easter kicked off three weeks ago so we're right in the groove early. By the end of Easter we will have broken April sales from last year."

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