Grow-your-own sales soar but retailers are selling out of products too fast

Sales of grow-your-own vegetables have quadrupled this spring - but shortages of key products are on the horizon because garden centres and suppliers have ordered cautiously because of the financial downturn.

As the peak time for planting potatoes, tomatoes and other fruit and vegetable approaches this month, garden centres are already quickly selling out of planters, propagators and seed potatoes after they under-ordered because they were wary of the recession.

This means that the grow-your-own campaigns could already be under pressure.

Cambridge-based Scotsdales Garden Centre owner Caroline Owen said: "March is proving successful, with grow-your-own and younger people driving sales.

"Demand is outstripping supply in seed potatoes and manufactured products such as propagation equipment.

"Manufacturers have brought out new products but a lot are already out of stock."

Worcestershire-based garden centre Webbs of Wychbold senior buyer Alan Docherty said: "This year everyone has been cutting orders and has not placed big orders pre-season - and it looks like suppliers have not made big orders either.

"We're putting a lot more effort into selling grow-your-own and getting a lot more back. We've probably sold double last year."

Lancashire-based Summerseat Garden Centre partner Judith Ainscow said: "With seasonal products things are difficult. All garden centres need wholesalers and if everyone is watching cash flow and stock levels, it's difficult to predict sales of some products."

Hertfordshire garden centre Van Hage head of marketing Andrew Bourne said: "We're relying on suppliers to be there to top up as we need them. The danger is that retailers are ordering at the last minute ahead of Easter and that might mean logistical problems."

Thompson & Morgan young plants director Paul Hansord said seed potato sales were up 100 per cent and some varieties had already sold out.

Representative Maria Bevis of Sheffield-based supplier of potato-growing bags and home allotment kits Burgon & Ball said: "We can't keep up with demand. We tried to get a forecast from key players in the garden centre sector but they are ordering four times what we expected."

Squire's managing director Dennis Espley said: "Last week we were 30 per cent up on last year. It's good to see that, given reasonable weather, we can take money. Grow-your-own is very, very significant but everything is starting to go, even furniture."

He added that he was not aware of any shortages.

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