Growers beat season forecast

Fears over sales have proved to be unfounded as amenity growers report a reasonable season.

Amenity growers have reported a reasonable season despite fears that sales to the landscape sector would be down this year.

It was feared that lower levels of construction would hit the landscape sector as in recent seasons, but demand has been better than expected, with some growers reporting unusually high sales for the time of year.

"It's been better than last year," said Glendale Horticulture principal sales manager John Marsden. "Strong sales in spring continued through to July. It has been quieter in August, as expected, but sales are still coming though. We're based in Kent so we've probably benefited from our location, but things are happening and we're seeing some housing projects happening."

He added that problems with the economy were not yet affecting the landscape sector. "We have a broad sales base and although there have been fewer larger works we've concentrated on smaller projects, which have higher prices. It's a good model and it means that associated costs are lower."

Robin Tacchi Plants plant consultant Tony Fry reported that business was stop-start. "We're having orders come in out of the blue and there does seem to be some business out there," he said. "This week is a bit quieter, but the last few weeks have been quite good. It doesn't feel sustained and it's difficult to say how it's going to develop. Sales seem to be on a par with last year."

Some growers have reported unusually high sales for the summer. Wyevale East Nurseries sales manager Nigel Gibson said: "It's August, so you wouldn't think much would be happening, but we're run off our feet. You've got to hope that it will continue into the autumn.

"Traditionally, February to May has been a busy period and then September to Christmas, but now it seems to be getting more spread out across the year. It's obviously customer-led - people are getting designers and landscapers to work on their gardens at the time they want it, without being constrained by traditional planting times. It's good because it spreads our costs through the year."

Suppliers remain cautious as autumn approaches

Nick Coslett, sales manager, Palmstead nurseries: "It's hard to be absolutely clear at the moment. The crystal ball is still murky. There are a number of positive things and there is a certain amount of activity happening with schemes going ahead. I'm certain that this autumn will be the usual feeding frenzy.

"There is only a finite amount of business out there. Some growers are still suffering from losses from last winter. There is an element of cautiousness in the industry and we're in for a difficult season. We have noticed a drop in local Government spending but there is still some activity going on. Competition from abroad means that there is overproduction and things are dependent on the weather - for example, if construction work can continue."

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