It was a record year for sales of the HTA's National Garden Gift Vouchers. Sales for December were 10% up and overall sales were up 4% for the year.
Retail Management Group chair Philip Evason, operations director of Haskins Garden Centres, said: "The increase footfall we experienced during the year continued through the month of December with sales in the first 3 weeks notably strong. Fresh cut trees continued to sell well increasing by 11%. English grown poinsettias were in demand, following the general trend for other more seasonal lines such as cyclamen, bay trees, and festive outdoor basket arrangements."
He added: "Christmas tree decorations showed a healthy 15% increase with traditional colour themes of gold, red and silver proving the most popular. Christmas table decorations also showed good growth with centre piece arrangements; festive table cloth designs and candles the notable winners this year. The frosty weather conditions stimulated sales in garden sundries with netting and plant protection fleece (20% increase) cloches and heated propagation. A variety of customer events proved popular during December such as table and Christmas tree decoration demonstrations and children's Santa parties."
Garden Centre Association chief executive Gillie Westwood said early indications of December trading showed increases for the five centres who have submitted trading results
Iain Wylie from Grosvenor Garden Centre in Chester said: "With gardening being so successful in previous months it was with some uncertainty that we entered the Christmas trading season. Could it live up to the brilliant spring and summer and also how would it be compared to 2008, our best ever Christmas? I am pleased to report that it both matched our earlier seasons' success and it was far better than 2008. Christmas decorations and gifts were winners and artificial trees saw particularly strong growth but the real trees suffered slightly. Santa's parade in November was as popular as ever and his reindeer proved a popular attraction for young and old alike."
Peter Chapman from Perryhill Nurseries reports that despite having to close for three days before Christmas because of the snow and ice their plant sales remained ahead of last year. Their Christmas tree sales were excellent with the larger trees (5ft plus) selling first.
Gerald Ingram reports that all three Planters Garden Centres had a good December and were up on last year. Trade dropped away slightly the week before Christmas mainly because they had sold out of many lines.
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