Britain's third biggest garden centre chain, the 26-centre Klondyke, has asked suppliers "to help resolve bad buying decisions" after reporting being £400,000 down over the winter on snow products such as sledges.
Managing director Bob Hewitt told delegates at last week's Garden Industry Manufacturers' Association meeting at Barton Grange that the mild winter had left the company with sledges on its hands.
But despite that, sales at the chain have been four per cent up since 1 October 2011 and 30 per cent up over the past fortnight. Turnover to September 2011 increased by seven per cent to £47m with a pre-tax profit of £4.4m.
Klondyke's recent developments include Beverley Garden Centre, which it reopened in March after a refit. It has also made improvements at Northallerton, Wilmslow, High Legh, Inverness and Astbury Meadow. There are plans to develop Edinburgh, Polmont, Stokesley, Kelso and Savilles over the next couple of years.
Hewitt added that despite a greater emphasis on catering, craft and concessions at developed centres, gardening is still core.
"If you're going to be good at something you do it properly. We don't want it to be like B&Q," he said.
Barton Grange tour - Advice for suppliers
Barton Grange managing director Guy Topping showed delegates the development of the £14m-turnover centre, saying he saved millions by managing the £9.6m build himself. He also spent £1.6m on land and £1.4m on planning.
He said his staff had suggested that suppliers need to understand customers, help develop promotions, clear old stock and ensure that products are fit for purpose.
He said an owl nest box he had trialled but was "embarrassed" to sell had made him concerned the tough economy had "forced things down to the lowest common denominator". The box lacked a ledge, making it useless for baby owls, who would fall out.
He added that suppliers could be sharper with paperwork such as correct barcodes and give more product training to staff.