Mixed bank holiday sales fail to put dent in 'unbelievable' garden industry season

Spring bank holiday 'nothing to write home about' but season so far has been 'unbelievable', says HTA vice-president.

Garden centres: healthy sales recorded despite the mixed weather - image: HW
Garden centres: healthy sales recorded despite the mixed weather - image: HW

Bank holiday weekend (24-26 May) was "nothing to write home about", according to HTA vice-president elect and Aylett's director Adam Wigglesworth, but the season so far has been "unbelievable".

He said he had a "good solid weekend but the weather was not really playing ball" after an "unbelievable couple of months".

Matching June-August 2013 figures "could be a struggle because suppliers are struggling to supply outdoor living products". But he added: "It's better to be where we are now than where we were last year".

Wigglesworth said Solus going into administration (see p13) is "sad" but supplier Decco has filled the gap for his centre.

Martin Stewart, managing director at Stewarts, said: "We had a good bank holiday and beat budget. Sales were almost exactly the same as the same bank holiday last year, which is good because May last year supplied our best run of sales. We're ahead of that for May and had a good March and April.

"But there's no doubt the rain took the edge off it, though we were within a few hundred pounds of our record on the Monday."

He said outdoor furniture sales this year have been cracking and he has "pretty decent stocks", but retailers running "just in time" ordering are going to find it "difficult", he added.

Stewart said Solus going into administration has not impacted his business and he is using Decco more. But the loss of Solus would have made a bigger impact five years ago when it had a bigger market share and garden centres sold more of what they supplied, he added.

Hillview Group chief executive Boyd Douglas-Davies said the bank holiday "wasn't bad at all" despite mixed weather. There was "not an abundance" of garden furniture in the market and stocks could be gone by Solex (7-9 July). He warned on Solus that there is "a lot of business for Stax and Decco to absorb" and the longer Solus goes unsold the less likely it is that it will find a buyer.

Garden Centre Association chief executive Iain Wylie said the bank holiday was "hit and miss" because of the weather but the season so far reflects the good spring weather and a "back to normal season". Matching 2013 late-season sales "will be difficult" after good early season outdoor living sales.

Garden Industry Manufacturers Association director Vicky Nuttall said some smaller member suppliers are "vulnerable" after Solus went into administration. The Leisure & Outdoor Furniture Association admitted a shortage of furniture because of cautious buying.

Sales increasing

GfK has reported a seventh consecutive month of rises in garden centre and DIY sales, with April up 20.7 per cent following March's 26 per cent rise on the same month in 2013. In April, lawnmowers were up 60 per cent and barbecues up 91 per cent.

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