Plant-buying change identified

Quick turnaround and less reliance on big reserves feature among plant buyers' requirements.

Coolings: customers seeking colourful plants and potted daffodils - image: HW
Coolings: customers seeking colourful plants and potted daffodils - image: HW

Plant buyers are changing the way they work after two bad-weather seasons, by demanding stock that is looking good to be delivered within 48 hours to hit sunny windows.

Coolings horticultural manager Jon Reburn said customers are buying colourful Daphne odoratus and potted daffodils to cheer themselves up after weeks of rain. Sales are a little ahead of 2013 because he has changed his buying strategy for 2014, Reburn added.

"In the past I used to reserve lots of stuff. But after the last two years of bad weather I'm making smaller reserves and looking at what's good in nurseries instead. I don't buy off websites, I speak to growers and say whatever is looking good on their nurseries, get it to me now.

"It's about a quick reaction time. I want to order Monday and have by Tuesday afternoon. Local nurseries that have quick reactions can send a van. I can order at 9am, they send by 2pm and it's sold by 3pm."

Reburn said even the Dutch could take an order on Monday and send it on Wednesday morning, which many UK growers cannot beat. "Some nurseries are struggling to deal with that. It's all about proactive selling by the reps. Some don't know what's looking good on their nursery floor and rely on endless sales lists.

"I buy from more than 70 nurseries and emailing availability lists is not selling their stock. But if someone's spoken to me and can send something looking great, priced and quickly delivered, that's where the trade is now - quick turnaround and less reliant on big reserves.

He added: "I have no pre-planning now. That snowy March last year, we had all our offers planned but went up in smoke because crops weren't ready."

Alton Garden Centre director Andy Bunker said spring bedding sales have been slow but picked up with the advent of better weather.

Weather takes its toll on sales of bedding and pot plants

"The poor weather of late has had a predictable impact on bedding and pot plant sales, with little demand from larger retailers who are reluctant to take product. Mild temperatures have resulted in some crops flowering earlier than planned, which for many growers have been difficult to sell due to the lack of footfall through garden centres. Bedding plant sales, including primula, have been slow, although some growers have successfully cleared stock through smaller garden centres."

Jill England, Adas consultant

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