Plant sales suffer despite overall improvement

Van Hage managing director Chris Roberts told the HTA Garden Futures conference (16-17 October) that outdoor plant sales at his £20m turnover centres are now just 15 per cent of overall sales.

HTA president Stan Green said garden centres need the USP of plants. "The beautiful truth is that we trade in an amazing product that brings joy and comfort to so many - the beautiful truth is that our product promotes sustainable and healthy living."

But Roberts admitted that plant sales have fallen from one-third of turnover 10 years ago to 18 per cent including houseplants. He said a zoo brings in 500,000 visitors, a railway 72,000, a circus 20,000, a Christmas Santa event 35,000 and an ice rink 43,000 along with £500,000 turnover including 17,000 hot chocolate sales.

The plant market is static and "will never" get back to one third of sales said Roberts. He explained that Van Hage is now looking to get away from branded product "because it's just about price", while catering has the potential to make up a quarter of turnover, he said.

Overall sales are up by nine per cent this year, Roberts pointed out. Aylett said they are up by three per cent, Ben Reid five per cent, Klondyke six per cent and Scotsdales two per cent. Garden Centre Association average rises are four per cent up.

The conference heard retail UK online sales will be 16 per cent of overall sales at £59bn in 2017, up from 10 per cent now, and that 76 per cent will buy online by 2017.

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