Fife-based plant wholesaler Growforth managing director Stan Green has called for a debate on how to bring back autumn sales of plants in garden centres after plant losses during the cold winter.
Garden centres are turning to Christmas stock and shying away from plants in the autumn as sales fall and winter losses grow, he said.
"A big issue is how we manage risk in the supply chain and encourage autumn sales. How do we help the retailer manage autumn sales? Should we look at risk-sharing of stock? Sale or return of some plants? Garden centres are saying, 'We can't afford losses and want to cut back on stock'. But it's a self-fulfilling prophecy because if you cut back stock, sales fall," Green said.
"Garden centres are thinking about Christmas by the middle of September, and who can blame them after the past two winters?" he asked.
"It's no good promoting evergreen half-hardy stock that's about to flower. We should focus on hardy material or work with the supply chain on just-in-time stock. There's all sorts of ways we can skin this particular cat. We're just trying to avoid blanket cutting back of plants by September."
VIEW FROM GARDEN CENTRE DIRECTORS
- Ken Cox, director, Glendoick Garden centre
"I think Stan is right - in Scotland we have lost stock twice in 12 months and very little stock will be held over in winter. Fewer and fewer people plant in November to February. In the old days, everyone did with bare-rooted stock. It's a complete turnaround in 50 years."
- Caroline Owen, president, HTA
"Garden centres in the past two years have been buying less for autumn and plant sales have been slower. It concerned me last year and we've discussed it a lot at the HTA. But sales in autumn will never be as good as in spring. We're a nation of fair-weather gardeners."