Record Easter for daffodil sales hurt by harsh winter

Pent up demand from the worst winter in decades led to record Easter daffodil sales, with some retailers recording 100 per cent increases on last year.

Marks & Spencer and Tesco reported their best-ever Easters, with M&S alone selling 12 million stems. M&S flowers expert Katherine Montgomery said: "Due to the harsh weather over the winter, the UK daffodil crop was actually two weeks later than normal, so it seems consumers are making up for lost time."

Waitrose enjoyed a spectacular year, with British daffodil sales up 100 per cent on Easter 2009. While Tesco was unable to produce figures, a senior buying manager said: "We have had by far our best-ever Easter for daffodil sales." Sainsbury's also reported bumper sales, with daffodils up 44 per cent on Easter last year.

The news will come as a relief to many daffodil growers who were predicting a catastrophic season after the worst winter in 30 years delayed blooms. It was by no means a champagne season for any of the growers, but the terrific Easter helped salvage what could have been a disaster.

Winchester Growers commercial director Simon Pearson said: "It looked like it would be horrible in January and February but we have come out average overall so while it is one of those seasons to remember, it's one I would rather forget."

Winchester's daffodil production is based in Cornwall and thus benefits from the best of the weather. Because of the late winter in Wales, the Cornish growers were able to profit from St David's Day as Welsh growers suffered low volumes.

Really Welsh commercial director Richard Arnold said: "Prices have been stronger across the whole season though the late start obviously hurt us. Not getting full volume availability out of the week before St David's Day was a problem. We would have liked to have had about 2,000 boxes in the major retailers but we probably had a few hundred."

The company was able to claw back profits with a strong Mother's Day and Palm Sunday, said Arnold. It supplies the 50 Tesco outlets in Wales together with 12 Tesco Express and a handful of border stores. But for one week it supplied Tesco nationwide as the retailer struggled with its normal supply.

Arnold added: "It was a very mixed season and one that we can't really repeat. We learned a few lessons, but overall it would have been a really good season had we got a better start."

The variable supply of daffodils appears to have helped tulip sales, with most of the major retailers reporting strong performance. M&S sold 1.3 million, up 20 per cent on last year, while Sainsbury's reported 47 per cent growth on 2009.

Pearson added: "Tulips have been strong and there's been a bit of a bounce back from the daffodil shortage. Dutch prices have been all over the place so we have managed to sell everything we grew."

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