Retailers told to get creative

Garden centre consultant Eve Tigwell has called for retailers to drive up falling houseplant sales by creating more orchid festivals in their centres.

Tigwell said: "I've just come back from working with one of my German customers — building, displaying and merchandising her annual Orchid Festival. It looked pretty good and customers were certainly very keen on it. I'm always so surprised that UK centres don't do such exciting things in their houseplant areas. Perhaps some promoting is needed?"

The Garden Centre Association found houseplant sales were nine per cent down in December and 3.75 per cent down across the whole of 2009 — the only category to fall last year.

Chief executive Gillie Westwood said increased competition from supermarkets using houseplants as loss leaders was to blame: "Indoor plant sales have suffered because of competition from supermarkets, which are slashing prices to ridiculous levels."

Buckingham Garden Centre horticulture manager Chris Day said: "The orchid festival idea sounds appealing. It's a timing issue for us as space in the shop is always at a premium. A summer or early autumn orchid spectacular would be more do-able for us, rather than mid to late winter, again at a time of the year when houseplant sales are low and in need of a jolt."

Representatives from regional British orchid societies, in-house garden centre experts, enthusiasts and growers of the plant will attend an orchid weekend at the Garden Centre Group on 6-7 March.

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