Shortages loom as sales soar

Retailers report plant sales reaching 2011 levels but fear stock availability impacting on season.

Plant sales: good start to season - image: HW
Plant sales: good start to season - image: HW

Strong plant sales could lead to shortages if the season continues as well as it has started, growers and retailers have warned.

The bank holiday on 5 May could see another peak after Easter plant sales doubled compared with 2013 at some retailers. Bransford Webbs managing director Geoff Caesar said the past six weeks have seen steady sales with garden centres being well stocked throughout.

Sales are at similar levels to 2011, the grower's best year ever. "We couldn't ask for this year to be any better because we're right on top of available stock," said Caesar. "It could be the best year ever - we've just got to hope that it keeps going. But because of availability of stock we could potentially struggle.

"In 2011 we were bullish about stock levels but in 2012 and 2013 levels were probably a bit lighter. We're offering, people are taking and they're selling through. We could run into a period of stock being a little tighter but only if it's perfect weather for the next six weeks."

Woodlark Nurseries managing director Colin Edwards said sales are at 2011 levels with a "good feeling" around the industry. Pansy and primula sales went well and geraniums started early, by the end of March.

"We are very much ahead," he added. "We're probably through our first two batches of geraniums out of five. They should last until July but could end by the end of May and I can easily see some shortages by then. We tend to grow what our customers ask us. Our customers' orders are potentially less. We're not as bullish now and we're not going to risk growing 25 or 30 per cent extra."

Buckingham Garden Centre & Nurseries publicity manager Chris Day said: "Our reserves are coming forward with the advancement of the season. We were taking things in April that were planned for May, which could cause an upset later in the season because production has been down."

Buyer comment

"Bar Farplants we don't reserve anything at all because there are enough people out there trying to sell it. Normally on Mondays they are all in touch about stock but we've been having to phone them. Italian specimen stock has gone well and Erysium 'Bowles Mauve' has sold out, but that's the only thing."

John Mason, plant manager, Highfield Garden World

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