Strong Christmas predicted after good season for retail

Christmas is looking promising according to garden centre owners, who are upping their expectations after a good season.

As garden centres unveil their Christmas displays, indications show many have set sights higher than hoped for earlier in the year.

Beckworth Emporium co-owner Jon Kitching said: "Our expectations are higher now because business this year has been better than anticipated."

Webbs managing director Boyd Douglas-Davies said: "We have added a lot of entertainment into the offer for our Christmas.

"The 'Christmas shop' concept we introduced last year worked well and we are doing it again this year. It allows us to take our product to our customers - I think it is going to be fantastic."

Scotsdales managing director Caroline Owen said: "We're holding our price on Christmas trees. That will cost us a little bit of margin."

Whitehall Garden Centre opened its Christmas shop on 3 October. Marketing director Mark Self said the shop includes seven themes: Winter's Tale, Forest of Trees, Snow Dancers, Country Christmas, The Magic of Christmas, Dazzling Purples and All That Glitters.

With VAT due to return to 17.5 per cent for the end of December, retailers are keen to push for big Christmas sales.

Barclays commercial head of retail Richard Lowe said: "The rise in VAT may bring good news for businesses in the short-term as shoppers may consider picking up larger discretionary items in advance of any percentage hike proposed for early next year. However, the impact of this on sales in the new year remains to be seen."

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