Supermarkets reconsider plant sales venture using marquees

Pressure on car parks sees plant marquees removed from supermarkets.

Sainsbury’s has abandoned plans to sell plants from marquees in its car parks after being hit by problems over the past two summers. And Tesco has reduced its number of marquees by around a third, citing car parking pressures for the 15-20 marquee cut. Sainsbury’s erected more than 40 marquees in 2006 but would not say why they will have none in 2007. A Tesco representative said: “We’ve reduced the number of marquees due to car parking pressures. But the horticulture range continues to do well. Last year we had 40 or 50 and this year we’re having around two-thirds of that — maybe 30.” Tesco had an 11 per cent decline in horticulture sales in the first quarter of 2007 compared to 2006, the HTA has claimed. Sainsbury plants, seeds and horticulture sales are still up three per cent this financial year to 1 June. This is thanks to double-digit growth on seeds, driven by vegetable and organic seed sales, and increases of more than 10 per cent on shrubs and perennials. Poor spring weather in 2006 followed by drought and hosepipe bans forced the major chains into a rethink from their view that plant selling equals easy profits. HTA director David Gwyther said: “We’re not surprised to see that supermarkets are rethinking selling plants in their car parks. Plant retailing is a specialist area that requires properly trained staff who are able to offer expert advice to a wide range of customers. I would have thought that there were also huge challenges in keeping plants at peak condition in a marquee. Customers visit garden centres and retail nurseries for excellent quality plants plus ideas, inspiration and expertise. These are their strengths, and supermarkets find it difficult to compete effectively with them.” Total horticulture retail expenditure in the first quarter of 2007 was up 16 per cent compared to 2006. But total expenditure through supermarkets fell by five per cent over the same period.

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