Trade relieved as plant sales finally take off

Better weather sees sales of plants skyrocket but growers and garden centres unsure whether season will fully recover.

Customers: garden spending on the up as weather finally improves -image: HW
Customers: garden spending on the up as weather finally improves -image: HW

Plant sales were up by as much as 74 per cent last week as good weather finally allowed gardeners to spend.

But despite a sigh of relief from the trade, with late frosts forecast and a "concertina" season expected, growers and retailers remain concerned whether they can make up lost ground over the next six weeks.

Buckingham Nurseries assistant manager Mike Easom said: "We had record sales last week. We're so glad we were prepared for it. This has restored our confidence in buying."

Summer bedding such as Senetti was "stripped out" by eager buyers, but he is using signs warning that they should not be planted out before the last risk of frost.

"There were a lot of very excited gardeners who had been struggling to get out," said Easom. One-litre herbaceous plants at £2.99 with three for £8 were top sellers.

"Shrub sales have been fantastic and the bare-root season had a fantastic end. Veg, we can't buy enough of."

Suttons Seeds senior horticultural manager Tom Sharples said: "It's all a bit manic and was always going to be so. You start to worry when the season is very late about what you will be left with, but now we've had to move staff around to deal with orders."

Greenhouse Garden Centre owner Malcolm Scott said plants and garden sundry sales have kicked-off. "We were up 40 per cent year-on-year last week, but I don't think there's time left in the season to make it back."

Garden Centre Association inspector Ian Boardman said: "Last week was the first week product started to move, but it's a lot later than we're used to. That matters if it stops in mid June, as it has done previously, and we have a season that's four-to-six weeks shorter. Will people still spend the same money?"

Sunshine delivers turnaround but more of the same still needed

"This weekend has been great. As an industry, we're dependent on the weather from now through to the end of May. A couple of poor weekends could cause problems. The whole place was like a cold store so we haven't thrown anything out. Now the weather has improved it will all start to move really fast and the pressure is on the sales guys. We could still sell what we targeted for the year, but that might not happen."

Geoff Caesar, managing director, Bransford Webbs

"The general picture seems to be improving but momentum is slow. We've sold much more than last week. The sales have been from the south and not the north. In one area we've doubled sales and all our other areas have increased. The feeling is there is a big recovery afoot. Last weekend there was sunshine and people went out and spent money. But we need to be busy and we can't afford any slow weeks now."

Simon Catterall, sales manager, Garden Centre Plants

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