Winter weather over Easter sees sales fall by up to 50% on 2007

Easter garden centre trading was down by up to 50 per cent as snow hit many areas of the UK.

The earliest Easter for almost a century failed to kick off garden trade for the season, with customers resisting the temptation to buy big-ticket items.

Cambridge-based Scotsdales managing director Caroline Owen said poor forecasts had put customers off - but for once they were justified, as several inches of snow fell over the weekend. High winds, sleet and freezing temperatures meant "sales were dire".

She added that March may now be 10 per cent down on 2007, but there was still scope for improvements on last year if summer floods were not repeated.

Essex-based Alton Garden Centre proprietor Derek Bunker said Easter sales were down by half on 2007, with garden machinery 70 per cent down because poor weather meant gardeners had yet to begin mowing. "It was dreadful. We lacked big-item sales because of the weather. Core gardening was only 10 per cent down but furniture, barbecues, landscaping and machinery really suffered."

He added that March was now 30 per cent down on 2007, after a strong January and February.

Hertfordshire-based Aylett Nurseries director Adam Wigglesworth said it was an average weekend but after studying the weather forecast the centre stocked accordingly and was anticipating a strong April.

Focus DIY said Easter sales were down on 2007 but year-on-year sales were up. Pennells and Grosvenor both said the weekend was quiet, while Bedford-based Poplars Garden Centre managing director David Little said as it was such an early Easter there could be no real comparison with last year's figures.

- The HTA has again criticised the Sunday trading laws, which prevented garden centres from opening in England and Wales on Easter Sunday. A Private Members' Bill introduced into the House of Lords on 10 March to amend the rules will receive a second reading on 16 May. Garden & Leisure said it had to turn away 300 cars on Easter Sunday.

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