It was a bad week for garden centre trading with sales almost falling off our All Sales index graph but not the worst start to the year in recent history.
Despite last week’s lost days trading, GTN Bestsellers records show that total sales volumes for the first nine weeks of the year were 9.1% higher than in 2013.
As with the garden centres below we are keeping everything crossed for sales to get back to normal this week so that the nation gets gardening before Easter.
We asked garden centres across the country how things are getting back to normal?
Martin Stewart, Stewarts Garden Centres: “Yes, almost certainly the worst weeks trading to budget in my time.
“Our 3 centres were down 39% first 7 days of March. Down 12% since the start of our financial year (1st Feb).
“In the last 11 days that's £192,000 down on budget, money out of our cash flow during a VAT week too. Not fun.
“But on a positive note, yesterday all 3 centres were up on the same day last year and today (Thursday) it looks like all 3 will do budget! So, there is life in the old banger yet!!
“Our coffee shops have been rammed so we are clearly still on peoples radars.”
Julian Winfield, Haskins Garden Centres: “Not a good start for Spring. It has been a long-time since we have had snow so late, but not the first or I suspect the last! Last week was the first week of our financial year, so not a good start. However, I am confident that we will have good weeks again, historically if you look at spring trade for March, April, May and June we have only had 7 - 8 good trading weeks.”
a tough few days and we closed early Thursday afternoon but we just about might as well have not been opened. We just couldn't get any staff in on Friday at any of the centres so were closed all day Friday but we started getting ready to be able to open Saturday. Again a very poor day but Sunday was much better and had we not had the snow Sunday would have been a bumper day as it felt very much like Spring!
Mike Burks, The Gardens Group: “It’s been a slowish start to the week but getting busier all of the time.
“Luckily we had a very strong start to the year and it’s only the last few days of Feb and the first few of March that have been poor. Although we are now behind 2017 it’s not by too much in terms of sales but as those sales are dominated by January the margin for YTD won't look great at this stage.
“Luckily, we also missed out on the snow that many centres had before Christmas which was much more damaging and so we can't moan too much!
“We have no plans for additional promotional effort because it will be the weather that turns it around - just a bit of normal stuff and it should straighten out.
“The good news is that tea breaks have been outside all this week and so all is right with the world!”
Steve Searle, Monkton Elm Garden Centre: “We lost two and a half days last week and only opened Sunday because we had a digger in Saturday morning and a handful of staff to clear the car park.
“Taunton was hit harder than some of our close areas as we are in a valley and it seemed none of our roads were cleared once you came off the motorway that only had one lane opened until Saturday and then it was only 2.
“The week so far has been picking up but still 25% behind last year but more comparable to 2016 as last year was exceptional for a mild start.
“We feel Mothering Sunday should be a busy day as normal but it seems to be coming around way too quick this year as it is so early and even customers are saying they did not know it was this Sunday already. Our Spring offer goes out to customers from the 19th of March and runs through April so we are hoping this will be as successful as it was last year but we will wait and see how the weather performs as that is one of the key elements in all garden centre sales!”
James Ducker, Langlands Garden Centres: “We were 42% up on the same day last year for Wednesday.
“Our Sheffield coffee shop had to close due frozen pipes and both Sheffield and Leeds were hit again by snow today (Thursday.)”
Gerald Ingram, Planters and Garden King Garden Centres: “We were fairly lucky in that we lost at most 1 hour of trade.
“Trade is well down but positives are wild bird food, rock salt and coal. Customers have returned this week in the sun but still not spending like they did last year.
“The ground is now wet and cold which will delay a start. But I would rather have a bad March and a great April and May than the other way around.”
Adam Wigglesworth, Aylett Nurseries: “We lost 45% of turnover, but I’m sure we were lucky compared to others. We only had to close early on one day.
“By Wednesday trading had got back to the same as last year. There is huge enthusiasm out there, with customers out in their droves when the sun shines. Independent centres have a great advantage now as we are able to switch on promotions and turn things around quickly.”
“I really feel it for plant suppliers. This makes like very difficult for them.”
Tam Woodhouse, Millbrook Garden Centres: “It has been horrible. Crowborough has been without water for the last 4 days after the snow so we haven't been able to open the cafe. Sales figures seem to be taking a long time to recover even though the weather has improved.
“We have a big weekend of promotions planned for Garden Re-Leaf including a half price plant voucher which we hope will kick start spending on plants for this spring.
“We just need the sun to come out now please!”
Alan Roper, Blue Diamond Garden Centres: “Obviously the weather hasn’t had the impact we experienced in December and it is what it is we have had poor starts to the season before. An early Easter with this weather pattern could deliver another trading blow though.
“It could be a season where we are forever playing catch up, not overly concerned though. Been here many times before!”
And Bunker, Alton Garden Centre: “For us it is a little of a double edge sword firstly because of location on a main road. The road is cleared as a matter of priority but the down side of not being in a town means very few venture out. Especially as the message unless essential journey don't travel!
“We’ve not had problem with pipes or such like and as one of us gets in as normal regardless at around 7.30am so ready and tills open from 9am as usual. Also we have our own security on site 24 -7 overnight so any problems flagged up rather than coming in, in the morning to a flood.
“Trade of course has been non-existent apart from the usual snow shovels, salt and sledges.
“Business has improved this week but probably trading as a February rather than March and the big problem is a little like fresh bread: Say you buy bread every 3/4 days but the first loaf has not been eaten nothing wrong with it but do you throw that away knowing your fresh one is on its way or eat it making the fresh one a day or so old. That’s what could be happening with spring plants just now. Primroses look okay and saleable but not as vibrant as the new stock. Surely you dump them and bring in the new especially as its mother's day weekend BUT there’s nothing really wrong with existing plants!
“We need some good press and soon - although Chris Evans on BBC Radio 2 is great and talks very often about gardening. Today he talked about a mum who wants a lawnmower for Mother's Day present not a meal or chocolates.
“For Mother's Day we will do our usual give away and I am doing some good offers on NEW stock from now until Sunday with a definite finish Sunday night. For example 2 spike orchid £8.99 on a 2.4 .1 now going out at £6.99. Planters already good value at £16.99 I’m going to drop to £9.99 just for Saturday and Sunday on that one also Primrose possibly 6 for £2 to drive sales and move some stock.”
Boyd Douglas-Davies, Hillview Garden Centres: “Great recovery this week so looking to be +10% v LY
“We were 75% off budget for the week as a result of the snow and the freezing conditions
“Monday after the snow was slow but Tuesday and Wednesday are trading back above budget and significantly up on the same days last year.
“Our spring flyer was distributed at the end of last week. We are re-running our hugely successful plant-a-thon at every store on Garden Re-Leaf day.
“Mothers Day lunches are selling really well along with afternoon tea bookings for Saturday and Sunday.”
Meanwhile in the North West, which usually tends to fair worst when we have bad weather, Russell Winteridge from Barton Grange tells us: “We didn’t lose any trading time. Business has been typical of a cold start to the season.
“We are a bit protected from by the Lakes to the north, the Pennine’s to the east and Bents Garden Centre to the south!
“Hardy plant sales were 50% down but indoor areas faired much better, our farm shop for example was only 9% down.
“The Flower Bowl building is covered now and rain proof so we had no effect there other than the cold wind blew a bit of rubbish around.”
If you'd like to add to this story with information about your trading last week, please use the comments button below or e-mail email@example.com
GTN Bestsellers Top 50 sales volumes compared to the same week last year (week 9)
Garden Products - down 63%
Growing Media - down 69%
Veg-2-Gro - down 69%
Wild Bird Care - up 5%
All Plants Index - down 75%
All Items Index - down 61%
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