Garden centres across the country are rising to the challenges of Coronavirus, making sure their customers are safe and selling a lot of gardening products too!
Every centre contacted by GTN Xtra this week has reported an increase in sales of growing media, young plants (especially veg plants) and other gardening products as customers prepare for possible self-isolation with the intention of spending as much of their time in the garden as possible.
The buoyancy of sales can be seen in the latest GTN Bestsellers All Sales index for the week ending on Sunday 15th March. Our EPoS data analysis shows sales up 12% week on week and 17% up on the same week last year. We’ll include the full analysis in this weeks GTN Bestsellers for subscribers and the highlights in GTN Xtra. It will be interesting to see the breakdown of those sales.
High volume sales of Grow Your Own, Wild Bird Care and Jigsaws have been reported in the conversations we've had but the big downside has been a mass cancelling of events and sharp declines in restuarnats and coffee shops.
We’ve also heard that centres have been selling garden furniture and mowers. At Downtown Garden Centre Keith Wilbin reported two very large furniture sales to people who’d had holidays cancelled and wanted to spend the money on their garden instead.
At Ayletts Nurseries where re-stocking composts has been an hourly task, staff from the coffee shop where business has dropped off have been helping out in the production nursery making sure they have plenty of home grown plants to sell.
Many garden centres are offering delivery services, at Gates Garden Centre they have started on line orders and delivery from their new Farm Shop, focusing on elderly who are self-isolating, using the butchers refrigerated van in evenings.
The Old Orchard Nursery in Burwash is offering delivery or collect from the car park orders for groceries and take-away food.
Catering is the area hardest hit but where centres have Farm Shops the drop in catering sales appears to being made up partly by increases in food sales. At Barton Grange the catering team have upped the production of their own freshly made and frozen meals that are on sale in the Farm Shop.
Never before has there been so much potential benefit from a garden centre having a good e-mail database of customers to keep them directly informed of offers, or a large following on Facebook and other social media. There are some good hashtags out there encouraging people to get gardening, notably #keepcalmandgetreadytogarden as conceived by the Young People in Horticulture Association.
Sam Bosworth told GTN Xtra: “If you are self-isolating in May and June and the sun is shining, then why not do it on a nice set of furniture? We are about to embark on a local social media advertising 'campaign' telling everybody about our delivery service and our online shop.
“In 2007/8/9 we all felt that people could not afford (or would not commit to) holidays and spent money on the home and garden, I feel it will be the same this year. 70 years old is not as old as it used to be, they are far more active now, so I expect plenty of Septuagenarians to say "sod staying at home I am going out to do something", whether we agree with them or not!”
Getting back to gardening sales, an update from Andy Bunker at Alton Garden Centre this morning was: “Sales are very good in general, veg particularly and compost good as well. They are our bread and butter lines and a must for stay at home gardeners.”
Fortunately, suppliers of composts and other garden products have plenty of stock to allow for replenishment prior to Easter, which is only 3 weeks away now. Mark Portman at Evergreen Garden Care said: “We’ve seen loads of demand. The season has certainly got started and we are well paced for the season ahead. Where we have some weed killer products that are manufactured in France that may be an issue further down the line, but we have plenty of stock right now.”
Steve Harper from The Greener Gardening Company told us: “There are a few people mentioning that they have seen an uplift in sales of compost and plants but equally some stopping ordering because they seem unsure about whether they’ll be closed down so it’s a very mixed picture.”
In Holland “the clock” at Royal Flora Holland has seen a huge drop in demand which means there could be some great deals to be done provided customers keep coming into UK garden centres and keep on gardening.
In Germany where they have closed all non-essential retail stores, garden and DIY stores have been allowed to carry on opening. Let’s hope that is the situation here in the UK too!
With gardening being so good for the nations physical and mental health it makes total sense for customers who are able to, to get out and buy from garden centres. We will have to do lots of Social Distancing actions to make people feel even safer than usual in a garden centre but with the ingenuity, teamwork and passion of garden centre staff there are bound to be good solutions found. Where garden centres are a key part of their community the safety and wellbeing of customers and staff will be forefront in everybodies minds. Our industry sense of nuture will come to the fore and hopefully help as many people as possible through this difficult period.
At GTN Xtra we’d like to publish as much of a record of garden centre Rising to the Challenge of Coronavirus as possible so when you get a moment please send a note of your actions and your customers reactions, together with photos if you can, to email@example.com or use the comments link below.