As news filters through about plant centres getting back to year on year sales and some centres that changed hands last year actually being up year to date now, GTN Xtra has been hearing from garden centres that they are selling out of some lines, especially BBQ’s Charcoal and Gas as lockdown relaxations add fuel to spending at garden centres.
At Altons Garden Centre in Essex, Derek Bunker told GTN Xtra: “Every day is the same. The biggest nightmare is getting stock. We’re running at half capacity with only 100 cars being allowed to park and our May sales will not be far behind where we would have been ina “normal” year.
“We’ve sold out of BBQ’s, we’ve run out of charcoal today (Monday) and we can’t get any more gas for 2 weeks.
Jay Bunker, who runs the BBQ department at Altons added: “So far we’ve sold 911 BBQ’s this year compared with 1171 in the whole year for 2019. All of our fire pits and pizza ovens have sold too. I’m working really hard to find more stock as we’ve got loads of customers on waiting lists. All of the social media activity during lockdown (see Altons BBQ YouTube and Instagram channels) meant we kept selling high numbers while the centre was closed and since re-opening it’s gone bonkers.”
When it comes to garden care products Derek said it was getting harder to find stock. “Some pest control products and some key plant foods appear to be in very short supply. I understand the issue with the lack of John Innes compost is that the manufacturers are running out of grit.”
“Some suppliers are being brilliant at getting stock through to us and they will be the big beneficiaries as we can keep on selling if there are products on the shelves.
Back in March, Derek predicted that if we could get back selling May we could make up a lot of lost ground and that the season would run for longer than usual. “We’ve just got to find a way of making the most of the next 2 months of this, both suppliers and retailers.”
In Northern Ireland, Alan Mercer at Hillmount said: “The demand for Garden Furniture & BBQ’s was so high that we shut our website down on Wed. We were selling 25 BBQ’s and struggled to keep up with online & in store orders.
“We have a complex waiting list for current garden furniture orders and have asked people to simply make us a wish list of what they like allowing us to contact them when we know stock is available again. Our 3 x March Kettler garden furniture containers will arrive next week so that should help us fulfill orders and give us a better in store display.
“We purposely carry 120 gas bottles & we have just run out on Tuesday. We have stockpiled Weber charcoal & briquettes. At one point we had 22 pallets of charcoal/briquettes.”
At Coolings Green & Pleasant, Paul Cooling reports: “Whilst we have increased sales of garden furniture nicely over May 2019, the sales of Weber Barbeques have more than doubled and are back to where they were in 2018. Frustratingly we are now waiting on supplies of charcoal along with many other products that our customers are asking for.
“I don't know what it is about Calor gas that every Summer the depot runs out of stock. I first got involved in this side of the business 6 years ago and I thought that maybe we were doing something wrong, but now I have come to expect a new excuse each season. Last week we were asked not to sell any new gas bottle contracts. You can imagine how that went down when trying to sell gas BBQs! Are other brands as bad?”
Sam Bosworth at Bosworths near Kettering said: “What a couple of weeks! Our Online sales really helped during lockdown, with our regular local customers, who would never normally buy Gardening products on the internet, using us for Gardening Products initially, then Furniture.
“We shipped very little beyond a 25 mile radius of the Garden Centres, so it was our 'normal' customers rather than us tapping into the overall online market.
“When we opened plants, and compost have been very strong, with Compost being the new 'loo roll'.
“Furniture was quiet initially for us during lockdown, but in the last three weeks it has taken off dramatically with some excellent sales across all price points.
“We do not have room for BBQ's, so little to offer there, but the demand for Patio Gas has been massive, with Calor being useless at supplying. They will not allow new issues, nor give us any extra stock, and take ages to deliver. BP Gas light have been better, but it is not so widely used.
“Garden Sundries including Pots, Tools and Watering have also been strong. But it is Plants and compost that have really driven our business and put significant cash in the tills on a daily basis.
Bosworths also have a small centre at Elton near Peterborough where daily sales have been higher with just the Garden Centre this year than they were last year with both catering and Garden Centre open. “Again, Plants, Compost and Pots have been great. It is a lot older clientele in that area, so numbers have been down, but spend up significantly,” added Sam.
“We are really struggling to know where to go with Catering, it was around 45% of sales at Elton, so a big part of the business, but switching it back on immediately puts overheads back up to where they were and with reduced numbers and a reduced spend. I cannot see ATV increasing by so much in the Cafe like it has in the Garden Centre. It really does not make sense to open without a lot of thought and cost control.
“It all seems very calm at Elton, no queues, no fuss, and much more relaxed. But we are doing all deliveries and online out of Burton Latimer, which is where all the stress, communication issues and workload come from! Having said that, we are actively improving our online website daily, with more images and information, as we feel it is here to stay. We also feel it is going to have a big part to play in Christmas sales, so we need to get it right now.”
Julian Winfield at Haskins told GTN Xtra: “Last week was record sales for many gardening categories and furniture and BBQ's. On the gardening side availability has been difficult but our buying department orders over 90% of our stock centrally which has made it much easier than local ordering.
“Fortunately, we pre-bought a higher percentage of our garden furniture compared with previous years and this has been massively helpful in maximising sales over the last few weeks. It has been encouraging how much pent up demand is still in the system, but we realise that once gardening slows and the restaurants are still shut it will be a different picture.”
Gerald Ingram at Planters in the West Midlands said on Monday: “We currently have no compost; pots are in short supply but arriving as we speak.
“BBQ’s have sold very well and will be a record for us. Weber have kept us well stocked with only a few minor out of stocks.
“Furniture has continued to sell well with more customers willing to pre book their furniture of lines that we are waiting for.
“We are getting regular stocks of gas but have been out of quite a few lines.
“Turf has been selling especially well despite the dry weather.
“Tools have been difficult but we are currently placing new orders.
“Wild bird food is another problem area with two suppliers missing deliveries last week.
“What a month of May Days!” said Boyd Douglas-Davies, Communications and PR Director for British Garden Centres. “Due to amazing amount of hardwork from the teams across the business we have had a very encouraging month. Sales have certainly been in excess of anything we hoped for.
“No doubt the weather has played a major part but without the incredible support of our suppliers as well we couldn't have maintained the momentum.
“The first few days were all about plants and compost but as the month progressed we saw a wider range of goods being purchased. The last few days of the month saw a good mix of everything selling.”
Boyd also sent us the following verse which you might like to add to over the coming days:
“On the 12th day of May,
“Boris said... you can open tomorrow way,hay!!
“In the west they wanted to be best
“So Wales opened ahead of the rest!
“Sadly over the Northern border
“They didn't receive the same go, go order…
Please add your verses using the comments button below or send to email@example.com
(Eds note: The verse did have suitable emojis included but our GTN Xtra Newsletter software doesn’t like emojis, sorry if that loses effect Boyd.)