Garden centre group Wyevale Garden Centres, which operates 145 centres nationwide, reported a record-breaking month in May.
The heatwave of the first May bank holiday delivered the retailer’s highest ever trading weekend – up 61% on the same weekend in 2017 – followed by a record week of sales, up 39% on the prior year. The nation’s appetite for gardening shows no signs of abating as the business rounded off its May trading with a strong second Bank Holiday Monday.
Wyevale Garden Centres has sold over 11 million plants this year to date – enough to wrap around the 117-miles of the M25 more than 2.5 times when placed side-by-side. Compost proved a strong-selling category for the month, with over 800,000 bags sold; enough to fill the London Olympic swimming pool over 11 times. Pot bedding plants experienced their biggest-selling month to date, up 30% on last year with over £1.2 million plants sold. In anticipation of the hotter temperatures, watering sales soared 22% YOY in May, with over 4,000 hoses, 20,000 accessories and 12,000 watering cans sold.
Wyevale Garden Centres chief executive Roger McLaughlan commented: “The later spring has brought with it high demand from gardeners as they make up for lost time. We’ve seen a spectacular lift throughout May and are confident this appetite will continue into the season ahead.”
Wyevale Garden Centres, which has an annual footfall of over 45 million, is attributing its sales growth to the late arrival of spring and the instantaneous change from winter temperatures to high summer heat. Pent-up gardeners who had been waiting to get out and enjoy their green spaces have used the unseasonal May temperatures to get planting and investing in their gardens.
The dramatic change in the weather has also heavily influenced the types of plants being purchased by customers, either to replace those damaged by the frosts or to make the most of the later flowering season.
Traditional bedding plants such as Osteospermums, Dahliettas and Marguerites were among the best-sellers, while Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Heathers, vegetable seeds, tomato plants and summer flowering bulbs saw large growth as the natural seasons continue to run 2-3 weeks later. Shrubs also performed strongly in May with plants such as Lavenders, Hydrangeas and Acers up on last year as customers replace plants in their garden following the exceptionally cold spring.
The trends of Chelsea Flower Show filtered through to Wyevale Garden Centres, with new best-sellers including Salvias, Geums, Lupins and Hostas as the company promoted its Chelsea favourites.
Over the past year, Wyevale Garden Centres has significantly grown many of its product ranges outside of its core horticultural offering, including interiors, décor, food and beverage, and gifting. The extensive retail proposition is complemented by an events series tailored to key holidays on the calendar, such as school half-terms, Easter and Christmas, which are said to be fundamental in growing the business.
Roger added: “The traditional garden centre is changing and becoming much more of a destination where people come to learn, shop, dine and play. Our expert team of buyers and retail staff are continually broadening our offer to keep abreast of these new demands, introducing new product categories and ways to engage with the customer on and off-line.”
With over 10 million visits to the website per year, and a social media following of over 140,000, Wyevale Garden Centres’ digital platforms have become instrumental to offering added support, advice and inspiration for curious shoppers and gardening enthusiasts. New initiatives such as gardening ‘jobs of the month’ and DIY projects are being championed across digital channels and in-centre, helping to encourage new and existing audiences to pick up their tools and get gardening, the company notes.
Roger commented: “Our recent studies showed that gardening is often seen to be complicated and confusing, with 69% of under-45s believing they have fewer gardening skills than their parents. In order to demystify gardening, we’ve focused our efforts on our communications, both digital and in-centre, to offer simple, effective solutions and inspiration for gardeners at all skill levels.”