Plant sales fluctuate, while clothing and catering soar in March

Garden centres across the country saw sales of clothing and catering soar while fluctuating weather saw plant sales rise and fall last month, according to the Garden Centre Association’s Barometer of Trade (BoT) results. 

Houseplants were up 5.5% during March, while sales of outdoor plants fell -13.76%. Clothing sales were up 9.16% compared with the same month in 2014 and catering was up 5.87%.

GCA chief executive Iain Wylie explained: “This time last year we experienced some fantastic weather, which led to some impressive sales figures at the garden centres. It was always going to be tough to beat this year as the great British weather is so unpredictable so we have seen sales of plants rise and fall throughout the month.

“When our traditional categories are being affected like this it’s great to see sales of our non-traditional categories pick up the pace. Despite the rain it looks like garden centre customers made sure they were kitted out in the latest gear and stopped off at cafés and restaurants during their visits for a spot of lunch, dinner or a cuppa and cake.”

During the month, food hall and farm shop sales increased 2.88%.

Garsons director Ben Thompson said: “Catering continues to grow at our Titchfield centre, where our restaurant was refurbished just over a year ago. March sales were up, restaurant sales achieved a 16% growth year on year for 2014 to 15.

“The improved offer has driven site visitor numbers up, with general food and butchery sales performing very well also.”

Squires Garden Centre md Dennis Espley said: “It was a disappointing month in all gardening categories, particularly sundries, trees and shrubs. There was encouraging interest in furniture and BBQs, particularly when there was a sunny day. Catering and gifts performed well, particularly on Mother’s Day weekend. Fortunately trading since Easter Monday has been excellent.”

The GCA represents nearly 200 garden centres nationwide. Its BoT reports are compiled using actual sales figures and provide an up-to-date trading position statement. They are made available mid-month following the end of the prior month after all member garden centres have submitted their results. The reports allow members to compare their trading positions with other centres.

GCA Chairman Will Armitage said: “Again the weather has put a slight dampener on what is proving to be a fantastic start to this year’s season. The general election may put a bit of a downer on customer confidence in the run up to polling day, but as we all know, if the weather is on our side, we’ll be busy.” “