The mixed weather across the country this Easter weekend appears not to have deterred gardeners as many garden centres report strong trading – particularly with regard to grow your own, plants and core gardening products.

Sales of National Garden Gift Vouchers (NGGV) have also continued strongly into April following a record March. The NGGV scheme, operated by the HTA, on behalf of the industry, was heavily promoted in the run up to Easter. Sales to HTA members in the first two weeks of April were 24% ahead of the equivalent weeks last year.

Caroline Owen from Scotsdales Garden Centre and Chairman of the HTA’s Retail Management Group said, “At Scotsdales we had our best ever day on Easter Monday with great sales across the board on gardening. This is just what the industry needed and sets us in good stead for the rest of the season. It demonstrates that despite the recession people are still keen to spend their hard earned pounds on their gardens with many having a go at ‘growing their own’ for the first time and investing in their garden.”

Adding to this HTA’s Director of Marketing, Andrew Maxted comments, “Reports from members around the UK are very encouraging. We are beginning to see signs that the ‘grow your own trend’ is developing with a much wider demand for all things garden. While it is early days there are distinct signs that gardening is in danger of becoming fashionable again.”

Further comments on Easter trading from HTA members.

Alan Bryan from Byrkley Garden Centre comments, “Good weather was a key factor in getting customers thinking about gardening, not only over the Easter break but also beforehand, as we have had a good March this year as well.

Purchases were very much gardening focussed with outdoor and seasonal plants doing well, as well as related products e.g. compost and garden sundries. Sales performance in total for the four days was up 46% on last Easter (in March 2008), and 39% up on this time last year (Fri-Mon). A major disappointment continues to be our inability to open on Easter Sunday. It was particularly apparent this year, with the good weather, that customers wish to shop at this time, when they are prohibited from doing so. We must address this issue, particularly at a time when the general economic climate is poor, so that barriers preventing customers spending are removed.”

Alan Down, Cleeve Nursery comments, “Very good weather throughout the whole weekend ensured that more records were broken! Sales for the weekend were over 100% up on a very disappointing Easter weekend last year. Trade continues to be exceptionally strong in all departments with grow your own fruit and veg still the star performer but hardy stock [either home grown or locally sourced] well ahead of expectations too. Our coffee shop just keeps on smashing records, our car park has been overfull and growing average sales per customer continues to surprise us. We are finding that we are attracting lots of new, and younger, customers, helped in part by our recent schools scarecrow competition, our hatching Easter chicks and our regular involvement in writing a local newspaper column – long may it continue!

Iain Wylie from Grosvenor Garden Centre in Chester comments, “A fantastic Easter Weekend, well ahead of last year and even beating 2007! On Monday, for the first time in years, customers were queuing along the road to get in. Monday was our most successful Easter trading day ever but we were prepared and the weather certainly did us no harm. Our core business performed exceptionally well and I think nearly every customer left with a basket or trolley full of plants! However sales were buoyant across all product categories and catering also proved very popular. I think it is important not to get carried away, there is a long way to go and we still don’t know what the economy and weather have up their sleeves in the coming months.

Martin Stewart from Stewarts Garden Centres comments, “As it turned out it was not a bad Easter, but it was not a record breaker either. We ended up 43% up on last year but still 17% down on 2007 which was a record. For us Good Friday was very poor (it was a bit drizzly), Saturday average and Monday started off brilliantly and then faded away mid afternoon. It was actually only average in the end. We do find that people think Bank Holidays follow Sunday trading hours. The best thing about the weekend was the strong emphasis on core gardening. Plants and Garden Shop have been really positive all weekend. People are clearly getting out in their garden. I need to look back on the records but we think today would have been a near record for plants. Two years ago a large % of our takings was made up of furniture.”

Carole Goodchild, Burston Garden Centre, St Albans comments, “The run-up to Easter was very busy and buoyant due to good weather. Easter itself was reasonably satisfying although we were hit by continuous poor, wet weather all the way through, right until the early afternoon of the Bank Holiday Monday! We were, however, very encouraged by strong sales right across our product range and our star performers were most definitely ‘grow your own’ products. Indoor furniture sales were also very encouraging and noticeably, a large number of customers were buying larger specimen plants for the ‘instant’ gardening effect. To summarise, we have been far less affected by the credit crunch and again, far more by the weather.”

Adam Wigglesworth from Ayletts Nurseries also in St Albans comments, “We experienced very solid weekend trading with sales significantly up on last year’s disappointing Easter. However sales did not match the excellent levels achieved two years ago at Easter 2007. Significant interest continues in the grow-your-own sector and all its associated products, but it was also a strong general plant weekend.”

James Ducker from Langlands Garden Centre near York comments “We had a fantastic Easter Weekend trade overall sales were up 89% on 2008. Top performing departments were Garden Furniture up 326%, outdoor plants up 310%, bedding plants up 193%, pots and containers up 163% we also had a very busy weekend in our Coffee Shop and Café Bar which were up 28%.”

Chris Coward from Downtown Garden Centre, Grantham, comments, “ Friday and Saturday were a bit quiet due to the weather but steady foot fall overall with outdoor sector performing best – particularly plants, BBQs, mowers and garden buildings. Our café also did well. Overall we supersede our Easter 2007 figures.”

Graham Stephenson from Whiteley’s Garden Centre, West Yorkshire, comments, “Very, very good! Plants saw a massive increase, sold out of vegetable plants by Saturday (and they had done 10x more than last year). Garden furniture also did well. It gives us confidence about the rest of the season – a bright future!”

The Horticultural Trades Association
Horticulture House – 19 High Street – Theale – Berks – RG7 5AH
Tel: +44 (0)118 930 3132 Fax: +44 (0)118 932 3453

The HTA – www.the-hta.org.uk
Gift Vouchers – www.thevouchergarden.co.uk
APL – www.landscaper.org.uk
PlantforLife – www.plantforlife.info