Despite another wet and rainy month in March the UK’s garden centre sales reports 22 per cent increase in sales

GCA CEO Peter Burks.

The UK’s Garden Centre Association’s (GCA) Barometer of Trade (BoT) report for March 2024 indicates that despite adverse weather conditions, the country’s garden centre sales surged by 22 per cent compared to March 2023, helped by the earlier Easter.

According to data submitted by the organisation’s member garden centres, none of the categories recorded were down when likened to March 2023 and the year-to-date variance was +9.12 per cent.

GCA CEO, Peter Burks says: “March has been a very strong month for our members. It was definitely helped with Easter being in the month this year. Customers were clearly out in their gardens with hard landscaping showing the biggest increase in sales compared to March 2023.

“Plants and garden sundries also showed big increases, which is very good news. All categories showed a positive result, all garden centres of all sizes/turnovers were up, and every member region was up too. Our smaller garden centres, those in the under £3 million turnover bracket, made the biggest percentage increases, +27.17 per cent, with our East region showing the best regional increase by far at +22.62 per cent.”

Members in the South saw an increase of +13.87 per cent, in the North, Scotland and Northern Ireland it was +12.1 per cent, and in the Midlands, Wales and West +10.77 per cent.

Excluding Christmas and the miscellaneous section, the GCA’s top performing category in March 2024 was hard landscaping, up +38.42 per cent, when compared to the same month in 2023. This was followed by outdoor plants at +32.39 per cent, garden sundries at +28.86 per cent and clothing in at +22.07 per cent.

Food hall/farm shop also recorded a positive return in March, in comparison to the same month last year, and was up +20.21 per cent and seeds & bulbs was at +16.24 per cent. Catering was in at +16.21 per cent and pet & aquatics at +13.8 per cent, houseplants at +10.39 per cent and gifts at +8.99 per cent.

Fran Barnes, Chief Executive of the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA), commented: “Wet weather continues to dominate this year’s narrative, presenting historically wet and dull conditions, with 127 per cent of the long-term average rainfall across the UK. Although drier and sunnier than in March 2023, the month posed challenges to crop production. However, we saw garden/gardening categories and non-garden/gardening categories with food-related categories such as catering and food & farm shop contributing greatly to these sales percentages, doing impressively well last month, up +17 per cent and +32 per cent, respectively, compared to March 2023. Footfall was also strong for both comparisons between March 2023 and March 2022. This was likely helped by Mother’s Day sales and the Easter bank holiday falling almost a month earlier this year. Nevertheless, the weather still dictated the trends with notable variation amongst retailer sales, aligned with weather variations in different regions of the UK.

“Oil prices have crept up once again as the situation in the Middle East remains uncertain, and crude oil prices have increased in response. Shipping container costs are still considerably higher than in the same period last year but are on the decline.

“Looking ahead, as reported last month, we are still expecting significant challenges for the industry with the impending changes on 30 April to imports from the EU, including the introduction of Border Control Posts and switching off the Point of Destination checks that currently happen. This puts huge pressure on our members to ensure a steady supply of plants available within garden centres at a suitable price point. We continue to lobby hard on this issue and keep our members informed.

“In the meantime, at the time of writing, we hope improved weather will drive expectations of increased consumer activity in the coming months, peak gardening season. The garden industry is in a good position as we enter the second quarter of 2024.”

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