DIDCOT, UK: The Horticultural Trades Association’s (HTA) Market Update report for April shows that nationally garden centre sales were up 97 per cent in March compared with March 2020 when there were nine days fewer trading time due to the closure of garden centres during the first lockdown.
However, comparing this data to March 2019 shows that overall garden centre sales are well ahead of a more typical year too, with March 2021 sales 56 per cent up on March 2019. This is despite the continued closure of catering outlets, and of garden centres in the devolved nations.
In what is usually a quiet month for outdoor leisure, March 2021 saw exceptional sales of garden furniture, BBQs and heating and garden features and structures, as consumers looked to prepare their gardens for hosting social gatherings once lockdown restrictions are eased. As a result, Average Transaction Values were up 45 per cent on March 2020 and up 77 per cent on March 2019 to £36.58.
Sales of plants, plant care and garden tools remain strong as consumers face another Spring of restrictions and more leisure time at home.
Anecdotal evidence from HTA members across the UK suggests the Easter Bank Holiday weekend will have seen April get off to a similarly strong start.
Helen MacDonald, of Merryhatton Garden Centre and HTA Council representative for Scotland said: “Despite it being an icy cold Bank Holiday Monday our first customers were waiting for the gate to open at 9am and customers told us they are overjoyed to be able to visit, with some even saying that they’ve been counting down the days until they could come to the garden centre again! The checkouts were constantly busy all day, with the majority of purchases being plants and garden care.
Nicola Pugh, of Pugh’s Garden Centres and HTA Council representative for Wales, said: “It’s an unbelievable position to find ourselves in and we are having record daily sales, but there is clearly high demand across the industry and a lot of pressure on the supply chain. As fast as we are ordering in stock, shelves are emptying. We are very grateful to be back open.”
John Shannon, of Inver Garden Centre and HTA Council representative for Northern Ireland, said: “We were able to offer click and collect over the Easter Bank Holiday and it has been very successful. We have had very few problems, with customers all more than happy to come and collect and to pay over the telephone with debit/credit card.”
Fiona Dean, of Ravensworth Nurseries and HTA Council representative for Yorkshire and the North East, said: “Over Easter our biggest sellers were added value for instant colour, such as hanging baskets and filled planters – we could hardly keep up with those – and seeds, lots of seeds, both veg and flowers.”
The Market Update report discusses other factors affecting the state of trade, including encouraging improvements to consumer ratings of financial confidence, and falling inflation and unemployment levels.