Diners and early Christmas shoppers turned to garden centres for their refreshments and festive purchases in October with sales in both categories up on the same month last year.
According to the Garden Centre Association (GCA) Barometer of Trade (BoT) catering sales were up by 7.35%, Christmas sales by 7.11% and gift purchases by 6.49% as compared to October 2012.
Peter Burks, Chairman of the GCA, explained: ?Although the figures are not stunning they are going in the right direction during what has been a tough year for all of us in retail. Catering is still performing well and anyone who doesn?t have a professional caf? or restaurant ought to be thinking about investing in one.
?Our customers may still need to feel more confident about the economy to spend more in other areas of the garden centre but they are definitely happy to eat out and to meet friends and family for a tea or coffee and cake in our restaurants.
?Christmas seems to have come early at our member garden centres too, which is very positive. We?re heartened to see the hard work of members, who have spent weeks creating wonderful, cheerful displays and special Christmas events, pay off this month.?
The overall year to date figure for catering in October was up by 5.54%, meanwhile Christmas was up 4.74% and gifts up 2.55%.
But farm shops and food halls at garden centres are the best performers overall for the year to date, showing an increase in sales of 8.67%.
Peter added: ?This is a very interesting figure, which may illustrate that people are wishing to source their grocery items locally and are not buying everything from supermarkets these days.?
The GCA BoT reports are compiled using actual sales figures and provide an up-to-date trading position statement.
The BoT reports produced by the GCA allow member garden centres to compare their trading positions with other centres.
Mike Lind, Managing Director of Monkton Elm Garden & Pet Centre near Taunton, said: ?Catering and Christmas sales have so far been good for us this year and both are very important elements of our overall business.
?Next year we?re revamping our catering facilities and are going to double the size of our current restaurant. The investment will be significant and demonstrates our commitment to the garden centre?s future. Our new restaurant will seat 350 people.
?We also work very hard to give our customers a wonderful, magical Christmas experience and this year our Father Christmas arrived via a Wizard of Oz themed carnival float tractor after dark. We had thousands of visitors through the door within a few hours and it was a huge success.?
The Gardens Group also in the South West performed well in these categories in October too.
James Foster-Pegg, who is a Director of the business, said: ?October is a very busy time for our three garden centres as we always open our Christmas displays to visitors during the month and this year has been no exception. Our caf?s/restaurants have done well too and we?re looking forward to good results in November and December as well.?
For further information, please call 0118 930 8918. Alternatively, please visit www.gca.org.uk, log on to www.facebook.com/GardenCentreAssociation or follow the organisation on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GC_Association.