Wet March dampens GCA barometer figures

Catering and food hall/farm shop categories refused to be a washout last month, despite it being the wettest for 40 years, according to the Garden Centre Association.

The GCA’s Barometer of Trade (BoT) reported catering sales up 13.5% compared to March 2022, with food hall/farm shop sales also increasing by 10.7%.

Peter Burks, GCA CEO, said: “It’s great to see restaurants and farm shops/food halls doing so well, which gives me a lot of confidence that customers have not forgotten us during the traditionally quieter gardening months and are coming in to meet friends and family, to get out of the house, even with the threat of a downpour, and to buy their groceries or gift food items at our member garden centres.

“It’s very positive to see they are still visiting in good numbers, but clearly in March, the weather wasn’t encouraging them to get outside to garden just yet. In fact, the slight upward trend of 0.8% in houseplants sales for the month suggests people were very much focused on being indoors and, also, possibly purchasing a pot plant for Mothering Sunday too.

“As is always the case when we get a wet month, gardening and outdoor product sales figures suffer. Outdoor plant sales were down 32%, seed and bulbs down 13.1% and garden sundries 31.8%. However, GCA members’ centres fared better than the full industry figures from the Horticultural Trades Association suggest. The HTA shows a 28% shortfall in sales overall.”

The GCA’s March BoT figures also showed, perhaps unsurprisingly, that furniture and BBQ sales were down by 58% and hard landscaping sales by 42.6%. Pets and aquatics sales were down 5.2%, clothing sales 2.4% and gift sales 1.6%. Overall sales for the month were down 21.4% with a year-to-date variance of -10.9%.

Burke added: “Of course, we should also remember that the trading landscape was very different this time last year. Covid was still very much a looming presence and people were just emerging from another worrying period, so were keen to get out and about and were spending more at the same time.”

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