Catering performs well in March as garden centres resume social role

CATERING sales at garden centres across the country have performed well in March (2022) according to the latest Garden Centre Association’s (GCA) Barometer of Trade (BoT) report.

Sales in the department were 3,679.31% up compared to the same month in 2021 and have been up throughout 2022 so far.

Garden centres customers queuing in the coffee bar restaurantGCA Chief Executive, Iain Wylie explains: “We’ve seen an understandable surge in catering sales so far in 2022 and this has carried on into March. The figures we’re seeing very much reflect the situation in 2021 rather than now, and the issues we were all facing then, and how different things are this year.

“We’re now in the current post-pandemic phase and people are keen to be out and about again. They are once again using garden centres as social centres, places to meet friends and family for a morning coffee, afternoon tea or a lunchtime meal.

“Our members have always been community hubs and important for all sorts of wellbeing reasons including socialisation. Catering facilities are central to this and while many customers are keen to sit outside still, and garden centres are naturally providing for this, others are happy to be indoors again, especially when the weather is inclement, which was the case in March. This has all helped boost figures tremendously, but these still need to be tempered to reflect how things were in 2021. Comparisons with figures from 2019, pre-pandemic, perhaps give a slightly clearer picture for this category. Here we see that catering is on a par or just slightly ahead for most garden centres.

“Other departments that also saw good sales during the month, year to date, were clothing up at 36.83%, gifts 12.13%, buoyed by Mothering Sunday, and pet and aquatics up 3.46%.

“We saw sales of furniture and barbecues decline year to date to -21.68%. This perhaps reflects the weather in March more than anything else. And as people are going out and about more, we’ve seen sales of houseplants go down slightly for several months in a row. March’s BoT year to date figure for houseplants was -1.07%.

“Also down were outdoor plants -11.7%, seed and bulb sales -9.14% and garden sundries -18.13%. Again, a reflection on the chillier weather we experienced in March. Plus, hard landscaping was down at -27.24% and food hall and farm shop sales were -13.95%.

“The figures illustrate a change in consumer habits, as people are now able to holiday abroad again and move about much more. Also, many gardeners will have used their time in the previous two years to complete any major gardening projects, while the restrictions were ongoing, therefore this activity inflated figures in 2021

Garden centres cake table“Now we’re seeing things settle down again into a more ‘normal’ pattern of activity. The nation’s love affair with plants and outdoor entertaining at home is ongoing. Once the weather consistently improves and events like the Chelsea Flower Show, back in its traditional spring slot in May, take place, gardeners will be out in their outdoor spaces again, inspired and brimming with vim and vigour.”

The GCA BoT reports are compiled using actual sales figures and provide an up-to-date trading position statement. They are made available mid-month following the end of the prior month after all member garden centres have submitted their results.

The BoT reports allow members to compare their trading positions with other centres.

The GCA represents nearly 200 garden centres nationwide.

Through sharing information and its inspection programme the GCA helps members to achieve high standards in customer service, plant quality and reliability.

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