Can a late spring recover lost sales?

Garden centres in the Midlands and South reported record bank holiday sales, while those in some of the North and Scotland were not so lucky. Where the sun shone, there are reports such as �sales were 100% up� and �best bank holiday weekend ever�.

But is there time to make up lost revenue? For many growers the answer is no. Early crops of pansies and violas have been skipped. Growers have had additional costs as they have done what they can to hold crops back, keeping perennials in cold store and pruning roses.

But now the nurseries are bulging with stock looking at its best. They are taking reasonable orders after the bank holiday and garden centres are starting to order ahead, but buying is still cautious.

On the dry good side the supply chain is also bulging. If we have a good, old-fashioned May as last weekend proves is possible, can the supply chain cope? Neil Gow of GIMA, fears it won�t. He says both retailers and suppliers have cut back on seasonal staff and there won�t be the manpower to deliver the stock, unpack it and place it on the shelves.

The general belief is that the season rarely extends beyond the second week in June. So there need to be several weeks in May when the garden centres are humming and then the best they can hope is that 2013 becomes an average year, but for some suppliers it will be too late.

Poor sales means that a number of garden centres, both independents and multiples, are said to be late paying their bills, including pre-season orders. This is likely, says Gow, to have a long term impact on suppliers already under pressure from low takings in March and April. It could lead to shortages if demand takes off because production has been cut to reduce costs and overstocking. It will also affect 2014.

Most growers have cut production of crops that would normally be ready in late May/June. Partly this is because earlier production will be ready later, but partly it is to reduce waste if sales don�t catch up with pre-season budgets.

But almost all told Gardenforum that they have reduced their planned output for 2014. After two and for some three bad years they can no longer risk growing crops for the skip.

For manufacturers and growers the additional unplanned borrowing to cover late payments and slow sales is likely to mean restricted supplies next year as the banks become less willing to fund a pre-season build up of stock. And it seems very likely that there will be company failures.

Whatever happens during next 5 weeks, the affect of another difficult spring will be felt in 2014 and beyond.

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