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A positive 2023 for Garden Centres Courtesy of Catering

By Barry Lane|Feb 1, 2024|12:07 pm GMT

As we headed into November, it was anyone’s guess as to how festive demand would pan out. Across retail and hospitality more generally, commentators were warning that the cost of living crisis could trigger a reduction in consumer spending – but garden centres are often the exception, rather than the rule.

The sector saw a rise in Christmas sales from October and again in November, where Christmas sales increased 2.26% compared to November 2022. The Garden Center Association’s (GCA) monthly Barometer of Trade (BoT) measures its member sales across 13 categories, and catering continued to be the flyaway success throughout November and December.

The category, which covers food served on site, was the best performer, up nearly 17% and 18% for November and December respectively compared to the same months the year before. Unsurprisingly, outdoor plants – which includes Christmas trees – also fared pretty well in December, up 17.7%.

Peter Burks, GCA CEO said of the findings, “It’s great to see hardy plants and houseplants nicely on the up, as well as the two main festive categories – Christmas and gifts – in a positive position. It’s also always nice to see an encouraging figure for the year as a whole.”

The year-to-date variance across all categories was nearly 3%, impressive going for a year that’s knocked the wind out of many. Despite early warnings of doom and gloom, Christmas sales in garden centres were up 1.5% in 2023, as well.

The power of catering

Garden centres are a testament to the benefits of diversification and, in a year when the rest of retail and hospitality was rocked by increased costs, skyrocketing interest rates and volatile consumer demand, garden centres have succeeded in optimising through adversity.

The range of activities available on these sites, from Santa’s grottos and farm shops, to concessions and cafes, helped to prop up footfall as the year drew to a close and will undoubtedly support sales throughout 2024 as well. Consumers are increasingly looking to invest in experiences and garden centres – which offer a variety of activities and quality, inexpensive food – are well placed to capitalise on this trend.

“Once again food is leading the way,” says Peter, “With both catering and the food hall/farm shop categories doing well, the latter up 10.76%, making it the third best performing category last month.”

Weathering the storm

While there are some green shoots heading into 2024, there are also a number of clouds gathering on the horizon with the potential to negatively impact the sector. Continued unrest in the Middle East, high interest rates and ongoing inflation could all have an impact on consumer spending and pricing in 2024.

In this climate, operating efficiently is vital to preserving margins and ensuring continued value for customers; that means understanding exactly where the inefficiencies in your business are and how much they can be safely reduced by. Restaurants and catering are fast becoming the powerhouse behind garden centre profitability, they have unique requirements and need purpose-built technology solutions to ensure costs are controlled and that they run with maximum efficiency. Fourth’s Inventory Management is used by one of the country’s largest garden centre chains to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of purchasing and inventory management across a national estate of restaurants.

Contact us today to discover the impact Fourth can have on your bottom line with Inventory Management for garden centre restaurants.