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Previous GCA Chairman Peter Burks with his successor Will Armitage

year where we can get back to some sort of normality. Everything seems to have been against most businesses as we’ve had the recession and the economic woes, which undoubtedly had some impact. If you look at the early point when the wheels came off the economy however, garden centres did rather well – because all of a sudden people were avoiding going on holidays and for lavish meals but instead spending more time in their gardens. If you’re not going on holiday, and you’re at home six weeks more than usual you want to make it look nicer – and the cost of a few plants is nothing compared to the money people would spend on a holiday. On the other hand, we’ve had a real good kicking

with the weather. It is the biggest detrimental factor, in many respects. Our members have fought on despite this and if you look back 20 years the impact of weather on businesses would have been huge in terms of top-line turnovers and would have been about 70 per cent down, whereas now 20 per cent would seem horrific – but is still lower. Thank goodness for catering in 2012, because that got people through the doors. They couldn’t get in the garden but would still visit our restaurants. We haven’t been able to assess how healthy the

26 APRIL 2014 / GARDEN CENTRE RETAIL industry really is in terms of how much we’re

growing for three or four years now because of these factors that are really bearing down on us that you can’t measure against other industries, such as the weather for example. That’s been the biggest impact on downward

sales. Every year is different, but most years sort of average out a little bit so if you look at our key months (March/April/May/June) there’ll be a time that isn’t quite so good, but to get total wipe-out for 50 per cent of those months really makes an impact. You can’t say that it’s all doom and gloom if you’re way down on last year, but if you’re looking at it longer term there’s probably still growth there although hard to measure. We’re hoping for some normality. We have no influence over the weather, and arguably we have no influence over the economy – according to one of the speakers at our conference neither does the government, which does make you think!

What does the GCA hope to achieve this year? We’d like to hear from new members, and people considering membership; make the enquiry and come and find out what we’re all about. We’ve also had GROW, our e-learning programme, live for

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