The owner of a Worcestershire garden centre says the recent inclement weather has been “crucifying business”. Last month was the UK’s coldest March since 1962 and followed the wettest year in England since records began in 1912, according to the Met Office.
Tim Cupper, from De Beers Garden Centre near Kidderminster, said the cold snap had caused a 40% dip in sales in March compared to the same month in 2012. He said they were up to four weeks behind in growing. Mr Cupper took over the Torton-based centre, then called Fuchsiavale Nurseries, in November 2008. His partner Rachel De Beer’s family had previously owned the business. Mr Cupper said: “The wet summer and elongated winter is crucifying business trade with all garden centres.Poor light levels have caused problems this year and we’re three to four weeks behind with the plants. Plant sales are low and when the weather improves customers will expect the usual choice of products but it won’t be that instant.”
With a background in engineering selling non-perishable components like nuts and bolts, Mr Cupper said he went into the venture with his “eyes wide open” and knew he would be at the mercy of the weather for much of his trade.
“We have a window between the end of March and the start of June where we do most of our plant business,” he said. “We can’t survive as a garden centre alone so we’ve had to make the changes in order to make the centre work for us for the full 12 months.”
Since opening in February 2009, a cafe has been introduced along with a hand car wash 18 months ago and a dress agency six months after that in a bid to generate trade all year round. But Mr Cupper admits profit margins have still been dwindling because of other factors including costs, with the price of kerosene used to heat the greenhouses “increasing from 32p a litre to 68p”.
Mr Cupper says the business needs to diversify even more if it is to survive in the face of those rising costs and the unpredictable British weather.