Horticultural sales booming despite cool weather

Gardening shop.
Gardening shop. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

This spring, horticultural retailers performed exceedingly well: Hortes' sales and customer count increased by five percent year-over-year in April, and Gardest reported its highest-ever monthly profit in April. Traditional spring's most popular flower is the pansy. In the weeks leading up to Mother's Day, flower seedlings, a variety of vegetable seeds, soil and fertilizers become increasingly popular.

Despite the cold weather and the Environment Agency's forecast of sub-zero temperatures for the upcoming weekend evenings, garden shop sales indicate that people are actively gardening.

Riina Ruus, marketing manager at Hortes, told ERR that the company has performed exceptionally well this spring. In April, both attendance and turnover have increased by about 20 percent compared to the same month last year.

Kristian Kalgan, a member of the management board of Tartu-based Gardest, said that this April was the most successful in the company's history. The country fair held next to the horticultural center and the pleasant weather played a role as well, he added.

Regarding spring sales, he said, "The planting of seeds drove the early spring, February and March, but this trend continued in April, which is the best month to buy pansies, fruit trees and hedges. Now in May, we are anticipating Mother's Day; this is usually the prime selling season for garden centers regardless of the weather."

Hortes has been the biggest supplier of seasonal herbs, young plants, soils and fertilizers, houseplants, seedlings, herbs and pansies this spring.

Ruus also said that pansies were most popular, while in May it will be begonias and a variety of other summer flowers.

According to Kalgan, Mother's Day purchases are highly weather dependent. Shrubs are frequently purchased when the weather is pleasant and ideal for gardening.

"Rhododendrons will be the first flowers to bloom, followed by roses and summer flowers," he went on. "Summer bulbs are the most popular Mother's Day gift, but if it rains cats and dogs, orchids and hydrangeas may sell even better."

Kalgan couldn't answer if people bought more edible or ornamental plant seeds, but he thought edible plants were more a hit. To cultivate ahead of time, pepper, tomato, and cucumber seeds are usually bought in early spring, although flowers tend to be bought as established plants.

Pansies. Source: ERR

Garden furniture is also in high demand, but parasols and similar products must wait for warmer weather. However, according to Kalgan, "the barbecue buying frenzy starts when the snow melts and goes on until midsummer."

Vegetable seeds are the most popular Hortes seeds item, accounting for about half of all seeds sold. The other half is divided between flower and herb seeds.

Cool weather reduces sales

Kalgan said that the expected temperature drop in the coming days will have an effect on garden store sales.

"When the weather is cold, people are less likely to make purchases than when the weather is warmer. A few clouds and moderate temperatures may be good for gardening, but you should also check the forecast for a possible night frost and what you could plant now," he said.

Kalgan said that generally a cooler start to May means that the second half of the month doesn't make it back, although there have been exceptions.

Ruus said that gardening is first and foremost about emotional needs of people. She pointed out that although the nice weather brings more customers, as the gardening season progresses, there are more and more people who visit garden centers even when the weather is not the sunniest.

The past year in Estonia has been marked by a significant increase in prices, and horticultural products have not been spared.

According to Ruus, the purchase prices of a great deal of products have risen by approximately 10 to 20 percent, while the prices of products offered by foreign suppliers have risen even more than domestic goods.

"On average, prices increased about 10 percent for customers compared to the previous year but there are fluctuations in price increases," she said.

Kalgan said that prices in Gardest have not increased dramatically. As an example, he mentioned that this year's price for a pansy plant was the same as last year's: 95 cents. The price of trees imported from the Netherlands has not changed much but the cost of transport has risen.

Rose bush. Source: Olev Kenk/ERR

Weekend brings night frosts

Helve Meitern, the Environment Agency's chief ophthalmologist, told ERR's "Terevisioon" that upcoming evenings could reach minus eight degrees Celsius inland. The weather will become chilly on Friday, with the harshest nights occurring on Saturday and Sunday.

"Estonia experiences these night frosts on average until mid-May." Meitern explained that it starts a little later in the Pandivere and Jõgeva regions and earlier on the islands and west coast, where the weather is milder.

In some years, night frosts have occurred just before midsummer, causing damage to tree foliage.

While flowers can withstand light freezing temperatures rather well, the situation is more dire in southern and southeast Estonia, where berry bushes are already in blossom and their flowers are susceptible to frost and must be protected from the cold.

The true spring weather, according to the weather forecaster, will not arrive until the second half of May. The temperature will start rising again the week after next.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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