As garden centres and the HTA report record sales over the Bank Holiday weekends, new research finds that 78% of people in England and Wales want to keep May Day in May, rather than move to another date, as proposed by ministers.
Members of the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) reported a "phenomenal" weekend over the first May Bank Holiday of the year, following on from an equally successful Easter, with strong sales across the board. "This has been a record April," explained Andrew Rigby of Pimbo Garden Centre in Lancashire. "Sales are strong throughout the centre. Sunday was very good and Monday, a record day, with strong sales across all departments."
With another Bank Holiday due at the end of the month, sales could continue their upward trend. However, under new proposals by ministers, the May Day Bank Holiday could be moved to another date in March or April, or even October. The move would not be a popular one with the British public it seems, as 78% of people surveyed by B&Q want to see May Day saved, with just 15% in favour of moving it to October and 7% to March or April, as has been suggested.
Ministers have proposed the holiday be moved to St George's Day in April in England and St David's Day in March in Wales, or a Trafalgar Day in October. However, more than two thirds of people surveyed feel moving the May Day Bank Holiday would disrupt traditional events, fetes and celebrations, while more than half believe it would create confusion and disruption for businesses and workers.
With 86% of people surveyed saying they view the May Bank Holiday as a time for days-out with family and friends, HTA director general David Gwyther fears the impact moving the holiday would have on the garden retail industry.
He said: "The May Bank Holiday is one of the busiest and most important trading days of the year. It would therefore be an enormous blow if the industry was to lose it, and such a significant loss of earnings would undoubtedly affect employment levels."
And looking at the performance of garden centres over the Bank Holiday weekends just gone, the move, if passed, could prove a blow to the sector. Brookside Garden Centre's Simon Shead said: "Sales over the weekend have broken all previous records, we are around 76% up on last year and sales last year bucked a trend. Easter weekend was good on furniture and barbecues but this weekend was all about plants. The morning of the Royal Wedding weekend day was quiet as expected, but the afternoon and the rest of the weekend was phenomenal."
Sales of National Garden Gift Vouchers were also up - far in excess of any previous May Bank Holiday, explained the firm, and up 30% on the previous record figure. Meanwhile, garden centres reported increases in sales of bedding plants, shrubs, barbecues, garden furniture, grow your own, hanging baskets, compost, garden ornaments and garden sundries.