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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Weekend of spending expected

Retailers say long-pent-up demand will pop in shops

Posted: 05/18/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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One-year-old Elizabeth Moffatt wasn't waiting for the long weekend to grab a garden plant at the Shelmerdine Garden Centre Friday.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

One-year-old Elizabeth Moffatt wasn't waiting for the long weekend to grab a garden plant at the Shelmerdine Garden Centre Friday. Photo Store

It's been a long time coming, but local retailers expect spring-buying fever to hit with a vengeance during the Victoria Day long weekend.

"This weekend will probably be our busiest weekend of the year," Nicole Bent, owner of Shelmerdine Garden Centre Ltd., said in an interview. "Every corner of our store will be busy."

"It's going to be huge," added Rob Petkau, general manager of the Canadian Tire store on Regent Avenue.

The anticipated stampede of shoppers can't come soon enough for most local garden centres and outdoor-supplies stores. It's been a brutal spring for many of them, as a never-ending winter and the threat of spring flooding prompted many homeowners to postpone their annual spring purchases.

One retailer interviewed said his sales are down 30 to 40 per cent from where they should be at this time of year. Others wouldn't put a number on it, but agreed the unseasonably cold weather in April and early May has hurt sales.

But they all said there's still plenty of time to catch up, starting this weekend.

"We're anticipating we'll have a strong finish to May and that we'll make up a lot of the ground we lost... " said Jay Breckman, general manager of LCL Spas & Billiards, which sells items such as cedar gazebos and outdoor hot tubs and spas.

"We were way behind, but we're starting to catch up," Petkau said, adding some shoppers decided not to wait until the weekend. His store was so busy on Thursday, some cashiers had to cut their lunch hour short to deal with the growing lineups at the tills.

"We've also got six guys building bikes right now and they can't keep up."

The kinds of products retailers expect to see flying out the front doors this weekend include lumber supplies, barbecues, patio furniture, bicycles, automotive supplies and many yard and garden products. That means everything from trees, shrubs, garden soil and sod, to landscaping rocks and those cute little yard and garden ornaments homeowners seem to be going gaga over these days.

"And people want that instant colour, so I think hanging (flower) baskets will be a big mover," said Darin Lemieux, Rona Home & Garden Centre's director of marketing and development for Manitoba, Saskatchewan and northwestern Ontario.

Kevin Twomey, owner of T & T Seeds and Garden Centre on Roblin Boulevard, is crossing his fingers it won't rain all weekend.

"If it rains for four days it will take the top off (of sales)," Twomey said. "I know that from past experience."

He said people want to buy their plants and trees and put them in the ground right away. So if it's raining all weekend, some may delay their purchases again.

But the prospect of a soggy weekend wasn't worrying Petkau or Phil Squarie, owner of Wicker World Home & Patio, which claims to have Manitoba's largest selection of patio furniture.

"The nice weather keeps people outside. The rain brings them in (to the store)," Squarie said.

"In fact, we need the rain," Petkau added. "The rain is just going to help green things up. It will not slow down sales at all."

Shelmerdine's Bent said traffic started picking up at her Roblin Avenue garden centre on the Mother's Day weekend. But only the diehard gardeners were buying then. The rest seemed to be there to see what's available, with the idea of returning this weekend to make their purchases.

"And next weekend could be almost as busy because of how delayed the spring has been," she added.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 18, 2013 B6

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