Sales at garden centres were “well below what was expected” over the critical Easter weekend as the cold weather continued to bite.

The Garden Centre Association chairman Peter Burks added that while footfall at its members centres was up despite the wintery conditions, shoppers were mainly browsing, spending in the coffee shop of buying gifts. Few bought gardening products.

Retail Week reported last week that DIY and garden retailers were bracing themselves for a sales freeze over the crucial Easter weekend due to the unseasonable cold weather.

Burks said: “The Easter weekend is a key time in the gardening calendar and so we were all hoping for some good weather during the weekend. Thankfully the sun put in an appearance so it wasn’t all doom and gloom.

“There were plenty of people visiting our member garden centres during Easter but the cold weather appeared to have put people off going out in their gardens as most had come in for a wander round, a cuppa in the restaurant or to pick up a gift. Unfortunately, overall sales were well below what was expected.”

The GCA is petitioning the public to urge Government to relax Easter trading laws to garden centreas can be open on Easter Sunday.

Many GCA members also had a petition available during the weekend for customers to sign. “Many of our members had the petitions available during the weekend for their visitors to sign,” he said.

“Lots of people mentioned it was the first they had heard of the law and were outraged that they couldn’t come and visit their local garden centre on Easter Sunday if they wanted to.

“Traditionally the Easter weekend is one of the busiest gardening weekends of the year. Easter Sunday trading could be worth 25% of the total sales for the Easter week.”

The GCA represents nearly 200 garden centres nationwide.