AN artificial grass firm expects to strengthen its market presence as homeowners’ penchant for an easier life provides a catalyst for increased sales.

Grass Direct is forecasting sales to rise 20 per cent this year as customers opt for lower maintenance gardens.

The business sold around 500,000sq metres – or 70 full-size football pitches - of its grass range in 2017, which was 20 per cent up on the previous 12 months.

However, bosses say sales are expected to rise by the same amount again this year as the retailer branches out from its online roots by offering artificial grass in high street stores across the UK.

They added that by the summer, the grass will be available in 18 stores operated by Connection Retail, the company headquartered in Shildon, County Durham, which is behind Grass Direct and other brands including Direct Wood Flooring and Flooring Superstore.

Nine new stores will open this year.

Andrew Kennedy, commercial manager, said: “There is a growing demand for artificial grass from domestic customers and this is down to a number of factors.

“It means gardens require minimal upkeep as the grass doesn’t need to be mowed and you get a green lawn all year round, even in winter.

“It can’t be dug up, which makes it particularly popular with families who have young children and dogs as there’s no muddy footprints to contend with.

“Also, with an advancement in technology, artificial grass now has a natural look and feel, providing a convincing alternative to real turf.

“Through our online business, we have always sent free samples of our artificial grass for people to look at but through the expansion of our physical stores, shoppers can now get an even better idea of what it will look like in their own garden.”

Ross Wright, from Seaham, east Durham, is now using the company’s artificial grass after calling on the services of landscaper Ultra Lawn North-East Limited.

The 34-year-old said: “I work away, so I haven’t got lots of time to maintain the garden when I am at home.

“I also have young children and dogs and the beauty of the artificial grass is you don’t get little feet and paws treading mud into the house.

“All I need to do to maintain it is brush it every now and then, and I think it looks miles better than grass, especially in the autumn and winter.”