24 Jul 2017

How garden centres can respond to ‘Generation Rent'

How garden centres can respond to ‘Generation Rent'

The growing army of renters poses a tough challenge for garden centres but if you approach the problem in the right way you can reap the rewards.

Research from RHS has found twenty-somethings only tend to take an interest in gardening after getting their foot on the property ladder.

However, this need not be the case.

Kate Sebag, the director of Brixton-based Brockwell Park Community Greenhouses, says lack of gardening space is a “push factor” in people attending the greenhouses to garden communally.

Generation Rent clearly has a latent passion for gardening that is ready to be tapped into.

Fresh produce

“The younger generation are much more interested in food than ours were,” adds Sebag. “I think there is definitely a resurgence of interest in growing food and cooking from scratch, led by all the young foody chefs that are all around.”

For those renters who are interested in fresh produce, there is a surprising variety of fruit and veg that can be grown even when a renter is limited to growing in pots.

“Blueberries do brilliantly in pots and so do figs – in fact figs are one of the best potted fruit crops,” says RHS chief horticultural advisor Guy Barter. “Patio cherries, peaches and nectarines, grown in pots, sound like a gimmick, but for their stature, are rewarding plants and have been bred to be petite, needing no pruning.”

The RHS, which runs Wisley Plant Centre near Woking, encourages people to garden regardless of whether or not they have an outdoor space or own their own homes.

RHS Garden Wisley – Lee Beel/RHS

RHS Garden Wisley – Lee Beel/RHS

Portable gardens

“Gardening and growing plants has many life-enhancing benefits as well as making our living spaces more beautiful and homely,” says RHS head of retail Damian Powell. “Whether a balcony, windowsill, or a patio, there are plenty of ‘portable' gardens suitable for folk who move property more frequently, such as younger renters.”

The Barton Grange garden centre in Lancashire aims to inspire renters with displays in the garden centre to show how they could create a garden on just a balcony.

“People who rent do not always want to invest, but most plants can go in pots,” says Barton Grange marketing manager Kate Ford. “So you might want a lovely small tree in your garden and you don't have to put it in the ground, you can put it in a pot, and then when you move you can take it with you.”

Low maintenance plants

If you want to appeal to Generation Rent the RHS recommends succulents and cactus are ideal due to being low maintenance and extremely portable, while they can be left for long periods with minimal care.

Annual bedding plants such as pansies, geraniums and petunias provide seasonal colour and are ideal for containers or hanging baskets, and can be easily watered with an old squash bottle.

Meanwhile, tender flowers such as argyranthemums, fuchsias and pelargoniums flower continuously all summer in pots and hanging baskets. When the renters move on they can simply take cuttings with them to start their next garden.

Garden centres should be on hand to guide Generation Rent through the process.

“What we need to do is show our plants and products in a way that customers can visualise these at home,” says Powell.

He adds they should be guided through the garden centre with categorisations such as ‘plants for the shade' or ‘plants for pots'.

RHS Garden Wisley – Rock Garden. Jason Ingram/RHS

RHS Garden Wisley – Rock Garden. Jason Ingram/RHS

Competing with high street brands

Large retailers such as Ikea, Urban Outfitters and Lidl are muscling in on the space as gardening becomes more fashionable, so how can garden centres compete?

Powell believes the key is competing through the “wide range of offer, plant quality and most importantly the support and advice we can offer on the plants”.

With price also being a key consideration for the younger market, the RHS also has a 5-year plant guarantee, something that is unlike to be found at a high street retailer.

If you'd to like to discuss this in person come to the Glee Lab at Glee in Birmingham. https://www.gleebirmingham.com/. Glee is a free to attend trade show for buyers and owners in the garden sector. Inside Retail offers 3 days of independently researched content at the show, to help you succeed in business. We also have an exciting new feature this year designed to give you inspiration and examples on how to choose and display the kinds of products mentioned in this piece. We'll see you there!

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