Green shoots in garden retail
UK garden centre retail has been shaped by its resilience to many factors but continues to grow and innovate.
To be a UK retailer in today’s world means you must navigate between the challenges of the economy and the transformation of the sector. But to be a retailer in the garden sector means you must navigate all those forces plus Mother Nature. More than any other sector of retail, the unpredictability of the weather can make or break a retailer’s year.
In February 2018, the UK was hit by the “Beast from the East” that brought with it snow and blizzards that lasted for weeks. In February 2019, the UK enjoyed very early Spring weather that was warmer than Athens.
Despite these underlying factors, the garden products sector remains a sizeable and an important part of UK consumer spending that is estimated to be worth £5.7 billion according to the 2017 Garden Market Analysis Report. AMA Research say that this will grow by two per cent per annum between 2018-2022. The Horticulture Trades Association estimates that there are 2,300 garden centres and retail nurseries serving this market with the big DIY players leading the way and B&Q taking the biggest share.
With the competition from the DIY sheds, traditional nurseries and garden centres have not only consolidated but also diversified to include far wider ranges of products and services related not just to the garden, but outdoors, garden buildings and furnishings, gifts and seasonal products. The biggest chain of garden centres is Wyevale but this is currently being reduced as it sells centres as part of its recovery plan.
A key part of the economy underpinning the garden products sector in the UK is the housing market. Whilst this is currently slowing down with economic uncertainty, the older home owners have great financial security and tend to spend on their gardens. Demographically, the millennial consumer in the UK is struggling to own their own property so continue to rent flats and smaller houses but this opens-up potential for smaller garden products, pots and containers.
Millennial consumers are taking a fresh look at gardening and see it differently from their parents’ generation. Iconic figures such as Kate Moss and Alexa Chung have helped the trend with their declared interest in gardens and visits to Chelsea Flower Show. But this digitally-aware generation are also using the internet to learn more and to discover what they can grow in pots, balconies or small gardens. According to Wyevale Garden Centres, Garden Trends Report2018, 67% of consumers now get their gardening information from the internet. And this new generation of gardeners see growing-their-own, healthy living and urban gardening as an increasingly part of their lifestyle.
This can already be seen in the boom in grow-your-own products such as vegetables which have increased 30% and herbs by 21% in the last five years. It is a trend that UK garden retailers are already responding to.
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