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Gardenforum's Review Of 2019: Part One

Couple in garden centre shutterstock_117231496 725 x 500.jpg

This year good weather produced an early sales surge in March and April and the rest of the year was spent attempting to hang on to early gains.  By the end of November sales are still about 6% up for the year.

The general consensus is that the break-up of Wyevale has been good for the UK garden retail industry.  3 major new groups have been formed and new vigour has been added to the supply side.  There has also been praise for the way its owners, Terra Firma, have protected the interests of employees, customers and suppliers.

Blue Diamond bought 16 larger stores, Dobbies added 37 large and medium sized stores, while British Garden Centres added 39, many of them smaller garden centres.  Hillier acquired 5 sites, 5 closed and 8 were sold to developers.  The rest were sold in small groups to other garden centres.

In January Blue Diamond reported how sales had leapt 50% in the first group of centres it acquired.  In October it announced record profits and offered some shares for sale.

In December Dobbies said its underlying sales were running at £300m a year, close to Wyevale’s but with half the number of garden centres.

Supplier consolidation and expansion

  • Smart Garden bought Briers from administrators in February
  • Fleurie Nursery, one of 3 growers belonging to Tristram Plants acquired fellow Farplants producer, Star Plants.
  • Agrumi announced that Folium and Flos Plants will be taking over its wholesale nursery on November 1st.
  • Ken Chen, owner of Newbridge Pots, took control of Leighton Buzzard and Willington garden centres.
  • The charitable trust Kettler GB broke ground in June on a 3,000 sqm. building that will double the size of its operations at Redditch. The £2 million state-of-the-art facility opened later in the year.
  • Swan Retail announced their acquisition of Touchretail, a provider of retail systems.
  • Stax Trade Centres announced in August that it had purchased hardware and ironmongery manufacturer P. Smith and Co. Ltd, maker of security products under the SECURIT® brand.  It followed this up with news that it had become the sole distributor for SBM and Primeur.
  • Further companies changed their route to market. T&M became the distributor for Sipcam and Neudorff revealed that DLF Seeds would be distributing its garden products with immediate effect.
  • Building has begun at Bransford Webbs on a new 18,000m2 production area, which will consist of 49 low polytunnels.

In February the government started consultation on proposed changes to regulations on waste and resources that will affect many companies.  These included a plastic tax, consistency in household recycling collections and packaging reduction.

Garden centres survived a potentially uncomfortable expose in ‘The Trouble with Garden Centres’ on ITV by Chris Choi.  Revealing that the industry is being proactive despite continuing to sell peat.

  • In November The HTA committed to a Sustainability Roadmap that it hopes the different voices in horticulture will unite behind.
  • Defra announced the sale outdoor use of metaldehyde, the active ingredient in many slug pellets, would be banned from July, only for it to be overturned in the high court. However, most retailers have stopped selling the product.
  • Industry moved rapidly away from black plastic pots to a colour such as taupe which is more easily recovered for recycling.
  • Growing Media Association sets out road map timelines towards sustainable growing media.
  • The battle to ban glyphosate or not continued across the world, with no definitive conclusion. Several countries including Germany, have threatened to ban the use of the weedkiller.

Brexit and politics

Brexit has been good for the industry.  Together with biosecurity fears of imported disease, it has fuelled the drive to buy British grown plants.  UK nurseries cannot grow enough to satisfy potential demand. 

Suppliers have managed the volatile exchange rates.  But growers and garden centres have been put under pressure by increases in the minimum wage.   

The first bank holiday in May 2020 has been moved to Friday 8th to celebrate VE Day in Europe.

Source : Reproduced with permission from George Bullivant at Gardenforum

30 December 2019

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Thank you for the excellent presentation that you gave at Woodbury Park on Thursday morning. It was very interesting and thought-provoking for our Retail members. The feedback has been excellent.

Martin Elliott. Chief Executive - Home Hardware.

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