plants, seeds and bulbs

‘Retailers have an ideal opportunity to inspire’

Consumers are often on the lookout for innovations in the plant category, such as new colours or hardier breeds

Consumers are always on the lookout for innovations and new offerings within the plants, seeds and bulbs category


lants, seeds and bulbs remain staples of the garden centre retail offering. No matter the diversification of the industry in recent years, any garden centre should ensure its plant offering remains at the heart of its business. Suppliers in the category have continued to enjoy plenty of attention. Wyevale Nurseries retail sales manager Colin

Stanley comments: “Shrub sales have continued strongly for us throughout this year. We offer a planned programme of promotional lines, which have been well received by our customers and have sold through well for them. Shrub lines are featuring more heavily in our promotional catalogue and in prominent displays within garden centres. Consumers are always looking at ‘value for money’ when making a purchase; a plant’s longevity and ease of maintenance are high on most consumers’ wish list. “Innovative new varieties are constantly being tried and tested here at Wyevale Nurseries and we have seen great success following the launch of Nandina Obsessed, a range of different coloured berried Hypericum and Lagerstroemia ‘Berry Dazzle’.” Thompson & Morgan head of B2B Joseph Cordy agrees that consumers are often on the lookout for exciting new products. “Innovation is important,” he says. “Ranges need to continually evolve and develop to keep existing seed sowers engaged and to bring new customers in.”

He adds: “Quality is still key. Customers are generally prepared to pay a little more for a product that presents better value because it works consistently and offers something a bit different.”

There are plenty of challenges which retailers need to consider with their plant offering. “Limited availability of quality grown hardy

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nursery stock is becoming an increasing problem for retailers,” Colin explains. “Wholesale nurseries are tightening on production numbers, putting less stock on the ground unless there are commitments from customers for it. The need to forward order stock ready for the following season is as important as ever to ensure consistent supply. “Biosecurity risks and tightening trading

controls means importing stock from the continent is becoming more difficult. Added to this the diminishing Euro exchange rate has increased the price of plants from the continent making them far less attractive to most retailers.” There are wider trends that are having an effect on the market too.

“We are seeing an increase in demand for modern shrub varieties that will perform well grown in a container,” says Colin. “From the older generation who are putting more of their gardens over to hard landscaping and want to ‘dress’ the patio or front door step to the younger millennials who are being forced to predominantly rent long term and want to ‘pick up’ their plants and take them with them as they move - transferable container garden plants are becoming an increasing trend.” He adds: “Autumn sales appeared to start early this year – towards the end of August. Usually we see a drop off in sales as the children return to school, but the demand for colour impact such as Nandina foliage, Berried Pyracantha and flowering Anemone came early and has carried on.”

‘Keep displays fresh’

To make the most of the category, both retailers and suppliers need to consider their offer carefully.

Joseph comments: “A one size fits all approach for garden centres does not work.

Suppliers need to look at ranges which relate specifically to their customers, considering their profiles, other ranges in store, time of year, space and so on.”

For retailers, Colin advises: “Having a good stock turn and keeping displays fresh with seasonal interest is imperative. It is a real ‘turn off’ to customers who frequently visit the same outlet to see poorly maintained, drab displays of out of season product.

“To generate additional sales, themed displays with linked product provide an exceptional visual theatre that customers can adapt in their own garden. People are time poor and often lack the knowledge or imagination to develop their own outside spaces. Retailers have an ideal opportunity to inspire them and encourage additional spend.” Joseph adds: “Don’t underestimate the power of a brand. Strong brand propositions are still key for seed companies; customers need to be given a reason to pick up one brand of seed over another one. Strong licences can also have an impact here.” Looking ahead, there is plenty for garden centres to be optimistic about.

Colin comments: “The garden centre market is currently bucking the downward trend of its high street counterparts. Many offer a fabulous family destination with free parking, food and multiple shopping outlets under one roof. For the more discerning gardener the smaller traditional, plant-only garden centres offer a welcome refuge to peruse new plant introductions alongside the traditional and trusted varieties.

“With the increased biosecurity risks, trading restrictions on certain plant varieties and uncertainty over Brexit there has never been a better time to maximise the sale of British- grown product.”

GCU November/December 2018

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