A supplier panel discussion at the GIMA Day Conference last month saw the heads of leading garden brands debate the impact Brexit could have and is already having on their business and the industry, as well as a frank discussion about routes to market and selling direct to end-users.


n the panel were La Hacienda founder and owner Simon Goodwin, SBM Life Sciences head of UK Darren Brown,

Panacea Products director Malcolm Andrews and Cadix UK managing director Kate Ebbens

What impact is Brexit having so far? Simon: The impact so far on us has been the exchange rate and the pound sterling against the dollar. We import everything we sell from countries like China and Mexico. The cost price of everything we sell has risen. We have to manage the expectations of the customers about price. I doubt anyone in the room has a bigger problem than that at the moment. We see an 18-20% increase, depending on what day or week it is. We have passed between 5 and 10% on to the customer. We have also tried to improve buys and the

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way we shape our product range. It means the low-margin items have to go. We offer high volume but low-value product, so shipping is a big problem.

Kate: It’s the same for us but I buy from Europe as well. I have shipping

issues, as well as the

low exchange. The combination is hitting us full on. Our European partner is happier that the Dutch stayed in the EU. We couldn’t have teamed up with our partner at a better time. The next five years is going to be very challenging.

Malcolm: We are US-owned but not that different, so it’s very volatile at the moment. Forecasting what it’s going to be is so difficult – that’s part of the problem. We’re capable of exporting direct

from China and also the UK. Our manufacturing is mostly done in China. If we have a strong export opportunity, then the money could be recovered.

Darren: Brexit could be dwarfed by whatever happened in the French election. What will the European landscape look like? Don’t take anything for granted. We are developing a European supplier base but how do you plan these decisions when there is such volatility? For those who have UK manufacturing facilities it can be positive and they can be feeling bullish, as there is a bit of surety for the business. Delegates in the audience offered their input on the topic, with Ed White from Rollins Bulldog saying: “Our material costs have increased. We get our timber from Germany and the US. We are making changes to our business and becoming more efficient. We’re not in a bad place but it was a bit of a shock.” GIMA president Chris Ramsden from Hozelock added: “We manufacture 80-85% of our products in the UK and France. Our raw materials, plastic, has cost us a lot. Sometimes you just can’t pass those costs on because it throws the RRP out.”

What do you want to see as part of negotiations and what do you expect? Darren: Free

trading and not

having tariffs blocked. I also want consistency with regulations. The EU regulations on garden chemicals break away could be positive. The UK is more pragmatic on the use of garden chemicals but the question is, do we have the manpower to manage it?

Kate: What if the garden centre industry labour?

can’t The get their massive casual washing

machine that is every organisation – Lofa, HTA, GIMA – should come together and create a body of people who stand for the garden industry. I think that is vital for our industry to set up and to lobby personally. That is what I want our industry to do. GIMA director Vicky Nuttall

responded to this comment: “Typically the HTA has always lobbied. GIMA hasn’t done this

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