The Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) has released its monthly market update indicating that the sector is still showing incredible resilience, despite variable weather and market challenges.
Garden centre sales grew by 1% from April 2022, driven by plant and catering sales, compensating for lower garden furniture sales, and it is hoped that with the better weather kicking in this month and the inspiration of Chelsea, more people will be flocking back to garden centres in the coming months.
Consumer confidence improved for the third consecutive month, despite cost-of-living pressures. Any impact of the recent interest rate increase by the Bank of England remains to be seen, and rising wage bills and the cost of goods sold continue to pressure the industry. Still, businesses are cautiously optimistic with some relief from falling vehicle fuel and fertiliser prices.
Despite a 2% decrease in gardening category sales compared to the considerably drier April of the previous year, sales of plants, seeds (up 30%), and bulbs (up 11%) stood out as showcasing consumers’ continued passion for gardening even in unpredictable weather conditions and perhaps demonstrates that grow-your-own ranges tend to pick up during tougher economic times, not because it’s necessarily cheaper to grow from seed or bulb, but because of the sense of control, feeling of resilience amongst uncertainty that it provides.
Non-garden categories experienced a 12% growth, driven by a 29% increase in catering sales and a 12% increase in food and farm shop sales. While sales of wild bird care were slightly hampered by poor weather and supply challenges stemming from the Russia-Ukraine conflict, they still outperformed April 2021 with an 18% increase.
Comparisons with 2021 sales reflect the unique circumstances of that year, with heightened gardening interest during lockdown but restricted catering trade.
Fran Barnes, Chief Executive of the HTA, said: “Overall, the HTA’s market update highlights the unwavering passion of consumers for plants and gardening, and this is being perfectly demonstrated at the Chelsea Flower Show. Despite challenges posed by weather variations and market conditions, HTA member businesses remain positive about their prospects, with a third consecutive quarter of improvement in Q1. The industry’s ability to navigate various challenges demonstrates its strength and determination to thrive in the months and years ahead but with caution. Given the increase in growing media costs, we urge the government to review its drastic shift on the professional peat ban, returning to the sector-supported 2030 date, and provide the sector with the urgent clarity needed for business planning and investment.”