Garden centre suppliers bemoan Brexit but are reconciled with Amazon, GIMA business meeting hears

The Garden Industry Manufacturers' Association's AGM and business conference took place on 23 March at Horticulture House, Oxfordshire with 80 members in attendance, and discussed how Brexit is costing them but selling via Amazon is acceptable.

Darren Brown, Kate Ebbens, Malcolm Andrews, Simon Goodwin
Darren Brown, Kate Ebbens, Malcolm Andrews, Simon Goodwin

A GIMA Brexit discussion hosted by George Bullivant found that none of the 80 suppliers to garden centres believe they have benefitted from Brexit.

La Hacienda's Simon Goodwin said exchange rate driven costs of imported barbecues had risen 18-20%, while wholesale prices were up only 5-10%.

Cadix's Kate Ebbens said higher shipping costs were a big issue.

Pancea's Malcolm Andrews said volatility in the sterling-dollar exchange rate was hitting him, adding that he wanted the UK to remain in the customs union.

SBM's Darren Brown agreed planning ahead was tough with volatility with Europe.

Bulldog Tools said material costs were up 20% and trying to pass that on to garden centres and particularly big retailers was "not very positive".

Hozelock's Chris Ramsden, elected for second year as GIMA president, said despite being a UK manufacturer like Bulldog in a business of mainly importers, raw material plastic prices which are up 5-10% also could not be passed on to the retailer.

Brown said he wanted a free trade agreement post Brexit and also consistent chemical regulations, though he said the UK was "more pragmatic" on restrictions.

Ebbens called on industry bodies to lobby and GIMA's Vicky Nuttall said she may send a template letter for members to send to their MPs. The HTA's Gill Ormrod said the HTA were lobbying already.

GCA figures for January and February show plant sales up but hard goods down, with catering in February down for the first time in a month since mid-2014, which may show consumer spending weakening.

But other retail figures show sales are fair. According to the CBI’s latest monthly Distributive Trades Survey survey of 116 firms, consisting of 65 retailers, showed that growth in the volumes of sales was similar to that seen in February, but is set to accelerate in the year to April. 

Brantano, a concession in many garden centres, is in administration, Goodwin pointed out, to back up the point.

Meanwhile, GIMA members dismissed garden centre concerns about them selling online particularly through Amazon, who undercut bricks and mortar stores.

Ebbens said she does 19% of her pots business online including with Amazon direct.

She said it was up to garden centre to set RRPs.

Goodwin said he sold 20% on the internet and pointed out that garden centres such as Trago Mills could be cheaper than online.

He said he gets calls from garden centres every week moaning that his products are cheaper online on Amazon than in their centres but "there's not a lot we can do about it".  He said they "can sell at whatever price they want".

Brown said Amazon has logarithms that ensures it undercuts opposition but he found Amazon "fair" to deal with its.

Mintel figures show 10% of garden products are sold online.

Vitax's Colin Wetherley-Mein said Wilko, Wyevale and Homebase "were all doing it and we have no control over it" and that online sales had been around for a long time now, are here to stay and need to be got used to.

He said 90% of his product sold through Decco and there was nothing to stop retailers such as Longacres selling it online adding "we have to accept it's happening. We're stuck within it."

Mark Butler from Town and Country starts at Vitax this month as Wetherley-Mein's long-term successor.

Andrews said he would rather a specialist third party sold his product online than himself as they do it better.

The panel agreed that garden centres still offered the best advice and destination experience.

Lobbyist Michael Burrell warned that Brexit could reintroduce more difficult customs controls and could charge the UK £57bn to leave, so any trade deal is better than none in the circumstances.

He said staycations may rise because sterling is weak but trade barriers were likely to come in and Brexit negotiations would take years.

Decco's new chef executive Charlie Lacey, who is replacing John Findlay, said the wholesaler now had 350,000 sqft of warehousing and £9.7m stock from suppliers from Scotts to Neudorff having expanded following the demise of Solus in the last three years. He said he wants new product that is different to what Decco distributes already to wholesale to its garden centre and high street DIY customer base.

Glee's Matt Mein said the show is 80% booked for September and will expand to another hall, and will be rejigged at the NEC Birmingham for 2018. A Flemish growers pavilion, from VLAM, the Flanders’ Agricultural Marketing Board, will be joining this year’s show. Glee and HTA have agreed a three-year partnership for HTA to have a presence at the show.

During the proceedings Chris Ramsden was re-elected as GIMA president for another year, as was Richard Pyrah of Kelkay as vice president. Kate Ebbens of Cadix remains in the role of honorary secretary and Nigel Thompson of Nigel Thompson Associates (representing Stewarts) retains the role of honorary treasurer.

Dobbies John Cleland was due at speak at the meeting but left the company this month. HW interviewed his successor Nicholas Marshall, who has appointed 12 new senior staff including buyers, yesterday.

GIMA, which now owns the Garden Press Event with the HTA, announced its is moving to Islington Business Design Centre for 28 February's show because the Barbican is refurbishing.

GIMA Council has reduced from 16 to 12 and is:

    Matt Jackson, Briers
    David Carey, Mr. Fothergill’s Seeds
    Chris Holloway, Thompson & Morgan
    John Gomersall, Forest Garden
    Mark Butler, Town & Country
    Simon McArdle, Westland Horticulture
    Heather Culpan, Burgon & Ball
    Craig Hall, Deco Pak

 


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