Garden Press Event sees new products launched and market shifts

Easy gardening, takeovers, new accounts and celebrity-backed new products were themes at the annual Garden Press event at the Barbican this week.

Westland said it had high hopes for Sow Smart, an easy tomato seed growing kit using glue plugs. After buying Sinclair in 2015, Westland has streamlined the range and will re-design and add to it for Glee 2016.

Suttons was promoting sweet corn shoots as well as a range of six Dobies grafted tomato/pepper/cucumber vegetable plants exclusive to Wyevale Garden Centres and fronted by Big Allotment Challenge winner Rob Smith. A Suttons campaign 'Unsurprisingly Suttons' will promote the company heritage and wider range of products under new marketing head Hilary Mabbutt.

Kings Seeds is to launch a 300-variety range of vegetable seeds this autumn with 50 new varieities to the company. The Essex seedsman is also launching online veg plug plants and is in Blue Diamond this year. It has a newly designed range of 200 flower seed varieities and 50 sweetpeas.

Mr Fothergill's has taken on Tillington Group and Wyevale Garden Centre accounts this year, and had Jekka McVicar promoting her herb range at the Garden Press Day. Crocus is to build the McVicar herb garden at Chelsea in May.

Fothergill's supplies Homebase in the UK and Bunnings in Australia, which it said "dominates" the market down under. Homebase is set to finalise its deal to be bought by Bunnings owner Wesfarmers at the end of February.

Scotts is another Bunnings supplier and Scotts general manager Sheila Hill said she was "very excited" about Bunnings taking over Homebase and as a preferred Bunnings partner, "hope it will be good for us". Scotts said its Groables seed sow kits were selling in strongly. Scotts is set to make an announcement on a joint venture European partner around Easter.

Homebase's Andy Goddard said Wesfarmers' planned £500m investment in Homebase was a "positive" but the DIY/garden centre had planned as usual for 2016.

Thompson & Morgan director Paul Hansord said it had maintained all accounts.  T&M has a new Kew wildflower range, next generation weed suppressant seed tape, 'all season' tri-packs of brassicas, and integrated 'garden essentials' such as sweet pea support rings in packets on seed stands. Hansord said guarantees on tomato and potato yields would reassure customers after a wet start to the season.

Crest Garden's Nick Davies was promoting FloPro watering, which he said is guaranteed not to leak, and lightweight Kent & Stowe tools.

Lightweight tools was a big theme at the show, with Gardena secateurs, Gardman's children's/lightweight range, Budding Gardeners, promoted by the Rich Brothers in a three-year deal, and Fiskars lightweight range, promoted by James Wong, on show.

Davies said there was still room in the market for a distributor, although he said Toolbank had seen an opportunity as had Decco and Stax since his Solus company closed.

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