The big themes at this year's garden setail trade show Glee included internet trading, product copying, the fall in active ingredients available for garden controls, a poor peat harvest, a glut of Christmas trees, rises in the minimum wage and competition from non-traditional garden centres.
Primrose chief executive officer Ian Charles told 40 industry leaders at the show - held at Birmingham's NEC last month - that they need to react to online threats or they will lose market share.
He suggested that the best way for physical retailers to fight back would be to offer the same experience as online, via smartphone apps that allow browsing customers to view product reviews of the items they are inspecting in store, together with a more extensive product range available for home delivery.
Charles cited as advantages the "enormous choice online, enabling customers to source exactly the product that is right for them, rather than relying on a narrow, curated choice in store, extensive online reviews that directly address customer concerns about product value and the ferociously competitive prices online".
He suggested that these factors will continue to drive more garden customers online as the older garden centre demographic becomes more confident online.
Scotts Miracle-Gro chairman and chief executive officer Jim Hagedorn, also speaking at Glee, said threats to glyphosate by European re-registration processes are a concern. "We'll adapt but it's short-sighted," he added. "Not giving gardeners the tools is unfair. We have replacements but they're not as effective and more expensive. If it's unsafe I get it, but it's still allowed to be used on food."
Glyphosate-based Roundup is exclusively marketed by Scotts in North America and most of Europe. Scotts has dropped metaldehyde from slug killer as the chemical comes under re-registration, using rape seed oil instead. Naturals are eight per cent of Scotts' range, which the company does not see rising "short term".
Bayer has dropped the neonicotinoid thiacloprid, to be replaced by deltamethrin in Provado Ultimate Bug Killer, ahead of regulations changing.
Neudorff sales director Jude Beharall said: "European pressure on glyphosate will impact but not to the degree of neonicotinoids. Neonicotinoids are only a slice but glyphosate is almost the whole cake. Traditional gardeners have been using it for decades and unless they're told they can't it will continue to prove popular. It's a cash cow for big garden centres. While it's on the market, it's safe. I have to go with the expert view."
Vitax sales manager Colin Wetherley Mein added: "Pressure on actives is giving us a hard run for our money. We're trying to reinvent the wheel and bringing out alternatives, not that they're as effective. We do the best we can with what we've got."
Glove and boot company Briers said relaunching every year is "in its DNA" as rival Town & Country rebranded for a relaunch at Glee.
Briers business coordinator Mike Cook said: "We relaunch every year. We never stand still." He added that the company's new William Morris range is "the shining star".
Town & Country chairman Barry Page said: "At the beginning of the rebrand process we talked to our customers about what they wanted from us. They asked for the continuation of the quality, value and service with which the Town & Country brand is synonymous, and wanted a refreshed look, with new products, packaging and merchandising as areas of focus.
"As the reaction so far testifies, we are happy that we have delivered what we promised and look forward to working with our retail partners to translate the successful launch we had at Glee into a vibrant new presence in garden centres that will deliver tangible results."
For next year (12-14 September 2016) Glee organisers are planning an "edit of the show floor plan" and rebranding of four areas with halls 17-20 will happen for. Landscape and garden decoration replace garden design and landscape, with the aim of bringing back more hard landscaping to the show. Garden leisure becomes outdoor entertaining. There will be a dedicated pet section returning and retail services will be rebranded as retail experiences and services, and will include catering.
Glee event director Matthew Mein said: "Feedback from exhibitors has been positive. Moving to a Monday start (from Sunday) was the right thing. It is definitely a three-day show."
Glee intends to move its features, such as new products, to ensure visitors do not just visit the stands they know and have to look around more. Exhibitors will not be forced to move from favoured positions.
First Glee visitor vote buyer awards: WINNERS ROUND-UP
BEST TEAM AWARDS
Best Independent Garden Retail Buying Team: Haskins
Best Online Garden Retail Buying Team: gardensite.co.uk
Best Multiple Garden Centre Buying Team: Blue Diamond
Best DIY/Builder Merchant Buying Team: Homebase
Best Other Garden Retailer Buyer Team: John Lewis
Best Garden Care (Accessories) Product:
Winner: Cloud Controller, Hozelock
First runner-up: Solar Powered Eureka! Lightbulb lantern, Smart Garden Products
Second runner-up: 3 Pattern Spray Ball
Best Machinery & Tools Product:
Winner: Baksaver Barrow, Baksaver Barrows
First runner-up: Batavia Multishifter
Second runner-up: Duraball, The Walsall Wheelbarrow Company
Best Plants, Seeds & Bulbs:
Winner: Raspberry Ruby Beauty, Wyevale Nurseries
First runner-up: Nemesia Sunpeddle Painted Rose, Channel Island Plants (UK)
Second runner-up: Gro-Sure Sow Smart, Westland Horticulture
Best Garden Care Chemicals, Fertilisers & Composts Product:
Winner: Sylvagrow Compost 100%, Melcourt Industries
First runner-up: Rootgrow Ericoid Mycorrhizal Fungi, Plantgrow
Second runner-up: Sea Maid Calcified Seaweed Meal, Mydas
Best Pet & Wildlife Product:
Winner: Loktop 2 Port Mealworm Feeder, Petface
First runner-up: Tweetie Feeder, VegTrug
Second runner-up: Hobnail glass bird range, Fallen Fruits
Best Home, Gift & Clothing:
Winner: Occasions Gift Range, Spear & Jackson
First runner-up: Lovers Umbrella, Fallen Fruits
Second runner-up: Buttacup Flow
Best Leisure Product:
Winner: Outdoor pouffe, Fallen FruitsFirst runner-up: ONJA, Rosker
Second runner-up: Solar Bulb Stake and String Lights, Gardman
Third runner-up: Brighton Corner Arbour, Zest 4 Leisure
Best Catering & Speciality Food Product:
Winner: Findlater's Gluten-Free Bread
Runner-up: Smoke It All
Best Landscaping & Construction:
Winner: Miniature World Range, Vivid Arts
First runner-up: RHS Gardeners Collection, Kelkay
Second runner-up: Noocity Growbed
GIMA Innovators' Seed Corn Fund: Green Digit, inventor of SeedCell grow-your-own concept
Selected new products
- Fallen Fruits Lovers Umbrella (£19.99).
- Garden structures and fencing company Grange unveiled its "Contemporary" range.
- Outdoor living supplier Premier Decorations won the best product award in the Outdoor Cooking Top Five Products category for its new range of Italian Fontana outdoor ovens.
- Kelkay launched new pumps and lights as well as an RHS-endorsed range.
- Scotts Miracle-Gro launched Groables Seed Pods and expects to sell one million in the first year. In the USA it sold 10 million in the first year. The product - seeds, Osmocote and compost in a biodegradable pod - is "goof-proof", says Scotts general manager Sheila Hill.
- Treadstone Products added to its Laura Ashley-branded garden accessories range with a new collection called Caravan Daisy and a Peter Rabbit brand of children's gardening and outdoor clothing.
- Gardman's five-brand strategy, introduced last season, aims to trade customers up to better-quality products.
- Moulton Mill "Budding Gardeners" is a new range of lightweight garden tools for children and aspiring gardeners endorsed by the Rich Brothers, RHS Chelsea Flower Show's youngest gold medal-winners.
- Blacksmith is a collection of arches, obelisks and "romantic" heart-shaped plant supports made from heavy-duty wrought iron.
- Garden & Home Co is a new range of four themed homestyle collections, character doorstops, artificial pot plants and topiary.
- Cole & Bright has new dual-power string lights that guarantee year-round lighting, together with a range of wooden flameless candle lanterns that are suitable for indoor and outdoor use.
- Ernest Charles launched two new nest boxes