Horticulture is "bigger, stronger and better together", Garden Futures event hears

The HTA Garden Futures event has heard a range of speakers discussing where the garden retail industry is heading.

GROW career film at HTA Garden Futures
GROW career film at HTA Garden Futures

HTA president Stan Green opened the annual event, held at RIBA in London, by calling for horticulture to be "bigger, stronger and better together".

Love Your Garden TV presenter David Domoney said natural phenomenon such as frogspawn could drag children away from computer games. He said gardening must be promoted as more than a chore, though later in the conference, Garden Industry Marketing Board director David Arnold pointed out Love Your Garden was sponsored by Ibuleve, adding: "What does that say about hard work and discomfort?"

Domoney added that his Cultivation Street project had expanded in its second year to include 200 school entries, up from 50. He called for more garden centres to promote the scheme, citing Delamore and Bents as businesses that have pushed it this year.

HTA market information manager David Denny looked at the garden market in 2025. He said renters spent 40 per cent less on gardening than homeowners and plants for pots might help this. Arnold also spoke on "portable" plants in his talk on industry promotion Love the Plot You've Got, which will see a Westland-backed roadshow round six city centres in 2015 promoting gardening to the inexperienced.

Denny said March-June rainfall was becoming more volatile and more than half 16-24 year-olds access the internet by mobile phone several times a day. He cited Pantene hair products, which ran a promotion linked to when the weather was bad, suggesting garden centres could text customers to buy horticultural fleece for instance when frost was forecast.

Haskins chief executive officer and GCA chairman elect for 2016 Julian Winfield said the four-garden centre group retained its horticulture credentials despite employing more than half of its 550 staff in catering. He said Haskins' Ferndown centre had seen cafe sales rise to 21.5 per cent and outdoor plants fall to 9.1 per cent (17.6 per cent including bedding), adding: "What we've lost on the gardening side we've made up in different areas of the business."

He said over the last 18 years, gardening was up 32 per cent, non-gardening 166 per cent and restaurant 224 per cent. Plants is up 22 per cent but autumn plants is down 16 per cent.

He added that that was partly reflected in changes in space given to the categories.

Winfield said spring sales were down from 45 to 41 per cent and November-December was up from 16 to 21 per cent.

Homebase HR director John Shaw and garden designer spoke of the success of the retailer's Garden Academy scheme.

HTA horticulture head Raoul Curtis Machin and RHS education head Sarah Cathcart spoke of the GROW careers scheme's relaunch.

Cathcart said the recent RHS Horticulture Matters 2 report and increased lobbying of politicians, as well as the industry ornamentals round table was promoting horticulture as a career, in the absence of careers advisors. Next was giving seondary school teachers resources to teach horticulture and garden design, she added. She said 45 per cent of the 19,000 RHS Campaign for School Gardening members were secondary schools.

They played a GROW video with the hashtag #gardensrock in which an actor promotes gardening as cool because its involves working with food, science and football.

Former BBC HR director Lucy Adams said managers should be visible, humble, be able to relate change back to customers and be able to use data to prove a point in times of crisis. She said staff felt threatened by loss of status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness (SCARF) during recent BBC cuts and office moves.

Boyd Douglas-Davies promoted Greenfingers Garden Re-Leaf day on 27 March 2015.

Briers managing director Jackie Eades and Sinclair marketing director Simon McArdle spoke of how customer research had helped their brand development.

And former John Lewis customer service manager Andrew McMillan spoke of changing the business from being seen as middle-aged to having a £3.8 billion turnover through hiring and firing by attitude and through inside out customer service.

For more reports on the event, see HW 31st October.

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