Industry figures note stabilising market post-Brexit

Garden industry figures at Glee have reported a more stable market than in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote and a growing realisation that exchange rate-related imported product price rises are here to stay. Migrant worker concerns are not going away soon, they added.

Changes at the big four retailers were a big talking point at Glee 2016
Changes at the big four retailers were a big talking point at Glee 2016

Bigger immediate issues for suppliers at Glee were how the big four retailers - Homebase, B&Q, Wyevale and Dobbies - are changing. Homebase and B&Q are rebranding and changing supplier base, while Wyevale and Dobbies are both under new management and are revamping.

Areas that have struggled are early-season products such as growing media, wild bird care, seeds and bedding, while price issues have hit plant imports and Christmas trees. Outdoor living, added-value plants, and gifts and catering have lifted garden centres towards a generally average year, said exhibitors and visitors. Suppliers suggested many prices are around 13 per cent up because of exchange rates, though fears around chemicals being banned have lessened post-Brexit.

Gardman chief executive Pete Utting said exchange rates are having "significant impacts" on costs but Gardman has fixed prices on its "hot 100" lines to 1 March. Chinese wage inflation is more of an issue than getting labour in Britain, he added. "Everyone is going to put prices up but some people will manage it more proactively than others." Competition between Homebase, and Wyevale (with new customer focuses), Dobbies (with new owners) and how B&Q will respond will have a "big impact", he said.

Garden Industry Manufacturers Association president Chris Ramsden, of Hozelock, said: "What you see is what you're going to get now. Exchange rate-wise I don't see a dramatic change." Companies are juggling prices by reducing marketing or cutting margin, "but there will be price increases", he added.

Bord na Mona's Charles Farmer said the company could afford to take a long-term position on exchange rates. Harvests are 90 per cent of expectation and "prices are not massively up" because of the competitive market. The growing-media market is down 4.5 per cent, according to GfK at the end of June.

Crest Garden's Nick Davies said most importing companies at Glee are having to pass on around 14 per cent currency changes, though his tools, watering and propagation business has enough stocks to avoid doing so in many cases.

Bayer's Christina Bouzala said the Bayer name will go in two years after French company SBM's takeover, but Baby Bio, Toprose and Phostrogen will stay. SBM will add natural controls options, she added, with France having garden chemicals behind glass counters from 2017, but "the UK has a different consumer and the regulatory strategy is not as challenging". Natural controls remain less than 10 per cent of the market.

Westland's Keith Nicholson said 90-plus per cent of the market is "traditional" and the alternative market remains "very small". The exchange rate is a "challenge" but the "buoyant" economy bodes well for 2017. Adding value is key to cracking the "consolidated" bird food market, where Scotts' Chapelwood brand has lost most of its market share and is for sale.

Gardman's Utting agreed that adding value is important, saying Gardman has sold 150,000 poppy wild bird feeders and expects to sell 300,000 by 11 November, donating £150,000 to the British Legion. He said peanuts are up 60 per cent after crop failure so Gardman will concentrate on sunflower hearts.

Glee Key market trends to emerge from this year’s show

Grass seed innovation Scotts Evergreen Superseed germinates in low temperatures, Westland Safe Lawn feed safe for children and pets.

Flowers ornaments Gardman poppy bird feeder, Smart Garden flower LEDs.

Light bulbs Smart Garden, Bonnington, Javado.Branding Briers’ Julie Dodsworth range, Treadstone’s Peter Rabbit range, Wildlife World’s Simon King range, Little Babas’ Mr Bloom range.

Growing media Bord na Móna Pro 5, Westland Gro-Sure Smart Ground Cover mulch.

Prize winners Compass Group, Cadac; Urban Chef, Smart Garden; Solar Daffodil, Briers; Julie Dodsworth Orangery Comfi Gardener Glove, Wildlife World; Simon King Brushwood Robin Nester, Lows; skALE Greenwall, Block Blitz; Block Blitz, Javado; Growing Light Bulbs; Scotts Round Up Gel Wand; Deco-Pak Milano Porcelain 

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