Just last month, Lincolnshire-based Double Yew Nurseries told HW that during 2007 it had sold more mature tree specimens than in any previous year. Said owner Mark Wade: "People want instant effect, whether it's a small private garden or large landscaping project. It used to be just amenity projects that got the larger plants, but the trend has spread." In consequence, more customers are asking for 25-litre shrubs and upwards, and those working on gardens in the housing market have moved up from three-litre pots to 10 litres.
It's a trend that will be familiar to anyone supplying the sector. But it is also a trend that, if managed incorrectly, could see the business benefits to the supplier quickly wiped out by the operational challenges.
As Leslie Kossoff writes in the second of her series of articles on supply chain management (SCM), this shift in demand for larger stock is having a massive impact on supplier operations (p22). "You have to keep an adequate supply of early-growth trees for current and future use while allowing much of your inventory to stay in the ground and in your hands longer than in previous years. Managing that growth cycle has a direct impact on your company's ability to expand and survive," she notes. "Logistics management... demands that you have a knowledge and understanding of exactly how your land is being used, for which products, how they're selling, the upcoming market demands and what they are going to be." The SCM challenges, says Kossoff - who will be speaking on the subject in February at an HTA conference in Bromsgrove - include finding out what it takes to grow each species, what your largest project margins will be, how your costs will pan out, which species are more labour-intensive and what the delivery implications are.
Look out for the rest of the series on SCM in HW over the coming weeks and months as Kossoff unpicks and explains every aspect of this critical subject for businesses.