Newey: 2015 a breath of fresh air

The 2015 season was a "much-needed breath of fresh air", according to Newey Group managing director Alex Newey.

Poinsettia: British Protected Ornamentals Association says it expects the market to be roughly similar to last year - image: HW
Poinsettia: British Protected Ornamentals Association says it expects the market to be roughly similar to last year - image: HW

After growth of 8.5 per cent in overall sector outdoor plant sales in 2015, Newey said: "People talk about grower optimism. What we have to remember about consumer optimism is about giving the consumer the right product at the right place at the right time so impulse-purchase plants represent good value for money.

"I think some retailers are getting more focused. The industry tends to follow what the retailers are doing. If you're a supplier to a large retailer we've all learnt a lot of lessons from the past two or three years. That's what we're here doing, trying to remodel the business."

For 2016, Newey said Roundstone is "approaching cautiously" and "hedging our bets" because "it feels like the right thing to do". For his Young Plants business, after talking to hundreds of grower customers: "The mood is very upbeat." Meanwhile, poinsettia volumes will be similar or slightly less than in 2014, he added.

Young plants are potted, plants have been pinched and "product quality is excellent across the board, not just with us but at other growers". But he said: "Everybody has adopted a fairly cautious approach to a volatile market, in truth.

"There's clearly more optimism if you're a retailer and if you're importing you're probably going to make a bit of extra profit. As a model, is that sensible? It probably isn't. If your model is making a quick profit based on exchange rates, fill your boots. But if you're growing high-quality, top-spec, long-lasting products that give the customer satisfaction, the euro rate doesn't feature."

Roundstone is growing 150,000 poinsettia as a contract for Hill Brothers, which supplies Sainsbury's. B&Q has moved all its poinsettia production to the UK for this season, using Cobbins and Bell Brothers.

The British Protected Ornamentals Association agreed that the poinsettia market will be "pretty much the same as last year". However, chairman Simon Davenport admitted that imports "could be more attractive".

After recently buying Brinkman Trees and Eagle Plants, Newey said acquisitions have gone quiet in the nursery market. But the group has plans and is "still acquisitive". Integration is "not without challenges", he added.

Newey Group now comprises Eagle Plants, EverGreen Events, New Forest Plants, New Place Nurseries, Omni Solutions UK, Roundstone Nurseries, Transflora, Whitehill Seed Company and Young Plants. Roundstone will host GroSouth at its West Sussex nursery on 11 November.

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