October garden retail sales rise as 2017 trends revealed

October sales were up to 18 per cent up in garden centres, helped by Halloween's growing popularity and dry weather.

Alton Garden Centre director Andy Bunker said: "We've had good sales in October, up 18 per cent, and also interesting is the cumulative figure for me has risen very healthily from plus two per cent at the end of June to plus five per cent end of October.

"Everything in the plant side is selling," he said. Buxus, was a stand out with one customer spending £2,000.

October in retail was helped by Halloween's growing popularity. Sales of Halloween flowers jumped by 117 per cent this year at Waitrose. The range, which includes black painted roses and glow-in-the dark flower arrangements, "has proved incredibly popular as shoppers sought out more grown-up ways to decorate their homes", says the supermarket.

October was the driest since 1946, the Met said with 35 per cent less rainfall than normal. It was the 25th hottest October since 1910, with sunshine 9-24 per cent above average.

Buckingham Garden Centre's Chris Day said October is flowing right through from summer sales and plant sales remain strong. He added: "It's just about offering variety at this time of the year when variety is becoming less."

Scotsdale's John Ashley said a Christmas opening event saw 500 people attend and takings of £40,000.

North One and West Six owner Beryl Henderson said sales in the first tow weeks of the month were more than the whole of October 2015.

The British Retail Consortium have reported that overall shop prices reported deflation of 1.7 per cent in October from the 1.8 per cent decline in September. This is slightly behind the three-month average of -1.8 per cent.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: "Shop price deflation continues unabated, with October shelf prices coming in 1.7 per cent lower than in the same month last year – almost unchanged from the 1.8 per cent registered in September. Non-food deflation of 2.1 per cent was unchanged for the second consecutive month, and came in significantly higher than food deflation of 1.2 per cent. The divergence in ambient and fresh food deflation was marked – fresh food prices were 2.0 per cent lower than in October 2015, while ambient prices were just 0.2 per cent lower.

"While we know that the devaluation of sterling since the Brexit vote is stoking inflationary pressures, the good news for consumers is that retailers have been successful in managing this to date and there is still no impact visible in shop prices. However, it is inevitable that imported inflation will begin to make its mark and we would expect to start to see this effect coming through in the first quarter of 2017."

Nielsen retailer and business insight head Mike Watkins said: "Supermarkets are keeping prices low and inflationary pressure in the supply chain is not yet being passed on, as competition for the wallet of the shopper continues to be intense. Fresh food is a key battle ground for attracting new shoppers and there have further price cuts in recent months. Across the non-food channel it is unseasonably warm weather that is having the biggest impact on sales so retailers are holding prices and making promotions attractive to help encourage visits to store."  

Meanwhile, the next edition of Lloyds Bank Insurance’s bi-annual Britain at Home report, which explores the nation’s use of and attitudes towards the sharing economy, has found that 17 million people are now embracing the trend for ‘collaborative consumption’. 

Men in particular are taking advantage of the opportunity this presents, with nearly a fifth earning money from renting out items such as DIY tools (17 per cent) or  lawnmowers (13 per cent).

More trends for 2017 have been revealed by analysts Mintel, which says ahead of the UK’s April 2018 sugar tax, it is going to prove difficult for brands to play the "natural" card when pushing alternatives, because plant-based sweetening ingredients like stevia leaves have to be processed. When it comes to "natural" it’s more likely that brands will look to profit from the simplicity of their bottled water lines."

To succeed among the growing African middle classes, authentic gourmet Tanzanian chocolate, Ethiopian Tella beer and chickpea and plantain snacks are already finding their way onto the market, Mintel added. Black soap made from the ash of locally harvested plants and barks such as plantain, cocoa pods, palm tree leaves and shea butter made from the fat of shea tree nuts are further trends.

Mintel also says pollution protection products such as masks (83 per cent) and air purifiers (56 per cent) in China, indicating that protection against pollution is a major concern. Using houseplants (52 per cent) and air quality index monitoring (33 per cent) to counter pollution is also commonplace behaviour.

Mintel senior trend consultant Richard Cope said: "One of the conditions of the Paris Climate summit was for countries to submit an audit of their progress as soon as 2018. Ahead of this first statistical stocktake, European governments will start implementing some of the actions called for by the Paris climate summit. This will include ‘urban greening’ plantation programmes, clamping down on older vehicles and incentivising e-cars and construction programmes using building materials that chemically counter pollution."

See www.mintel.com/european-consumer-trends

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