Don't panic, says sector pollster

Delegates to the HTA garden industry leaders' conference were told not to panic in the face of the economic gloom by pollster Ben Page.

Page, who is managing director of Ipsos Mori, said the public's attitude to consumption is holding up, although signs of a more "savvy" approach to buying are coming through.

He added that while "shaken security" and a sense that the UK is "broken" were two of the clearest underlying trends, "the public are not quite as terrified as newspapers might have us believe".

Asked about the importance of green issues, he said: "The aspiration is there to buy green, but in a recession the gap between what people say and what they do grows." The conference opened at the London Stock Exchange on Tuesday (21 October).

He advised garden industry businesses to make product lines as British as possible - and to emphasise links with British heritage. Garden centres must also decide whether they want to promote "shopping as leisure" or "shopping as transaction".

Finally, he told delegates to expect that they could be operating under a Conservative government after the next election. "There is a five to 10 per cent probability your industry will still need to talk to Labour after 2010," said Page. "People are fed up."

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