Garden retail lawncare - Intensive care

The weather has had a big impact on sales as customers look to apply the first lawn treatments of the season, says Nicki Woodcock.

Lawn care: retailers have reported a strong start to spring and predict this to continue throughout the summer - image: HW
Lawn care: retailers have reported a strong start to spring and predict this to continue throughout the summer - image: HW

Sales of lawn-care products increased by up to 15 per cent last year despite the poor spring weather. This year, milder weather in March, following flooding and storms in February, has contributed to good sales of lawn feed as well as weedand moss-killing products - the first lawn treatments of the season.

Retailers predict this strong start to spring will continue throughout the summer months. March, April and May see the peak period for lawn seed sales in the UK. Scotts Miracle-Gro representative Geoff Hodge says: "All in all, the outlook is very positive with an outstanding start to the year."

"The wet weather experienced throughout the winter has caused several problems for lawns, including waterlogging, flooding and the associated problems of poor, yellow grass and, more importantly, a surge in moss growth," adds Hodge. "Scotts Miracle-Gro has had an unprecedented level of calls to our consumer hotline asking for advice on how to treat moss on lawns."

Westland Horticulture representative Emma Rogers says: "The wet weather will have increased lawn damage and moss or patching and we have seen a spike in demand for Aftercut All-in-One and Lawn Seed products as a result."

Niche area

A niche area of the market has emerged, targeting consumers in areas that suffered the worst of the wet weather. In some flood-hit areas there has been a significant increase in sales of products specifically targeted at flooded lawns - selling to people who would not normally be buying such products.

DLF Trifolium consumer sales manager Guy Jenkins says the current market is competitive and there is plenty of innovation. Retailers have seen increased interest among consumers for products providing value for money and simple products to fit their purpose. He points out that lawn seed can be a "technical product" and as a result the firm has seen an increased interest in "how to" guides, with consumers calling and asking for information. "It all comes down to education, providing simple messages that promote the benefits of the product," he says.

Premium price

Westland's Rogers says retailers have seen a rise in demand for consumers prepared to pay a premium price for a product that is easily understood and satisfies their needs. "Westland has put greater focus on delivering a fit-for-purpose range in key sizes and at a competitive price to drive purchase of new lines in particular. Value for money is a much stronger pull than simply having the cheapest product in this category."

The lawn-care regime focuses firstly on "addressing the need to improve bald patches and worn areas in the garden", she adds, with products such as the Aftercut Patch Fix range. During high summer, a greening product such as Aftercut 3 Day Green is "ideal to keep the lawn looking its best". Towards the autumn months, the focus is typically about "winter-proofing the lawn" with products such as Westland Autumn & Winter Lawn Enhancer. This offers consumers a "simple-to-use lawn treatment that kills moss and feeds the lawn at the same time, providing a head start for the following spring".

DLF's two new products this season are Grass Graffiti and Countryfile presenter Adam Henson's "At Home with Nature" range. Grass Graffiti is a chalk spray specifically designed for use on grass, useful for sports marking to lawn art ready for summer. Unlike other paints, which are designed to have an element of permanence to them, this will wash out in the rain or disappear when the lawn is mowed.

Johnsons Quick Lawn, produced by DLF, uses the new seed dressing Gromax. It is both shadeand drought-tolerant, with low maintenance requirements. The At Home with Nature range features a variety of conservation and wild flower seed mixtures - a range initially used by farmers but tweaked for the domestic market suitable for the home and garden. The mixtures come in three forms, Wildlife Welcome, Butterflies & Bees Welcome and Birds Welcome.

Aqua gel technology

Westland's newest launch is Gro-Sure Smart Seed, which uses aqua gel technology that works in all conditions. Each seed is coated with gel, which allows it to absorb 400 times its own weight in water. Westland's introduction of Smart Seed has added value to the lawn category, with retailers experiencing a 200 per cent increase in sales throughout March.

Even though the key lawn-feeding season is yet to kick-off, EverGreen Extreme Green, which is new for 2014, has had a strong start to the year. The product contains more nitrogen per square metre compared to similar products in this category. The newly improved Evergreen Complete four-in-one also contains more nitrogen than any other feed and weed and moss killer of its kind. It also contains 20 per cent more potassium, which is essential to help build up a thicker, stronger lawn and to protect against drought, wear and tear and other stresses.

Gro-Sure Multi-Purpose and Gro-Sure Fast Acting lawn seeds are star performers as consumers look for a good all-rounder and a seed that will deliver rapid results as the weather improves. With regards to lawn fertilisers, Aftercut All in One is performing well, particularly with the unique Even-Flo spreader system that features a reusable spreader head allowing consumers to then interchange with other products in the range.

A notable trend to have emerged so far this year sees a rise in demand for shady mixtures. Over the past few years, sales in this category have dramatically increased and are now much greater than luxury lawn products.

Retailers' comments

Woodcote Green Garden Centre general manager Phil Barnden says: "Lawn care is going really well this year because people's lawns have been annihilated this winter. They're completely sodden and moss is very bad, so moss killer and grass seed are doing well."

Coolings Nurseries shop supervisor Brian Archibald adds: "Application is best from March to September and can be spread by hand, wearing a glove, or by an adjustable spreader. Because Mo Bacter is organic it will not matter if some material spreads onto flower beds or pathways. It comes in two sizes - 65-75sq m (£19.99) and 175-200sq m (£35.99). There are alternatives, such as traditional lawn sand, but this only kills the moss and it will need to be raked out."


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