Hard landscaping products have been hit by the economic downturn with sales decreasing by 9.7 per cent in July 2011, pushing retailers to make extra efforts to fight off the competition.
Sales are down 6.66 per cent so far this year, a trend that consultant Westwood Solutions maintains is unsurprising given the slowdown in sales of big ticket items caused by the recession.
Joseph Berkem from SureSet, which specialises in resin-bound permeable paving, agrees that the market is becoming increasingly competitive, especially for premium products. "Poorer quality products are being produced at a cheaper price," he says.
At Scotsdale Garden Centre, managing director Caroline Owen says: "Our displays help but hard landscaping has been a challenging market this year and for the past two or three years." She put it down to people not putting in new patios while grow your own may have hit hard landscaping sales with gardeners growing vegetables rather than putting down flags.
To stay in the running while producing new products, Fiskars has created a Garden Tools Reinvented theme. It is showcasing a host of new products at Glee 2011, including QuikDrill, which it describes as a manual drill reinvented for a host of garden tasks. The long-handled tool comes with three choices of blade, so operators can drill holes standing up without putting pressure on the back. The tool is perfect for bulb planting, creating holes for large plants and even drilling holes for fence posts, says the company.
Other Fiskars products being showcased at Glee are the Weed Puller and extensions for the QuikFit multi-headed range, as well as an aluminium snow spade and lightweight snow sledge. Gardman and Kelkay are also extending their snow tools and products ranges, as is Greentech. Fiskars is keen to work closely with retailers as it plans two more television campaigns for 2012.
M&M Landscapes is also using the TV to help sales, with Christine Hamilton appearing as a celebrity guest at its pre-Glee press launch. At this launch 150 VIP guests will be shown M&M Timber's new garden products, promotional items and extended ranges for 2012. Currently, the poultry ark, Bayton greenhouse and Veggiebed ranges are the biggest sellers.
Everbuild will also be showcasing new products at Glee, including its environmentally-friendly Cemstrip cement, concrete and mortar stain remover. Additions to the Lumberjack Wood Care range will be available, as will an addition to the Moss Away collection.
Meadow View Stone is starting a new marketing initiative called Keep Things Simple! with products that it says are simple to order, simple to merchandise and simple to sell. At Glee, it will be showcasing a revised range of point of sale (POS), packaging and product ranges.
Forest Garden will also be showcasing its newly developed merchandising system. The garden timber supplier says that POS will have lifestyle photography of the seasonal garden timber products, to help customers visualise the products in-situ. In the autumn the company's National Tidy Campaign swings into action promoting garden chests and bike, mower and general garden stores.
Meanwhile, for landscape mortar and jointing specialist Ultrascape sales have been good and things are on the up this year, according to representative Sarah Rose. The dip in retail spending has not hit the company's sales, she says, because it has diversified and has other plans in place. Rose highlights Ultrascape's range of driveway fixing products as a big seller this year.
Jarrett Fencing managing director John Jarrett also identifies diversifying business focuses and using a website as keys to survival in the recession.
"Most of our work used to come from contracting. Now we do a lot of retailing and our website has become very important to the business," he says.
Lawn edging company EverEdge has diversified by introducing a new system that allows for easier installation and more attractive edging solutions. This comes as bespoke edging is being used increasingly in public areas. The coupling system features two coach bolts finished to match the edging from 150-300mm deep and from 2.5-6mm thick.
KELKAY AWARD SUCCESS
This year was almost a clean sweep at the Garden Industry Manufacturers' Association Awards for Kelkay. The company came first in the Garden Landscaping category with its five-piece Gardenstone Abbey compass feature kit - retailing at £49.99 - and was also one of just two other finalists with its Gardenstone meadow pavers.
The meadow pavers retail at £5.49 each or two for £9.99, and come with a leaf, flower or butterfly motif or plain. Each is approximately 400mm x 400mm.
Motif pavers are delivered 30 of each design to the pallet and plain riven pavers come 90 to the pallet.
Managing director Antony Harker says: "This is the culmination of a lot of hard work so it is great to know that this effort, combined with our experience, has resulted in recognition for our landscaping products."