A comparison of prices at DIY stores, garden centres and high street retailers has shown how difficult it is for independents to compete on price as multiples seek to drive down prices on commodity lines.
The wild bird care market is 10-15 per cent down this winter, according to Garden Centre Association figures.
Key winter product fat balls are £1 for a pack of six from Robert Dyas. At the independent garden centres visited, 50 Gardman Fat Snax were £8.99, while 50 Chapelwood fat balls were £11.99. B&Q had 50 Gardman Fat Snax at £7.98.
Patterns were similar across other manufactured goods and plants, but with some surprising differences (see box).
Garden Industry Manufacturers Association director Neil Gow said: "In the end it's the consumer who will dictate whether the price of fat balls is being driven down. Who is winning? No one in the end.
"The issue is prices being driven down when volumes are not increasing to make up the difference in turnover and margin being lost, whether in fat balls, compost, pots or solar lights it doesn't matter, it's an issue the industry has got."
Gow added that wild bird product sales were 35-40 per cent down this winter, hit by the cold of 2013. But "on a five-year average they're up slightly because of the way the sector has grown".
Garsons managing director Ian Richardson said: "It's inevitable DIYs will be cheaper with the buying ability they have. We try and be different, though there's obviously going to be overlap in some products, but I don't see it as much of an issue.
"People expect to pay a premium when they come to our site. If we're within 10-15 per cent, that's okay, but much more and we'll be in trouble." He said goods such as barbecues are available cheaper online and customers expect to pay 10-15 per cent more in garden centres.
Meanwhile, Gardman has moved to plastic bags from nets and launched No Net Fat Snax (pack of 50) at £11.99. A tub is also available at £9.99.
Gardman marketing director Sarah Downing said: "We've realigned prices to be competitive but now it's about brand development."