The outdoor furniture market with Andy Baxter of Maze

Andy Baxter and Matthew Appleby

The guest on this week's Horticulture Week Podcast is Andy Baxter of outdoor furniture supplier, Maze.

Managing director since early 2021, he has had to navigate the firm through a particularly tumultuous time with containers prices hitting record highs and lockdowns in China halting supply.

Sterling "has been a challenge. At the moment, it's looking quite good. Not necessarily the strength of the pound, more the weakness of the dollar. But it's looking positive, which in turn helps us going into 2024."

Amid a prolongued cost-of-living crisis, the dramatic fall in container costs means Maze is able to pass on price cuts.

He's optimistic about stocking for 2023 going into 2024: "I think the opportunity will be to bring more products in early before the season next year to make sure that everyone's geared up in advance with the stocks ready to sell, rather than holding off for the season, waiting for the dollar to be right or the shipping containers to be right."

Maze has much to celebrate after being included in the Growth 100 Index - reflecting its phenomenal period of growth - as well as a listing in the Top 25 Retail businesses in the UK.

Trends-wise, we have reached 'peak rattan': "There's a lot more neutrals and natural colours coming through, especially mixed materials...a lot more wood and the rope weave coming through as well."

Though online is a growth area, he recognises the limitations and difficulties of persuading people to make big ticket purchases on higher-end products. Garden centres are important for offering a place for consumers to see the product for themselves but need to embrace the new styles coming through: "Our team are trying to get across and trying to incentivize people to take the plunge ...to go for these newer products, which there is demand [for] out there. I think people just need to be able to see it and touch it. "

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