Garden centre clothing sales have risen by nearly 30 per cent for July 2011 and are up by more than seven per cent this year to date, according to Garden Centre Association figures.
This is great news for established companies in the market, such as Hunter, Town & Country and Briers, as well as for newcomers Garden Girl and Joe's.
Hunter Boots marketing manager Daniel Walter attributes the rise in sales to "the snow weather and wet winter". He adds: "There has been a general move towards British outdoor brands as well as technical products that perform. All the signs point to further growth. As garden centres continue to expand towards a 'department store' environment I think that sales will continue to rise"
The company will be releasing its first specific gardening boot as well as introducing new colours to the main range. Walter says: "It is cut below knee height to enhance movement and incorporates a dig pad to extend the life of the boot."
New to the garden fashion world, Garden Girl has a range of clothes that it say are "designed by women, for women".
It started in Sweden where its founder Petra Maison felt there was gap in the market and designed dungarees, trousers and wellies. Since then Garden Girl has built a successful online business in Britain and products are soon to be sold worldwide. The RHS has also taken an interest in the range.
The ethos is to "design comfortable and practical gardening clothes for the amateur and professional female gardener alike," Maison says.
Joe's is another new company to garden retail, launching a range of gloves at this year's Glee. Founder Joe Page says his aim is to redefine the use and purpose of gloves in the home and garden.
The first collection consists of three colours, three styles and three sizes for men and women. The styles include a glove that is protective and thorn resistant, a lightweight glove ideal for weeding and a third for all-round use. Page claims that nylon liners and new coating materials result in a glove that lasts longer than traditional products.
Meanwhile, multifunctional headwear company Buffera has seen positive results since putting its trademarked buffers into garden centres about four years ago. Sales director John Hughes says garden centres are great outlets for outdoor clothes, even if the items are not specifically for gardeners, because of the diverse items they now provide. "Garden centres are destination outlets so are a great way of broadening a product's potential," he maintains. But he believes that the sales of buffers will remain fairly static with no more than a five per cent increase over the next year.
Briers is making a name for itself with its fashion-led footwear and its extensive range of gloves and this year's Glee sees it strengthening its position in the market. The company continues to expand, introducing new special offers and promotions, encouraging both impulse and more considered purchasing. Alongside traditional footwear and gloves will be new triple-pack promotions and additions to the ladies' glove range and to fashion footwear.
Meanwhile, following the huge success enjoyed by the pink spotty wellingtons introduced last year, Town & Country has extended its dotty range to incorporate new colours and further footwear options and will be showcasing the entire collection for the first time at Glee. Availability will be timed to ensure that retailers can make the most of sales expected through the autumn and winter.
Rinku Group's Tigi clothing range will move away from its traditionally cotton-based clothing and introduce wool into its knitwear and two elastene based fabrics this autumn. Tigi clothing appears in 70 garden centres nationwide and is supplied free of charge, with garden centres paying when an item is sold. The company believes that the approach is particularly helpful to independents.
THE MATERIAL BENEFITS
Briers representative Amy Jenkins on why garden centres can do well selling clothes, gloves and footwear:
1. Garden centres specialise in outdoor clothes and footwear, which are often not available in such depth in normal retail outlets.
2. Garden centres have tended to specialise in mid to high-end branded ranges of clothing.
3. Space is available to expand ranges, not generally the case on the high street.
4. There is an association between gardening and outdoor life so it is on trend.
5. You cannot buy wellies, gardening shoes or gardening clogs on the high street in the £15-£90 range.
6. The rise in sales of clothing has gone hand-in-hand with the increase in availability of good-quality food and coffee in garden centres. The increase in footfall has obviously helped all sales.