Green shoots

gardening retail market

Gardening is enjoying a resurgence in the UK.

Worth £4.6bn in 2018, up 5% from 2017, this market is forecast to increase by 14% to 2022. 

As with most retail sectors, traditional retail is in decline but remains the largest channel. Since 2012 store-based retailing on gardening products has declined by 6% and now accounts for 87%. The remaining 13% is captured by online and home shopping which has increased by 75% since 2012.

Growth is being driven by younger consumers, an increase in online sales and social media platforms, and traditional garden centres evolving to become leisure destinations. The desire for sustainability has also helped the gardening market, with "grow-your-own" providing a bumper harvest for retailers and consumers alike.

Garden centres
Garden centres have traditionally been the point of call for gardening products. However, of total turnover attributable to horticulture in 2017, just 37% was spent in garden centres and just over half of this was spent on garden goods; the remaining 42% of income was from cafes, books, gifts and seasonal ranges. This is reflective of the changing role of garden centres in the market where leisure, food and drink and the overall environment are becoming increasingly important.

Homebase and B&Q are currently closing stores and Wyevale, formerly the largest player in the garden centre market, announced last year that they are selling 145 stores. Dobbies, which purchased 31 Wyevale stores is now the largest UK operator and is diversifying its offer. The retailer has signed a deal with Nisa to introduce a foodhall proposition in 35 centres and has partnered with Booths, to supply the supermarkets own brand products. Blue Diamond, which operate 30 `garden and living' stores across the UK and the Channel Islands, plan to invest and remodel several centres into destination centres, with a view to create an aspirational environment, provide multiple F&B propositions and diversify the retail offer through stocking unusual products.

A new range of independent boutiques are emerging to replace the `old fashioned' image of garden centres. Small units, urban city centre locations, vintage furniture, aspirational merchandising, household accessories, beautiful plants and an Instagram account are all hallmarks of these boutiques which are targeting younger urban consumers. Social media has been paramount to their success, alongside a clear focus on experience and consumer engagement.

Examples include House of Hackney (Shoreditch), which specialises in homeware but has expanded its proposition to include plants; Geo-fleur (Walthamstow) which offers `architectural pants'; Botanique Workshop (Clapton) which describes itself as `not another plant shop'; Conservatory Archives (Bethnal Green) which specialises in hanging plants; Prick (Dalston) which specialise in cacti and succulents; and Grace & Thorn (Hackney and Brick Lane) which also offers flower arranging and terrarium-making workshops.

It is now estimated that £1 in every £10 of expenditure on garden plants is spent online. PatchSprout London,Lazy Flora and Bloombox Club have emerged to cater to the younger, urban, millennial market. They provide direct to-door delivery, subscription services, and guidance on plant care as well as a focus on indoor plants. In recognition of this consumer segment, the RHS launched The Urban Garden Show in 2016.

A quiet revolution has been happening in the gardening retail market, with retail propositions being adapted to be more diverse and experiential, and new online entrants appealing to the younger urban customer.  The winners, as always, will be the ones who stay ahead of the market and continue to evolve their propositions.

Olivia Gannon