Home, gift and clothing are changing garden retailing

Diversification has never been more important in today’s garden retail environment. With the UK weather remaining unpredictable garden centres have had to find a way to generate revenue outside of peak season.

There are approximately 2,300 garden centres in the UK with industry sales worth some £5billion a year (HTA 2016). With garden retailing changing and evolving, businesses have found themselves diversifying into new categories to become destination shopping experiences, with a particular focus on creating a “one stop shop” experience that is profitable all year-round to survive any downturn and keep customers coming back for more.

Larger garden centres which have a turnover of over £1million tend to take around half of their turnover from non-garden ranges (HTA Garden Market Analysis Report 2017). Plants now account for only a fraction of nationwide sales; the Garden Centre Association (GCA) estimate this was just 19 per cent last year*.

Opportunities within non-traditional sectors such as garden gifting, clothing, as well as home and lifestyle have become increasingly important due to changing consumer habits and the ever-evolving garden retail landscape.

We have seen some worrying headlines from the traditional High Street retailers, as well as a decline in the number of department stores in recent years. This has given out of town garden centre owners an opportunity for their businesses to stay ahead and differentiate from the town centre stores with their unique “under one roof “offering.

Clothing has seen a dramatic increase in sales with the GCA reporting that sales increased by nearly a third (32%)* in September 2017, compared to the same month the year before (2016), making it a lucrative area for garden centres – either via concessions or direct sales. Premier brands such as Muck Boots and AJS Blackfox can be found in garden centres as well as conventional gardening brands. Rather than follow the latest fashion trends, garden retailers are offering timeless and durable pieces that can be worn for both indoor and outdoor pursuits. This non-gardening sector is proving beneficial not only as it gives customers more reasons to visit, it also generates year-round revenue – music to any retailers’ ears surely?

Giftware also provides an increasing profit opportunity for garden retailers, helping to build sales outside of the main gardening season when core gardening sales are traditionally low. Gifting and giftware sales have risen by 7% in garden centres in 2017.** Gifting is a category that appeals right across the demographic and can boost business by accommodating key gifting periods throughout the year, such as Mother’s Day, Easter, Father’s Day, birthdays, weddings and Christmas.

With the aim of creating a unique shopping experience for customers, luxury but affordable homeware for all the family – from brands such as Gisela Graham, Parlane and Emma Bridgewater – are becoming more common. Indoor living and homewares have increased in sales by 7% compared to 2016** with the trend only set to continue to gain popularity. Garden centres and cafes remain a popular location for parents with small children, with gifts such as soft toys, jigsaws and craft ideas becoming more and more popular, especially when co-located close by these areas dominated by visiting families and parents.

Sarah Squire, Deputy Chairman of Squire’s Garden Centres said: “The garden centre market has changed enormously since the 1960’s when all we sold were plants, tools and a few fertilisers. As well as the quality and variety of plants improving dramatically thanks to the breeding programs of so many fantastic nurseries, the range of other products available has grown exponentially. Years ago, who would have thought that we would be selling speciality food ranges, gifts or clothing? Yet these goods are another reason to visit and help to drive sales at otherwise quiet times of the year and when the weather is inclement. They have been instrumental in driving footfall.

The home, gift and clothing categories together now make up around 20% of turnover at Squire’s so are very important to us. The wide variety of products that we sell helps attract new customers, and ensures that we offer an enjoyable shopping experience for everyone, which means that people are spending more time browsing and buying in our centres.”

specialist garden centre exhibition, Glee, will present a strengthened home, gift and clothing showcase at the 2018 show, with many exhibitors boasting traditional gifts and sundries, card companies, stationery, toys, books, as well as food and drink distributors.

There is also an increasing appeal in the homeware market as suppliers and manufacturers have acknowledged that retailing is a constantly evolving business, and the garden retail market and supply chain offers opportunity. It also offers the customer the convenience of being able to purchase product for their both their interiors and exteriors at the same time. From candles to sofa cushions, kitchenware to indoor planters, exhibitors showcasing the best home décor and accessorising products will be present at Glee to help you capture this lucrative market.