Houseplants remain dominant sellers in UK garden centres

Iain Wylie, GCA Chief Executive.

CHESTER, UK: FARM shops and houseplant sales dominated at garden centres this May (2021) according to the Garden Centre Association’s (GCA) recent Barometer of Trade (BoT) report.

As centres in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland reopened mid-May in 2020, this report used figures from 2019 and reveals farm shop sales were up 90.24% in May 2021.

Iain Wylie, GCA Chief Executive, explained: “May has always been a strong month for sales across member centres. This May was no exception as people continued to embrace the joy of gardening as a pastime and prepared their gardens and outdoor spaces for summer entertaining. Over the course of the year, garden centres have remained one-stop shops for visitors needing essential gardening products and plants especially those with the added benefit of food halls and farm shops, that have also been providing essential food to people in their communities and wishing to shop locally.

“While indoor hospitality remains restricted, garden centres have still been able to offer their customers all they need to enjoy their gardens of all sizes – whether windowsills or large plots – all in calming and airy environments, that are well-spaced and Covid-19 compliant.

“Although we’ve compared figures to 2019, 11 out of 13 categories have seen a rise in sales. Once again, houseplants have also remained a top seller with sales up 67.85% and the overall demand for plants and associated products has remained high.

“Houseplants are vital to those who do not have outdoor spaces. As scientific research has shown, even the humble pot plant can help with our wellbeing and benefit our mental and physical health. This has been a key sales area during the past year, stimulated by the younger generation who are proud plant parents.

“Similarly, the millions of new gardeners who picked up the hobby during the previous lockdowns remain keen and this has helped boost sales.”

The partial ongoing restrictions during May and the continued limitations for hospitality have resulted in catering sales remaining down -38.79% as people have potentially instead opted for dining at home, especially with some inclement weather during the month.

Ian: “It was clear this month that customers were continuing home renovations indoors and out, with hard landscaping sales being up 42.48% and, with uncertainties on restrictions fully easing, preparations for at-home, alfresco entertaining and staycations have continued with furniture and BBQ sales up 38.77%.

“Other categories that performed well in May included pets and aquatics with sales up 38.76%, gifts up 33.44%, clothing up 19.84% and garden sundries up 16.39%.”

Sales in outdoor plants were up too at 6.31%, as well as seeds and bulbs at 3.99%.

Iain added: “It’s been very encouraging to see these figures across all but two categories. It demonstrates how well GCA members have adapted to the ongoing changes in restrictions and how provisions in non-traditional categories remain highly valued and appreciated by customers. Perhaps also revealing a potentially continuous change in consumer behaviour as people continue to garden despite restrictions for other activities lifting.

“Although catering is a key driver for footfall, it hasn’t dampened people’s determination to visit and buy in other areas.”

Overall sales for the month were up year-to-date by 7.61%.

The GCA BoT reports are compiled using actual sales figures and provide an up-to-date trading position statement. They are made available mid-month following the end of the prior month after all member garden centres have submitted their results.

The BoT reports allow members to compare their trading positions with other centres. The GCA represents nearly 200 UK garden centres nationwide. Through sharing information and its inspection programme the GCA helps members to achieve high standards in customer service, plant quality and reliability.

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