The UK’s Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) has released its monthly Market Update report, which provides an overview of the state of the gardening industry in March 2023.
Despite the challenging weather conditions caused by excessive rainfall, the report highlights the industry’s resilience in the face of decreased sales in the gardening categories. The report notes that although garden centre sales were down by 28 per cent compared to March 2022, catering sales increased by 15 per cent, making it the primary subcategory to show growth, with food and farm shop items also seeing an increase.
Whilst personal finances continue to dominate consumer concerns, the report suggests that consumers are opting for smaller treats in cafes and restaurants but in higher numbers. The market update encourages businesses to be optimistic and take advantage of this growth area, bringing new visitors into garden centres.
Fran Barnes, HTA Chief Executive, said, “Garden centres continue to be popular destinations for socialising and leisure activities, as evidenced by the strong performance of catering sales. While we understand that the excessive rainfall may have temporarily reduced consumer appetite for gardening, we are encouraged that the diverse range of offerings in our garden centres can entice visitors back and, as the weather improves, will inspire them to start thinking about their gardens too.”
As we move towards the typically drier months and the peak time for gardening, the HTA is also aware of the need to conserve water and use it responsibly. The report contains a note of caution that businesses should not be fooled by the extremely wet weather in March as it followed the driest February in 30 years, and the country has not fully recovered the water deficit.
The Met Office also forecasts an increased likelihood of a dry April-June period. The HTA is supporting their members with advice on water usage, such as filling as much storage capacity as possible, using water responsibly, encouraging customers to do the same, and investing in infrastructure for water recapture where possible.
Overall, the industry remains optimistic and looks forward to taking advantage of the upcoming peak gardening season. And, despite the dip in sales in March, the horticultural sector is poised for growth and remains a vital part of the UK’s economy and underpins half of the government’s 25-year Environment Plan.