UK: Garden Centre sales poised for recovery as Chelsea Flower Show inspires and weather improves

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As the RHS Chelsea Flower Show captures the nation’s attention, the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) releases its Market Update for May, reflecting on the performance of garden centers in April 2024.

April 2024 proved challenging for garden centers across the UK, as the weather, along with the year-on-year comparisons reflecting an earlier Easter, meant overall garden center sales were down -10% versus April 2023. The increase in rainfall, 1.5 times that of last year, significantly impacted footfall and outdoor gardening activities. However, the year to end of April sales were +2% vs 2023, which eliminates the Easter effect, and it is hoped that as the weather improves and spring/summer bedding comes into its own, along with the inspiration from TV coverage of Chelsea, it will reignite a passion to get back out into the garden.

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Catering Sales: A bright spot in April’s performance was the 7% increase in catering sales compared to April 2023, with transactions up by 5%. As rainy weather deterred outdoor activities, consumers turned to garden center cafes and restaurants for indoor leisure, highlighting the importance of diversified offerings in weather-dependent industries.

Consumer Confidence: Consumer confidence rose modestly, increasing by 2 points to -19. This figure remains 14 points higher than April 2023, indicating a more optimistic consumer outlook despite challenging weather and economic conditions. Wage growth continues to outstrip the rate of inflation (which has been gradually falling over the last year) bringing a boost to household finances.

Hardy Plants Sales: Hardy plant sales have declined 6% year-to-date up to the end of April compared to the same period in 2023, reflecting the overall downturn in plants and core gardening purchases due to the weather.

Newly launched quarterly HTA & APL Business Barometer: this is to assess the state of trade for members, including business outlook, sales and profit positions, and business investments. The Q1 poll results show that on average members were -1% behind budgets in terms of sales/order book values, but -5% where they expected to be in terms of net profits. The full HTA & APL Business Barometer Q1 2024 results summary will be released to members shortly.

HTA Chief Executive Fran Barnes commented: “April’s unseasonably high rainfall created tough conditions for gardening enthusiasts, resulting in a notable decrease in garden center sales. Despite these challenges, May always offers a timely boost in inspiration, encouraging gardeners to prepare for the upcoming summer months.

“While garden/gardening categories suffered a decline of 14% due to the adverse weather and an earlier Easter in March, non-garden/gardening categories remained steady compared to April 2023 and even saw a 9% increase from 2022. This resilience is promising as it suggests potential for recovery as we move into the warmer months. Coupled with the flower show season from village to national level and increased media coverage on gardening at this time of year, playing a crucial role in inspiring both seasoned gardeners and newcomers, we expect to see a positive impact on garden center sales in the coming weeks.

“However, we are still mindful that our sector continues to grapple with significant changes in border regulations affecting the import of plants and plant products. Since January 2021, businesses have faced increased costs and administrative burdens, further compounded by new border changes implemented in April 2024. This all impacts the sector’s competitiveness and ability to invest and grow. We continue to communicate our concerns to the Government.

“Our market update underscores the importance of flexibility in retail strategies to adapt to changing weather patterns, consumer behaviors, and external issues. The HTA continues to support its members by providing insights and advocating for favorable conditions in the horticulture sector.”

For more information
Horticultural Trades Association

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