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Independent businesses getting into gardening
By bira

Getting in to gardening

Springtime is boom time for retailers serving gardeners. Are you making the most of the potential of this huge area?

GARDENING IS BIG business. In a recent report by Oxford Economies for the Horticultural Trades Association (the HTA), household purchases of garden supplies and equipment totalled £5.6bn in 2017.

In terms of general retailing, (that is, not including sales at garden centres,) horticulture totalled £4.8bn in 2017.

With reportedly 27m people partaking in the pastime, there are plenty of potential customers for you. It is all about being prepared for the changes in weather, having a simple range of products, and, oh, apparently stocking bird food!

The retail view

Janet Rogers, who has owned Llanfyllin Home and Garden in Powys for nearly 21 years, says: “When we first started, we sold loads of loose seed-potatoes and had sacks of loose peas, beans and onion sets. After a couple of seasons of throwing whole sacks of these away we greatly curtailed our ‘loose’ offer.

“In later years we have relied on Stax to provide us with a few pre-packs with pretty coloured images on the front, which seem to sell better. We can just buy a few at a time with no risk. Again, when we started, we sold masses of flower and veg seeds and had three separate supplier stands but now we just stick to the Johnson’s Seeds pre-chosen offer, which we buy in February. The good thing about Johnson’s Seeds is that any unsold during the season can be returned in the autumn for a credit against the next season’s order.

“With the advent of garden make-over pro-grammes such as Ground Force, younger homeowners in particular tended to want instant colour and instant results, whereas many of our older customers would grow their own potatoes, peas, beans etc. Over the years the number of real gardeners has declined and many people now prefer to buy full-size plants and shop-bought veg, rather than rely on the vagaries of the weather to produce a decent crop.

“Where we have seen an increase in business however is in our pet food and wild bird care offer. Many of our regular customers spend so much on the birds I sometimes feel they are eating better than the customers are!”

The supplier view

Terry Murphy, key accounts manager at Stax, a wholesaler offering preferential rates and rebates through Bira Direct, says: “For most gardeners the season starts with the Easter holidays, which are quite late this year (19-21 April), so stores definitely need to be set up fully for this spike in sales.

“Keen gardeners will be out in the garden once the weather warms up so depending on how this fares, the gardening season can start quite early, which is why it’s imperative to have ranges and product readily available from February onwards.

“Early seasonal jobs in the garden include the continuation of tidying and pruning back along with the purchases of propagation items such as seed and plug trays. Trees, shrubs and hedges will be fed by keen gardeners with the likes of slow-release fertilisers at this time also.

“Cleaning slimy patches from patios and paths will also take place at this time, so cleaning products and brushes should be in stock.”

To see the full range of suppliers offering gardening products, please take a look at your Membership Directory or visit

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