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    Mood of cautious optimism for 2013 as industry adjusts to ‘new normal’

    There was a mood of cautious optimism looking ahead to 2013 amongst garden retailers and suppliers who attended last week’s HTA Marketing Committee and Retail Management Committee meetings in London.

    Challenges this year have forced the industry to look even more closely at how it does business and to secure greater efficiencies but this has left retailers and suppliers leaner and better placed to benefit from a rebound in interest in gardening next spring.

    Many retailers have seen strong sales for Christmas to date. An increasing number of retailers are bringing in ice rinks to attract customers in the lead up to Christmas and Christmas grottos and breakfast/tea  with Santa sessions continue to be popular with strong advance bookings even now.  Overall, providing visitor entertainment appears to be increasingly important for driving footfall through the year.

    The HTA Marketing Committee, which is made up of marketing representatives from garden retailers and suppliers, reviewed the excellent industry response to the Plan it, Plant it this autumn which generated strong media coverage and which the committee was keen to build on next year.

    The groups discussed latest HTA consumer research into the Gardening Elder and Gardening Proud segments and agreed that spring/summer 2013 PR activity should develop an overall strapline or theme to reflect the inspiration and promise that drives these garden owners, particularly through colour, scent, wildlife and enjoyment and entertainment. It was widely agreed that Grow Your Own was now a major category and a focus on growing edible and ornamental plants from seed should be an important element of an umbrella spring promotion which should also encompass Garden Re-leaf Day (Friday 08 March) and National Gardening Week (15-18 April).

    It has been encouraging to see over 400 garden retailers opting in to support the National Garden Gift Voucher Christmas card design competition which generated over 2,500 entries with the winning card now available to all NGGV stockists as one a new voucher presentation wallet design. Similarly that the HTA Garden Gift Card was now being sold through, amongst others, Tesco and Wilkinson as well as Sainsbury and WH Smith and is now accepted by over 500 garden centres and nurseries. It was noted that other major supermarkets were also interested in selling the gift card. HTA anticipates significantly more cards to be presented for redemption driving additional business to participating members in 2013.

    The committees welcomed plans to extend the HTA Garden Retail Monitor benchmarking service to allow more retail members to compare their overall and category performance against that of their peers on a national and regional basis.

    Caroline Owen, HTA President and chair of the marketing committee commented, “It was encouraging to hear committee members from manufacturers, growers and retailers alike expressing cautious optimism for 2013. We have all looked closely at our businesses and adjusted for a ‘new normal’ of slow recovery in the UK economy and an increasingly value-conscious consumer. Coordinated promotions such as this autumn’s Plan it, Plant it campaign have an important role in stimulating media coverage for our industry and HTA will build on the impact of the autumn initiative for spring and summer next year while continuing to provide members with the necessary market information, training and other services to underpin members’ success.”

    Adam Wigglesworth, chair of the Retail Management Group commented, “It is good to be able to put a difficult year behind us and to plan positively for next year. Early indications on Christmas sales are re-assuring but as an industry we need to constantly be thinking of new ideas to keep customers coming in and spending .”

    www.the-hta.org.uk

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