Easter is around the corner and for growers like Double H Nurseries in the UK this means that there is no time to rest as it is quickly succeeding UK Mother's Day this year. Fortunately, the sales for UK Mother's Day, their biggest peak of the year, was much better compared to last year - even in the week after demand was high to refill the shelves in the supermarkets. Also Easter sales are expected to be better because last year, the country went into lockdown. However, this year has been and still is challenging, but for different reasons. In this article, Double H Managing Director Andy Burton explains.
Andy Burton in the greenhouse.
UK Mother's Day
This year, UK Mother's Day fell on March 14. For Double H Nurseries, it is the most important holiday of the year, with Phalaenopsis orchids being their biggest crop for this holiday, followed by roses. When comparing this year to last year Burton says: "In terms of overall volume, this year was very similar to last year for us. However, last year the UK went into lockdown the day after Mother’s Day and people had been encouraged not to socialise on Mother’s Day, so consumer demand was reduced and plants supplied ahead of Mother’s Day weren’t all sold, resulting in some waste. This year everything sold out in store and the demand was high in the week after Mother’s Day to refill the shelves."
The main challenge this year
Both years were challenging, but for different reasons, explains Burton. "Last year, we were in the early stages of the pandemic and struggling to get products into store before the UK went into lockdown, there was panic buying in supermarkets and supply chain capacity was being used to get food and toilet rolls into stores instead of plants! This year we have had several supply chain issues, including: shipping delays from the Far East; suppliers struggling with reduced capacity due to COVID-19; phytosantiary and customs paperwork due to Brexit and also our own measures on site to stay ‘Covid safe’ which has meant social distancing and therefore reduced capacity."
Also several factors are putting pressure on the margins. "We supply to supermarkets all over the UK and our sales prices are agreed a long time in advance with our customers, during the product development phases, so our prices were not significantly different from last year. It has been widely reported that the price of plants in Europe have been at record highs recently, this combined with the additional costs and delays with importing plants and packaging into the UK has obviously put a significant pressure on our margin. We are working hard to minimise the impact of these cost increases on our customers and consumers."
Demand for Easter
These challenges also count for Easter, a much less important day as they do not see much an uplift in demand. However, on the shop floor in the supermarkets, sales are expected to be higher this year. "I expect that people will be spending more than usual on food and decorations for their home, so demand is likely to be strong." and similar to Mother’s Day, phalaenopsis orchids are very popular, but as we start getting into spring, calla lilies, jasmine and cyclamen are also popular lines at Easter, he explains.
Another trend Burton highlights is the shift to online sales for their customers, especially during lockdown where people haven’t been able to visit stores or personally deliver a gift to loved ones. And Double H Nurseries tapped into this trend. "We have invested in our e-commerce fulfillment capability to support customers with the increasing demand through the channel. This is an exciting opportunity to grow the market and appeal to different demographics who may not otherwise have bought a houseplant."