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Martina Mensing-Meckelburg, German Garden Centre Association (VDG):

Germany: "Better weather needed to lift garden center sales of outdoor plants"

The garden center sales of indoor products and plants are good but better weather is needed to lift the sales of outdoor plants, particularly now that Easter is around the corner, says Martina Mensing-Meckelburg, President of the German Garden Centre Association (VDG). "It has been cold, rainy, and we even had hail and snow. And when the weather is like that, people are not buying outdoor plants. Fortunately, better weather is expected for this weekend." 

How did the garden center sector develop over the last years?
According to Mensing-Meckelburg, the last three years have been challenging, but at the same time, years with outstanding results", she says. 2020 has been a hectic period for the German Garden Centre Association (VDG) - which is the voice of the German garden center sector - as they were the ones that persuaded the government to allow most of the garden centers to remain open during the beginning of the pandemic. And with great results, 2020 and 2021 have been one of the best years for German garden centers, with all outdoor items flying off the shelves. "When looking at the plants, we saw a spike in demand for young vegetable plants, fruit trees, and herbs."

In 2022, the first two months were good, but then when the war in Ukraine started, demand decreased, and the hot summer and high energy prices resulted in a decrease in turnover. People in the industry were quite nervous, but by mid-December and the beginning of January, they seemed to start to relax a bit as the winter was not that cold, and energy prices started to decrease and stabilize. They were still cautious but became more optimistic. 

How is the current situation?
There are several challenges and uncertainties that garden centers are dealing with, but the main challenge at the moment is the weather, Mensing-Meckelburg explains. "It is already more than 10 days ago that we have had sunny weather. Since then, it has been cold and rainy, and we even had snow and hail." In turn, it impacts the outdoor plants' sector. "With this type of weather, people do not buy plants, and with Easter around the corner, there are quite some plants that need to be sold. If they are not being sold in the garden centers, growers will have to bring them to the auction, in turn pushing down prices." Another uncertainty is the behavior of the consumer. Will they buy it? "Due to inflation, products have become more expensive in general. And the hardware prices have increased even more as they - due to the container issues - were purchased in bulk and against high prices last year. But on the other hand, holidays have become more expensive as well, so maybe they will skip it and decide to decorate their garden? Who knows, but it is too soon to draw any conclusions."

But Mensing-Meckelburg is optimistic. "There are so many beautiful products in the garden center. Most people have already bought furniture and other expensive products during the pandemic years, and there are so many lower-priced items like plants, so I expect people to come and buy a piece of happiness."

Supporting the industry
VDG supports the industry in several ways by organizing seminars, meetings, and much more. Last Monday, March 27, for example, they will organize a seminar on how ChatGPT can help the industry. "We always look for ways to support the garden centers and realize projects or goals that they cannot achieve alone."

For more information:
Verband Deutscher Garden Center

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