The Horticultural Trades Association's (HTA) August Market Update highlights the industry's resilience in plant sales, but customers have been reducing their spending on higher-value items. While the garden retail sector continues to see people buying more plants, they are generally of lower value in their baskets, putting pressure on a sector that is already facing significant concern over rising costs, economic fluctuation, workforce shortages, unpredictable and challenging weather patterns, and wavering consumer confidence.
Fran Barnes, Chief Executive of the HTA, commented: "Once again, August's results underscore the resilience of our industry amidst the ever-shifting landscape of 2023. Garden center sales overall grew by +3% compared to August 2022, and the number of transactions also grew by +8%, suggesting strong footfall levels, with robust growth in categories like bulbs, bedding, and hardy plants, showing that our plants continue to thrive and capture hearts within a nation of gardeners. However, we hear directly from the sector that concerns remain over unsold stock and continued economic uncertainty. Notably, garden furniture saw steeper discounts as retailers sought to clear excess stock with fewer dry days to tempt people outdoors. The sales were down by -42% last year and contributed to 8% of total sales for August, compared to 14% in August 2022. COVID also pulled forward the product replacement cycle for these items, and the poorer summer 2023 weather likely contributed to the lower average basket value."
August's Consumer Confidence Index recovered +5 points, showing consumers have more positivity for their future financial outlook. However, as consumers grapple with the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, they've become savvier shoppers, seeking savings amid rising expenses.
The constant success story of 2023 has been the non-garden/gardening categories, witnessing a +14% growth in August compared to the prior year. This vibrant activity extends to garden center cafes and restaurants, where transaction numbers in catering spiked by +17%.
The report also sheds light on inflation rates within the industry. Over the 12 months leading up to August 2023, noticeable inflation rates were observed in various product categories, driven by escalating input and ingredient costs.
The report serves as an indispensable tool for HTA members, offering insights into their positioning within the membership and identifying areas of resilience, challenges, and opportunities.
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Horticultural Trades Association