Horticultural Trades Association Chief Executive Provides Insight into Resilient Garden Center Performance

by Anna

In a recent overview of the November Market Update, Fran Barnes, Chief Executive of the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA), shared valuable insights into the state of the horticultural industry and what can be anticipated for trading during the upcoming festive season.

As the holiday season looms, Barnes emphasized the garden center’s resilience in the face of adverse weather conditions and the impact of recent storms. Despite these challenges, November showcased a commendable performance, marked by an increase in consumer confidence and sustained industry resilience.

Key highlights from the November Market Update include a notable +6% surge in transaction numbers within garden stores, contributing to an overall +2% increase in garden center sales compared to November 2022. This robust performance is attributed to the unwavering popularity of garden centers, which have proven to be resilient even in the face of unpredictable weather patterns, a trend that has characterized much of the year.

Barnes elaborated on the factors contributing to this success, citing strong catering and food/farm shop sales that effectively counterbalanced the impact of weather-dampened plant sales. The enduring appeal of garden centers, providing not only products but also a curated experience, was evident in the impressive +14% increase in transaction numbers within cafés and restaurants housed within these establishments.

The holiday season, known for its festive displays and added value events in garden centers, presented a nuanced sales landscape in November. Despite an overall -5% dip in Christmas sales compared to the same period in 2022, certain categories experienced notable growth. Real Christmas trees emerged as standout performers, witnessing a remarkable +7% increase in sales. This trend underscores a consumer preference for tradition and a connection to nature during the festive season.

Additionally, the category of lights exhibited positive trends with a +3% growth, aligning with broader consumer behavior trends. A recent report from John Lewis indicating an increased trend of early holiday planning, particularly among women, resonated with the November Market Update figures. This shift in consumer behavior reflects a desire to manage costs in the face of prevailing economic uncertainties, fostering more thoughtful and cost-conscious holiday celebrations.

Fran Barnes also touched upon the state of consumer confidence, measured by GfK’s Consumer Confidence Index. While there was a noteworthy increase of +6 points in the run-up to Christmas, reaching -24, it was emphasized that consumer confidence remains historically low. This serves as a poignant reminder of consumer cautiousness in light of persistently high costs, despite the positive strides witnessed in the November Market Update.

In summary, the November Market Update provides a comprehensive look into the resilience of the horticultural industry, demonstrating that garden centers continue to be a beacon of stability and appeal for consumers, even in the face of challenging external factors.

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