Cold weather freezes out £450m from gardening market

If the cold weather in spring 2013 is as bad as it was in 2012, then the gardening retail market will decline by 2.3% for the full year, putting almost £450m, the difference in spend between a bad and average spring, at risk, according to new research from Verdict Retail.

Verdict’s initial forecast was for the gardening sector to grow by 10.4% in 2013 as improved weather conditions encouraged people to make purchases they did not make last year, leading to a significant uplift in volumes. However, this forecast was based on weather conditions being average for the time of year.

“Should growing conditions become too difficult again then greenstock and growing media will bear the brunt of the shortfall, as March and April are major months for planting,” says Verdict retail analyst Matthew Walton.

“The worry is that if the weather discourages sales now, they will not be replaced later in the year, and a possible rebound in 2014 is unlikely to return to 2011 levels even if the weather improves, as those who took up gardening as a hobby look to other interests to fill their time.”

Signs of people moving away from gardening have started to emerge, with the Audit Bureau of Circulation showing that the sales of six prominent gardening publications in December 2012 fell by 10.8%. A second poor spring is likely to reduce gardening’s customer base further still, weakening its potential future performance.

A second poor spring will impact the composition of the market. A number of independent garden centres may not be able to survive financially, being far more reliant on gardening than larger garden centres which have diversified their offer further.  This may force some independents out of the market, or to be bought by larger players, such as the Garden Centre Group, which has the funds from Terra Firma and has announced its intentions to grow aggressively. The struggles of independents could allow the Garden Centre Group to cherry pick the best locations at a lower price.

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