March was undoubtedly a very poor month for many and with the season running behind significant trade did not really start until the May Day Bank Holiday weekend. Since then trade has been erratic – switching on when the sun shines. The consensus being that the garden trade really needs the weather on its side for the next five weeks in order to make some progress towards budget figures.
Businesses supplying into the amenity market reported that following a tough winter business didn’t really pick up for them until late March/early April. They are starting to see the early signs of growth in the housing sector which is positive. Cash and carry businesses present reported a similarly erratic trading pattern with the landscapers coming in when the weather was good.
HTA Director of Business Development, Tim Briercliffe, comments, “Many businesses put 2012 down as a climatic blip but with the 2013 weather being the way it is it has become apparent that weather patterns are becoming much more volatile. This is a real challenge for our industry given that the weather has to be right for people to go out into their gardens.”
Growers reported that there had been higher rates of wastage of plant material this year (10-15% on average) as a result of garden centres ordering cautiously and simply not turning stock around in the early part of the season and hence not requiring top up orders. Also, with the vagaries of the weather growers have needed to clear space to allow for follow on crops. As a result looking ahead to 2014 many growers will look to rationalise production recognising that it is far better to sell the crops they grow rather than providing too much additional surplus.
The season has demonstrated how growers and retailers need to take mutual responsibility for trading practices. It was noted that few retail buyers or nursery sales staff have received training in business skills such as forecasting, negotiating and business planning. This is an area that the HTA is already looking at with a view to running a series of workshops aimed at growers and retail plant buyers.
Growers attending the HTA Ornamentals Committee meeting also had the opportunity to find out and raise questions about Defra’s water abstraction reform proposals following a presentation from Henry Leveson-Gower, ahead of a formal consultation which will be out in December. Mary Bosley, Chair of the Horticulture Innovation Partnership (HIP) programme provided an overview of the initiative demonstrating how the sector can benefit from working more closely with industry and academic institutions to initiate new R & D.
The group were also updated on the UK Plant Health Biosecurity Conference, held in York at the end of May and the forthcoming HTA National Plant Show. Further updates were received on plant health issues, neonicotinoids, the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board and plans for a cross industry PR campaign to promote gardens in 2014/15.