2020 saw the ornamental horticulture industry cope with a year of extraordinary crisis and change amidst tough coronavirus restrictions across much of the UK and particularly in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
In its Market Update for January, the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) reports a 13% drop in overall sales on December 2019 nationally, and the 2020 calendar year finished 10% down overall on 2019. On the plus side, it looks forward to a year in which it seems safe to predict consumers will once again be looking for ways to improve their living and outdoor spaces, as the nation continues to spend more time close to home.
In December, garden and gardening categories performed strongly whilst catering sales were 57% down for the year 2020 vs 2019. Despite the closure of garden centres and 8 weeks less trading time in 2020, garden and gardening category sales finished the year 3% up on 2019 as a whole and 21% up when comparing December 2020 with December 2019. There was standout growth in sales of plant care products in December, for which sales were 45% higher than the same month in 2019.
The average garden store transaction value was up by 33% in December 2020 to £25.98, compared with December 2019.
The huge interest in gardening since the previous lockdown shows how engaged consumers are with plants and gardens – since May sales are up every month in 2020 against corresponding 2019 months and December shows a promising rise in consumer confidence.
The HTA Member Business Confidence Index showed member confidence dropped significantly at the beginning of 2020 as the impact of Covid-19 began to take effect. However, both short and longer-term business outlook steadily increased throughout the year with this confidence wavering at the end of the year due to uncertainty around EU Exit and the pandemic.
David Denny, HTA Futures and Sustainability Manager, said: “There’s no doubt that 2020 was a roller-coaster year. A strong start was followed by a lockdown that left hundreds of horticultural businesses facing the very real prospect of insolvency by the end of April. The timely re-opening of garden centres provided a lifeline to the industry, as three million more people turned to their gardens over 2020. A 10% fall in garden centre sales compared with 2019 is a far better result than we were facing in May, putting us in a more favourable position than many other sectors.”
Looking to 2021, Laura Jeffery, HTA Market Research Executive, said: “There are many factors in our favour as we enter 2021. With holidays and many recreational activities unavailable or unappealing for months to come, consumers are again facing leisure time spent at home. Our industry is in a positive position.
“However, consumer confidence is fragile territory. The eventual reopening of society and the ‘old normal’ for socialising, entertainment and leisure means we’ll need to work hard to retain the new gardeners we’ve attracted. We know that 2020 has driven some fundamental shifts in shopper behaviour and the consumer mindset, and we’ll continue to provide insights for our members throughout the year.”
HTA Market Update is available free for members to download from the HTA website, by logging in and visiting the Market Update page.