Ian Baldwin Sees Several Garden Trends Developing This Spring

Ian Baldwin
Ian Baldwin

For garden retailers in the warmer climate zones, the week after Mother’s Day is slowing down, over the peak, saying “now we have to work harder for it.”

In most colder climates, Mother’s Day sales were down (this year at least), in some places seriously so, as May swapped weather with March. But in both climates it’s no time to relax. After all, May everywhere pays wages for weeks ahead. It is time, though, to read some mid-spring tea leaves in case you are staring at that still-massive inventory number….

What’s Selling?

Succulents, succulents, and, oh, did I mention succulents? Any shape, color, size, and style is flying off the shelf this year, and if you were smart enough to invest in added-value versions in planters and arrangements — even better.

Aligned with that, I see all things naturelle with wood, stone, and moss in those added-value lines. Small, simple, and intense. This may reflect the influence of TV and other media on the under 35s, with their minimalist homes and no-clutter styles.

Surprising, then, is the strong demand for garden art and decorative items. Although maybe that’s the Boomers getting their own back.

Another significant tea-leaf? Off-the-charts demand for “Do It For Me” tree and shrub planting suggests that — despite TV news and politicians — a lot of Americans feel good about spending money on things they no longer want to do.

What’s Not?

The Do-It-For-Me (DIFM) surge might also be causing a fall in tree and shrub sales after a great year last year, but poor weather is also a factor. The earthy stone/wood trend above might also be the cause of reports that finally, after 20 years, sales of high color, high gloss, and large ceramic pottery, is flattening out. Garden décor is hot, but in a matte-finished, earthy, or rusty way it seems.

Unsurprisingly, independents are reporting a drop in “hard goods,” or garden supplies, especially in controls or “chemicals” (as we old lags still call them). I think householders are using less in total, anyway, and most independents have lost the battle with the home centers for various reasons, the biggest of which is the (incorrect) perception that every single product on every single shelf must have a 50% or more gross margin.

In fact, the home centers have used that victory to now present themselves as the one-stop shop for hard goods and green goods, but that’s another blog for another day.

Serious Tea-Leaf Analysis Needed!

I talked to an owner who was questioning the strategy of his chemical category after he pulled a POS report (yes in mid-May!). It shows that the 202 items sold in the “insecticide” sub-class were spread across 68 SKUs. Think about that: after the busiest weekend of the year, each SKU had only averaged 2.9 sold (out of, presumably, a case of 12). As he said, he was amazed at the sheer volume of SKUs to generate moderate sales. Food for thought and a validation for a comment from ScottsMiracle-Gro’s Jim Sullivan on my last post (look in the comment section).

Reprinted from consultant Ian Baldwin’s website, with permission from Baldwin.

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