While many UK consumers will be winding down their gardening activity for the winter months, it seems the fingers of UK consumers remain firmly green. Mintel’s research reveals more than seven in every 10 (69%) of UK garden owners bought something for their gardens last year.

We are seeing more people become familiar with shopping online than ever before and this is no exception for consumers looking to fulfil their gardening needs, with 17% of Brits claiming they purchased something for their gardens online in the last year. As aresult, quality, service and choice are growing rapidly. Garden goods are available online via websites belonging to the garden retailers themselves as well as through specialist home shopping and pure play internet companies.

Due to the fact that DIY chains are a major presence in selling garden goods – 32% of garden products come from here, slightly ahead of garden centres at 31% – garden centres are having to adapt to compete with both DIY stores and online rivals. They have therefore not only invested substantially in improving retail standards and added more products and services, but they have turned to the internet themselves in order to get more consumers through their doors.

One gardening online pure play retailer is Primrose, who have been trading online for over ten years. The company carries a wide choice of garden goods online spanning small to large ticket prices and including fresh garden goods. In 2014 they formed a partnership with Toad Hall, a garden centre based in Henley on Thames and added a range of garden furniture and accessories to the displays alongside Toad Hall’s own garden furniture department. The store used a banner to highlight “Internet prices in your garden centre.” Customers could buy the products at the garden centre or opt to buy them online at the same prices, through Primrose’s own website.

Although it seems like a one sided deal, the companies claim that there are advantages for both parties. Primrose shoppers get the opportunity to try before they buy, overcoming one of the barriers to buying online products, especially if customers want to judge colour or comfort. Toad Hall benefits from additional customer traffic, driven to the garden centre from marketing and via Primrose’s website. Plus the garden centre gets to carry and display a wider choice of garden furniture than before, adding to the customer experience.

Across retailing multi-channel retailing is becoming commonplace and consumers appreciate the advantage of being able to use a wide variety of ways to shop with their retailers. By opening a physical department in a garden centre, Primrose is able to reach an audience who are less willing to buy online without actually seeing the products first, with the added advantage of not having to invest in their own outlets.

Primrose is not the first online seller we have seen open retail sites. Other pure play online sellers have made similar moves, including Oak Furniture Land, which now generates more than two third of its sales via stores. Also Next, who began selling furniture through the Next Directory with very little store display has expanded its Next Home and Next Home and Garden Chain. Meanwhile, Made.com has taken showroom space in London’s ‘silicon roundabout’ area,

Online selling has its advantages and future growth is to be expected via this channel of retailing. However, we think that multi-channel selling will be the most successful combination for the future, because it creates an opportunity for more actual experience of merchandise and because it creates more choices for customers about how, when and where to shop.

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