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Within the hardware channel, lawn & garden has to be the category most affected by the weather, with favourable gardening conditions often the difference between a strong or flat season for the major players.
Bearing that in mind, NIWA’s immediate Seasonal Climate Outlook predicts that temperatures will most likely be near average in all regions, while rainfall will most likely be below average for the north of both islands and the west of the north island.
Near normal rainfall is equally likely for the East Coast and most likely for the west of the South Island.
GARDENA GETS A FACELIFT
Looking back now at the last 12 months, Gardena’s Nick Bright is very enthusiastic about the company’s performance in the past year with good weather and strong inventory support contributing to an excellent performance in this period.
Several recent developments for Gardena see Bright looking ahead with excitement starting with a complete upgrade to the original Gardena system, the first real change it has seen since its establishment in1968.
“Our original Gardena system is getting a facelift and upgrade to a more premium product range. This range is planned to launch in October with a new look and new packaging, all communicating the unique selling points to our discerning end user customers.
“Our retail partners will get improved sales solutions and the consumers will get a superior product with improved design and colour coding to make things even easier.”
Also in full swing is Gardena’s acquisition of Neta micro irrigation systems with Nick Bright and Key Account Manager Peter Harvey currently busy rolling out the ready retail solution for the brand across New Zealand.
SOCIAL MEDIA PROVES ITS WORTH
Also reporting a solid season last year, Tui Garden's Brand Manager Gemma Hignett has seen ongoing healthy growth in Tui’s edible garden products. Tui has found its Facebook and website to be valuable sources of information on the type of consumers taking up the edibles trend with queries on growing fruit and vegetables in smaller spaces like apartments and balconies increasing.
As the company’s social media presence has matured, Hignett has noticed that while the audience does skew female, its age range is incredibly varied.
“When we first started doing social media a few years ago, the general consensus was that it was for your early 20s and teenage audience. However many brands have proved that is not the case and we also have a range of ages on our page. So it’s a place for everyone to interact really,” Hignett says.
Tui hopes to add more exposure to its brand through the company’s latest TV sponsorship of the Kiwi Living show which Hignett hopes will build on the success that the company found with Annabel Langbein last year.
“We are currently working with the Kiwi Living show to get more consumers aware of gardening and how easy it can be to grow your own, so we have focused on simple step by step garden projects in that series,” Hignett says.
(Also see this issue’s Hard News section for more on how the lawn & garden category is working with TV.)
REACHING THE NEW GARDENER
A range of suppliers are clearly committed to growing the garden category and ensuring that there is a healthy supply of new gardeners coming into the market by reaching out and educating through a variety of channels.
“We spend a lot of time and money out there making sure we are growing the category as a whole,” explains Yates’ Fiona Arthur. “So we do a lot online with the Yates garden experts, and our sales manager goes out and talks to a lot of groups like garden clubs.”
How about millennials? As can be expected, Yates’ Garden Experts online help section has been the main port of call for youngsters with plenty of enthusiasm but lacking the knowledge of previous generations.
“We have segments of key gardeners and millennial gardeners are what we define as ‘keen beans’: those that are quite passionate about gardening but don’t necessarily know a lot. And that’s why it’s great for them to have somewhere to go for the information they need,” Arthur says.
In terms of its business, Yates has seen “strong results” in the last 6 months which Arthur attributes, at least partly, to extensions of existing ranges and new products like its Zero Rapid 1-Hr Weedkiller, which offers the kind of quick solution that is sometimes rare in gardening.
“A lot of people we speak to, especially guys, aren’t necessarily hard-core gardeners and they are looking for quick solutions and don’t want to think about it too much so that 1 hour action has really resonated with them,” Arthur says.
Despite strong ongoing business and a positive outlook for the coming season, Yates’ Fiona Arthur does still have some concerns about the wider lawn & garden category.
“Registrations are taking a long time to get through in terms of the regulatory environment. Yates is one of New Zealand’s Most Trusted Brands and that’s a huge thing to protect – so, when we do things, we do them properly. So it takes a lot of time and money to get the research done to make sure our products are correct and our only concern is that we aren’t 100% confident that everyone puts the same time and investment into their products,” she says.
Over at AHM, Gardening Products Manager Niko Pierik is also heading into the regulatory space. Pierik admits that AHM’s garden business has been stable rather than booming in recent months but, with a new chemical consultant on board, he forecasts a new focus for the company on its gardening products.
“The new consultant will be looking at a number of new formulations, looking at existing products, at best practice internationally and new products relating to new chemical formulations and smarter ways of doing things,” Pierik says.
As for many players in this category, bee-friendly products will be a continued focus going forward.
“Bees are being killed by a lot of chemicals so it’s really about modernising some of the existing formulations we are bringing to market and either smartening them up a bit and getting rid of some of the more dangerous actives or bringing in some more modern formulations. So our new consultant will be looking at a number of different things within that space,” he says.
With some common garden chemicals, rightly or wrongly, receiving increased internet criticism and large US retailers such as Lowe’s promising to remove Neonicotinoid pesticides from its shelves by the spring of 2019, AHM’s strategy sounds like a good one for the future.
GROW YOUR OWN OR SMOKE YOUR OWN? US GARDEN TRENDS 2015
US based website Garden Media’s garden trend report for 2015 highlights some of the key US gardening trends: