Despite broad pandemic-driven uncertainty experienced by many consumers in 2020 and 2021, the garden product retail sector saw sales surge by 10% and 20%, respectively. With consumers spending more time at home, they redirected spend away from other sectors toward home improvement projects.

The good times cannot last forever, however, and events in 2022 present a serious challenge to the sector. Surging inflation amid continued global COVID-19 uncertainty, a supply chain crisis and the conflict in Ukraine has led to a cost-of-living crisis for consumers in the UK. Gardening is a hobby and ultimately a discretionary sector. When times get tough and budgets get tighter, retailers may well see consumers cutting back spend on their garden projects.

This is the biggest threat to the garden product sector in the year ahead. The fact that 28% of consumers are reporting that personal finances are tight, struggling or in trouble, combined with the perception that the hobby is expensive (46%), means that the sector could lose many of the new shoppers it engaged for the first time in the pandemic-years.

It is not all bad news, however; with flexible working still common for many consumers in the UK, there is still an opportunity for retailers and brands in the sector to engage more consumers. On top of this, the new pandemic-gardeners represent a new customer base with the potential to grow their spending over their lifetimes. With 63% of consumers agreeing that gardening is complicated for beginners, retailers should be focused on how to continue to engage beginners to keep them within the sector.

Key issues covered in this Report

  • The impact of the cost-of-living crisis on the sector

  • What the sector will look like post-COVID-19

  • How UK consumers shop for garden products and what they buy

  • Consumer satisfaction with garden product retailers

  • Attitudes towards gardens, garden products and gardening

Market context

At the start of 2020, COVID-19 caused massive economic disruption, and UK GDP fell by 9.4% over the course of the year. There was further severe disruption throughout 2021, but the economy did make up much of 2020’s lost output, and the Office of National Statistics estimates that UK GDP grew by 7.5% in 2021.

In its March 2022 Economic and Fiscal Outlook Report, the Office for Budget Responsibility revised its forecast for growth in UK GDP to 3.8% for 2022, down from the 6% forecast in October 2021. This more pessimistic outlook has been driven by the sharp rise in inflation and the impact this will have on consumer spending. CPI reached 9% in the 12 months to April 2022 and is expected to rise further before the end of the year.

Rising prices will lead to a historic drop in real incomes and put consumer spending under pressure. This is reflected in the OBR’s latest forecast for 5.4% growth in household consumption in 2022, 4.4 percentage points lower than it projected in October. Mintel’s tracker data shows that an increasing proportion of consumers across Europe are concerned about the impact of rising prices on their household finances, and there are signs of consumers already taking a more cautious approach to spending.

There is more positive news in the labour market. The unemployment rate for the three months to March 2022 was 3.7%, while provisional payroll data for April 2022 indicated that there were 29.5 million employees in the UK, up 530,000 on pre-COVID-19 levels. The OBR expects unemployment to remain relatively level at around 4.1% for the duration of its five-year forecast period. There is, however, still the prospect of long-term scarring on employment, especially in the more exposed retail and hospitality sectors, and data on the self-employed and economic inactivity are less positive than the headline unemployment rate.

The human cost of the conflict in Ukraine, including the horrifying number of civilian deaths and injuries and the growing migration crisis, is at the forefront of consumers’ minds. However, the economic impact is also a growing concern. In particular, soaring energy prices and the impact of sanctions will have a strong inflationary impact. Mintel’s research conducted in early May shows that 74% think that the conflict will have an impact on their household finances, and more than two thirds of Brits expect the conflict to result in higher prices.

The conflict in Ukraine means that the economic outlook is particularly uncertain, and the OBR has made it clear that it is too early to gauge the full impact it will have on national economies. As such, independent forecasts are very likely to change rapidly throughout the year as the situation changes.

Products covered in this Report

For the purposes of this Report, Mintel has used the following definitions:

There is a broad definition of gardening used in this Report, covering growing stock, gardening tools and sundries to those consumer products bought for the garden, such as furniture, barbecues and sheds. The main categories and their broad definitions break down as follows:

  • Growing stock – plants, shrubs, trees, bulbs, seeds

  • Gardening equipment – lawnmowers, other power tools, hand tools, irrigation equipment

  • Garden buildings – conservatories, sheds, greenhouses

  • Garden chemicals and growing media – compost, peat, chippings, fertiliser, pesticides, weed killers

  • Garden furniture and barbecues – furniture, parasols, patio heaters, cushions, barbecues

  • Enhancement features and sundries – statuary, aggregates, etc

This Report also refers to other products stocked and services provided by garden retailers (such as Christmas decorations, pets and cafés) to develop footfall and counteract the seasonality in gardening.

Back to top