THE daffodils are in bloom, lawnmowers are beginning to hum, and garden centres are starting to get busy countrywide for a new season of planting and renewal.
Adding to the fresh vibrancy that comes into the soil at this time each year are the findings of recent market research commissioned by Bord Bia.
The Garden Market Value research, carried out by Ipsos MRBI, showed that the industry is growing in Ireland for the first time since 2011.
Independent garden centres had a stronger market share and discounters were making further gains, particularly in volume terms.
Purchasing occasions of outdoor and flowering plants have also increased by a fifth since 2011, with the market value up 13%.
Overall spending by consumers on gardening increased by 22% in the three years up to 2014, to reach €631m.
Bord Bia released the data at its annual Garden Industry Awards, which recognised 38 garden centres and 17 landscape service providers, in addition to a number of special category award winners.
Chief executive Aidan Cotter said the awards were a timely showcase of the industry’s sheer perseverance and hard work.
These businesses were continually investing in infrastructure and procedures to attain a Bord Bia Quality Award, he said.
“The commitment to excellence of these award recipients inspires confidence in the sector’s continued growth and expansion, as is evident in the positive findings from Bord Bia’s garden market research,” said Mr Cotter.
“The growth can not only be attributed to the signs of economic recovery, the increase in consumer confidence, and the good summer weather, but also the industry’s progression and determination to meet the needs of consumers.”
The research showed that Ireland’s garden market is showing strong signs of recovery, particularly in the purchase of outdoor and flowering plants and landscaping services.
Outdoor and flowering plants, including hanging baskets, hedges, shrubs, and herbaceous plants, were valued at €126m, up from €112m in 2011, with purchase frequency increasing by a fifth.
Landscaping, referring to any consumer spend on garden design and maintenance, was valued at €118m, a rise of 22% since 2011.
Women were the biggest purchasers across most categories, while those in the 55+ age group dominated the consumer spend.
Garden products such as garden furniture and barbecue equipment also saw their market share bounce in 2014 to €303m, compared with €218m in 2011, indicating that consumers were spending more time outdoors as a result of the good weather.
Independent and DIY garden centres held close to a 50% share of the garden market, valued at €513m.
Grow It Yourself remained popular, with about 4% of adults in Ireland purchasing herbs, salad, and root vegetables to grow at home. Almost half of the spending on herbs, fruit, and vegetables for planting was by those under 35 years.
The market for fresh cut flowers remained static at €50m since 2011.
Consumers spent €16 on average when buying flowers and these were mainly purchased for the home or as a gift.
More than 40% of these purchases were through discounters and supermarkets, according to the research, while florists accounted for 40%.
The awards recognise those within the programme who have met the highest industry standards and who consistently strive for excellence
Arboretum Home and Garden Heaven, a family- run business based on a 10- acre site in Leighlinsbridge, Co Carlow, was chosen for the large garden award. It employs over 70 people.
Rachel Doyle, along with sons Barry and Fergal, have a team of qualified plant experts on hand, and inspirational gardens, a café, and a homeware area.
They have recently added the first fully covered ‘planteria’ in Ireland, which has a retractable roof to allow patrons to shop regardless of the weather.
Cois na hAbhann, Garden, Home and Lifestyle Centre in Camolin, Co Wexfod, won the small garden centre award. The Nolan family have run the business since it opened in 2007.
The landscape business award went to BHL Landscapes, established in 1975 and based in Waterfall, near Cork City. It delivers landscape services in Munster, focusing on landscape construction, design, grounds maintenance, and grass-based sports facilities.
It is well accepted in the industry that standards within garden centres and landscape businesses have been raised with the help of the Bord Bia Quality Assurance Programme,
Carol Marks, development and marketing specialist at Bord Bia, said it has never been easier for people to identify Ireland’s best garden industry providers.
“The Bord Bia award serves as a visible badge of merit for consumers to look out for when visiting these award-winning garden centres, or availing of landscape services,” she said.
Bord Bia supports the industry through a wide range of activities, including consumer and trade promotions, business support programmes, and the provision of support for innovation, branding, product development and market research.
Later this year, the Retail Excellence Ireland garden centre group, in association with Bord Bia and the industry, will launch a new promotional campaign.
It will seek to bring growing to the fore and make it more appealing, as was the case with cooking in recent years.
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