Why the garden sector needs housewares – a view from Kate Newton

Why the garden sector needs housewares – a view from Kate Newton
According to HTA Garden Retail Monitor, ‘lifestyle and gifts’ accounted last year for around 13% of garden centre sales by value. The HTA’s figures do not break down the category further to enable a percentage for housewares specifically, but with the present growth in garden centre sales all accounted for by products that can be described as ‘non-garden’, this is a hot topic. So, why is housewares such a potential winner for the estimated 2300 outlets in the garden centre channel? Some of the answers are to do with housewares’ compatibility with attractive bricks and mortar retail environments. But equally, there are aspects of the housewares market that enable garden centres to offset inherent weaknesses.

Housewares in the garden – the next big trend?

Garden centres are part of the ‘experience economy’ – a trip out, eating out – in attractive surroundings, where a pleasurable visit is the main determiner of success. Garden centres also avoid the stresses associated with town centres. This means consumers are in the mood not only to treat themselves, but also to buy gifts for others. Housewares make great, multi-occasion gifts and they are often priced to justify that souvenir ‘investment’ in family and home which sits perfectly with a relatively low-cost day out.

Housewares also suit the fluid nature of the home and garden categories. Trends like outdoor kitchen, al fresco dining and grow your own all bring together garden, food, food preparation, entertaining and the serving of food. This makes housewares an easily understood extension of traditional garden centre categories from horticulture to garden leisure. Equally suitable for product demonstration and consumer engagement, it could even be argued that cookware and tableware are the perfect unifying factor between planting the garden and spending lazy hours enjoying it.

The solution for garden retail?

From a garden centre point of view, housewares represent very appropriate incremental income. The housewares category can also help to offset some of the downsides of garden retail. The most obvious is poor weather and housewares are perfect for extending the offer to the invulnerable indoors. Garden is also inherently seasonal, while housewares is considerably less so, providing a reliable year-round income stream. Then there is portability. Given the growth in renting and the reducing space available in both home and garden, products that combine consumer benefit with small footprint and an ability to move with the owner are in the ascendancy. It is no surprise that there is currently a boom in houseplant sales. Housewares products combine the same aesthetic and practical potential with added functionality.

So, whether it’s to enhance garden retail or offset its weaknesses, garden centre buyers need to get together with cookware, tableware, and glassware suppliers – just while they are looking to reduce dependency on the High Street. There are some mutual rewards to reap.