Wow, it has been a great spring across the whole country mainly due to almost perfect weather conditions. WA has had a very mild spring with only a few days of very high temperatures and some extra wet days. Victoria has had a real spring with generally fine weather and the odd wet spell. We have only had one or two wet weekends since start of August and it has been slow change to the hot weather. Sydney had a boomer winter and early spring and most other regions have had average conditions.
This busy period has meant there are stock shortages which in turn seems to create more demand. It also means any old or tired stock gets cleared out of the system leaving fresh new stock everywhere. Prices are creeping up which means nurseries can do some investment on capital equipment and extra marketing. The plant palette is shifting as we have moved from the strappy grass like fashion of the first half of last decade and through the edible rush to a more general range. The edible demand was great as it lowered the average age of our customer base and brought in many new people to gardening. Now they are looking to beautify their gardens as well as eat them.
It is feeling more like that period in the late nineties when the full range of plants were being bought and the landscape designers are using a more varied set of plants. Who can forget the Diosma/Hebe/Nandina trend for all new estates. Walk through a new estate now and there will be a wide mix of plants and it will be different from the neighbouring estate. There is also a return to many of the old favourites. No longer does a plant sell simply because it is new and some of the original cultivars are seen as stronger and more reliable. It is great to see Hydrangea, Hosta and even Azaleas in the market place again. In some cases there are improved varieties to counteract the old pests and in other cases the early forms are back in demand.
The question is where to now? A good spring alone, doesn't mean a new and vibrant industry. Do we reinvest and put extra stock on the ground? Do we pay off some debt and produce similar volumes to 2014? What will happen in the retail space? Will Bunnings keep opening new stores? Will Masters? Will Mitre 10 become a bigger player and what will happen with the independents? Personally I feel the Bunnings and Masters expansion will slow, Mitre 10 will become better at retailing plants and the independents will continue to differentiate themselves from the chains and become stronger.
There is often comment about how much plant life goes through Bunnings and now Masters but it is probably not much more, as a percentage, than used to go through Target, Coles, Kmart and Safeway. They had their buyers with their preferred suppliers and were often seen as the evil competitor. Reality is there is a big world out there with room for all types of retailers. Many buy from the big stores who simply would not buy plants. The bigger issue is the market stalls selling at very low prices although their customers would probably not spend that money on plants if they were not at a market. Public trend over the next decade or so will be towards the smaller, independent stores where it is felt some connection between customer and owner.
The style of gardens will alter with changes to house/unit size but the desire for plants won't. We have a net population increase of 200,000plus per annum in Australia. This translates to around 150,000 new dwellings every year. Of course this is not spread evenly across the country with Victoria growing by 100,000 - some due to total increase and some due to movement within Australia. This also means a new shopping centre and a new school every week and all the other infrastructure needed to support the population growth.
All of this means a continued increase in demand for plants. It means a reasonably positive future and if the weather gods are nice a busy summer autumn period. Have a great Christmas and New Year. Try and spend some time with family and friends and enjoy the good things in life.