The UK ornamental plant market may have changed for good?


The UK ornamental plant market may have changed for good?

This is no normal Baileys and Partners article. This blog has been exclusively written by our guest blogger for this month Neil Alcock. Neil is the Managing Director of the renowned Seiont Nurseries Limited, based near Caernarfon, North Wales and has been in the horticultural industry for over 33 years.

Seiont Nurseries was established in 1978 and is a well-known plug (small seedling grown in seed trays) and liner (tray of very young plants) producer with an annual production of 850,000 liners and 400,000 plugs. Neil and his team specialise in new and unusual varieties of plants and ship across the UK and Europe on a weekly delivery service.

The first week of the lockdown was the worst feeling I have ever experienced in my time as an ornamental plant supplier! With orders totaling £300,000 being cancelled in the first week. However, 2 weeks in as internet sales skyrocketed and van deliveries started up, we were able to gain back sales. All in all, summer has been very good for us and we have nearly reached parity with 2019 sales. The COVID-19 crisis made our business stronger and will enable us to grow next year. The market has potentially changed forever and with our new website, we will be able to meet the consumer’s ‘online needs’ directly.

Orders from growers cancelled

Seiont Nurseries supplies plugs and liners to growers in the retail supply chain across the UK and Europe, but when the COVID-19 crisis kicked in, orders stopped and were cancelled. It was terrible and I thought we would be finished with the season like this. We had 2 Arctics out on the road and all orders had to be sent back

Mail order and online retail sales increasing

However, demand picked up as online sales started to increase. For many years, Seiont Nurseries has been supplying to major mail order companies and online retail, and as the garden centres had to close their doors, many people turned to the internet. Many of our cancelled orders, we could now sell on the internet.

New customers – van deliveries

On top of increasing our sales through our existing channels, we also expanded our customer base. We saw more regional van deliveries arising, which were asking for our products. For them, we supply different collections.

Own website – LoveGardeningDirect.com

In the midst of the pandemic, we have also launched our own website with our parent company, Lovania. With this website,www.lovegardeningdirect.com, we offer collections of fern, perennials and shrubs, and we have also launched a choice patio/balcony collection which appears to be very popular with consumers who live in cities.

Export picking up

At Seiont Nurseries 15% of our product is shipped to the EU. Initially our hauliers had to stop transport, particularly to Italy and Spain due to the uncertainty of regional lockdowns. But France and Holland remained strong as the Garden Centres were largely allowed to stay open.

“It made us stronger”

For Seiont Nurseries, the last few months, and particularly just after the lockdown, have been hectic. We had to quickly adapt, and fortunately, as we are not such a large company (only producing 1.5 million plants a year), we were able to do that. I think the entire situation made our business stronger and by adapting to all changes, we’ve increased sales in new and existing markets. This year, we expect to be slightly down compared to last year, but when looking at what we’ve achieved this year, there is no doubt that next year will be much better.

One thing is proven though, people want plants!

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