RHS Garden Wisley is celebrating significant rises in retail sales since the opening of its new Welcome building in June this year, with total sales up 24%. This is significantly higher than the rest of the gardening retail industry* which is down 1.7% on comparable categories for the same period, and also bucks the trend against the high street generally, where in-store sales from June to October are 0.64% less than last year. **
Plants are showing a 23% increase, with herbaceous plants up 44%, driven by a refocused range and plant collections which add a variety of offer rarely seen elsewhere. The new offer focuses on seasonal plants which grow and look amazing at RHS Garden Wisley, such as in the Exotic Garden and the new heather landscape. There is also a key focus on specialist British nurseries, many of which rarely retail outside of smaller flower shows, giving customers something new and supporting UK growers.
Houseplant sales are up 62%, with foliage plants up an impressive 130% and flowering houseplants up 80%. Winning plants include Alocasia, commonly known as Elephant’s Ear, with sales up tenfold; with the best seller in this range being Alocasia Zebrina, which owes its name to the eye-catching yellow and black zebra markings on its stems. Prayer plants (Calathea) are also a success story with over 1,300 sold this year. Cheese plants (Monstera) are enjoying a strong resurgence with and dragon plants (Dracaena) are also significantly up. Ferns are enjoying a rise of nearly 100%.
Not only plants but their pots are also on the up, with indoor pots up 169% on last year. Metal troughs and pot stands made in modern textiles are the best sellers. Spring flowering bulbs are up by 29%, which is more than double the market growth and seed sales are impressive at 52% up on last year.
Damian Powell, Head of Retail, said: “Our new retail space at Wisley has given us the opportunity to create an immersive space for our customers to shop, using more inspirational displays and a wider selection of plants and products has driven some of the increase. Our plant centre is now far more of a showcase for our plant selection and our teams are fully engaged to support our customers with their requirements. We are also catering better for impulse buys and for a wider customer demographic.”
Damian adds: “We have really focused on getting our houseplant and pot offer right, trying to link more with trends and attracting a younger shopper to come to us, which is really paying off as we are tracking well up against the industry trend of 15% growth.”
Duncan Mclean, Senior Plant Buyer, RHS Garden Wisley, said: “On a busy afternoon we often see three generations in our plant centre, and there is a clear difference in what they all have in their baskets. The youngest generation will have cacti, succulents and carnivorous plants such as Venus flytraps; 20-35 year olds go for large foliage plants such as cheese plants and snake plants; and older generations seem to favour plants such as African violets and begonias.”
“The trend amongst younger people is linked to health and wellbeing – trends observed in 2018 have continued through 2019 with plants which improve the environment and purify air, such as Mother in Law’s tongue (Sansevieria) and peace lilies (Spathiphyllum), efficient in removing airborne pollutants, showing growth of 40-50%.”
Over the past two years the RHS has introduced a number of exclusive new product ranges, inspired by the beautiful collections in the Lindley Library, the world’s largest horticultural library. Only available in RHS stores and online, these ranges are now driving 20% of the RHS’s gift revenue. The best-selling range is RHS Butterflies, inspired by coloured engravings in an 18th century book by French naturalist Pierre Joseph Buchoz. Gifts generally are up 27%, with toiletries, homeware and toys doing particularly well.
A complete overhaul of the gardening sundries range (which covers items including tools, lighting, and fertilisers) at the beginning of the year, along with the new space and layout, is proving successful with a rise of 32%, compared with the industry tracking at 0.8% for gardening sundries growth for the year so far.
*Gardening industry data sourced from the Garden Centre Association
**Data is an average of monthly data from June – Oct in High Street Sales Tracker BDO reports: https://www.bdo.co.uk/en-gb/high-street-sales-tracker/previous-reports
Click here to see GTN Xtra's photo tour of RHS Wisley Plant Centre