Britain: the ‘Home of Gardening’: Why buying British will help your business grow

Gardening has been a national passion in the United Kingdom for centuries. A love of plants and beautiful gardens has created the world’s most developed garden retail market, combining enviable design and manufacturing expertise, with a deep understanding of the value of gardening to modern life and the environment. Matthew Mein, Event Director at Glee, the UK’s largest garden retail exhibition, explores the British gardening phenomenon, and how international buyers can use it to do better business.

In any market, successful retailing requires great products that tempt and excite consumers, and give retailers an edge over their competitors. International retailers, online and mail-order suppliers of gardening products are no exception, under continually growing pressure to deliver exceptionally appealing, on-trend, high quality (yet affordable) product ranges to their customers, year after year.

In the search for such outstanding ranges, one country has always stood out as ‘the home of gardening’, generating ideas that are coveted by garden lovers around the world: the UK. With gardening pride and passion ingrained in the UK’s heritage, and an equally illustrious reputation for innovation and manufacture, it’s therefore not surprising that British gardening ideas, designs and products are in high demand, from Europe and the US to Japan.  Consider RHS Chelsea as just one example of this: a UK based event that draws the eyes of the world. And at the heart of it, British designers, UK-grown plants and award-winning gardens that are the result of the ongoing hard-work and dedication of UK teams. For many, it is the UK that is setting the benchmark, which is why the world continues to look to the UK for inspiration across the board.

Products in another area where the UK continues to thrive. Distinctive and well-made, British gardening tools, machinery, growing aids, gifts, greenhouses, landscaping products and accessories are the envy of the world – from traditional, heritage brands that have been established for 100 years or more, to cutting-edge designers and entrepreneurs breaking new ground in the industry.

Matthew Mein, Event Director at Glee, the leading annual exhibition for garden retailing said: “No other country leads the way in gardening and garden retailing quite like the British do. Our heritage and role in the development of gardening’s history is something that we are incredibly proud of, and something that other countries respect and envy in equal measure.

“Glee is a great place to see UK suppliers in action on home soil. Each year, hundreds of recognised and new companies come together to showcase their new and existing ranges. This amounts to hundreds of thousands of products on show, including those long-established ‘favourites’ sitting alongside the latest product innovations. Once international visitors come to Glee they tend to return year after year because the show has a deserved reputation for being the best venue of its kind to do business in the world, echoing the UK’s overall world-leading reputation.  It showcases the best of British gardening tradition as well as worldwide suppliers.  It’s also an unmissable opportunity to spot exciting new product ideas, find new trading partners and secure special product deals.”

Learning from British retailers

Today, gardening is the favourite hobby of almost half of all Britons. Despite facing the same economic, demographic and weather challenges that have affected most of northern Europe in recent years, the market is growing, with 8.2% growth forecast year-on-year*. Product innovation, the growth of ‘destination’ garden centres, industry-wide marketing initiatives and a renewed media profile are all playing a part in this – inspiring consumers to add value to their homes, grow their own food, involve the whole family, and simply enjoy an enriching hobby.

So, what can international buyers potentially learn from the British garden retail model?  The UK garden retail sector is highly varied and becoming more complex, but there are success stories across every channel.

For example, in recent years’ British supermarkets have begun to secure a foothold in the market, from ranges on the supermarket shelf to taking over garden centre chains. Online shopping also continues to gain market share (online retail channels expected to see growth in the region of 20% by 2020*), succeeding from plant sales to garden furniture. Mobile phone usage is also affecting the way consumers spend, and this is certainly not just limited to younger consumers. A substantial proportion of the adults on the core gardening age group (over 45) now own a mobile phone, with sales of all products seeing an increase in online sales. However, the role of the mobile is also changing product innovation rates. With consumers so reliant on their device, more and more of our homes – and soon gardens – will be controlled from the palm of our hands. Expect to see more app-controlled gardening products taking centre stage in the near future.

Despite the growth of online and mobile shopping, it is still bricks and mortar retailers that are leading the way. Garden centres and retail nurseries still dominate the UK garden retail market. Particular strengths are garden centres’ plant ranges and expertise, which appeal especially to older, keen gardeners. Garden centres are also increasingly expanding their thinking to offer a ‘destination centre’ experience that sets them aside from other types of retailer – adding value to their plant offerings with lucrative cafés; franchised craft, clothing and cookware retail spaces; and extended gift and lifestyle ranges.

UK garden centres’ product merchandising has become more sophisticated, taking inspiration from the cross-category presentation techniques used by High Street retailers, as well as harnessing audio-visual selling techniques and special promotions to boost sales.

Personal service too is an increasingly key element. From garden design and horticultural advice to offering convenient home delivery and product construction help – often hand-in-hand with their suppliers – British garden centres are finding new ways to build customer sales and loyalty.

In short, the economic and population challenges faced by the UK are little different in many ways to those in Europe. However, the combination of British gardening heritage, innovative manufacturers and with a progressive retail streak means the country offers much ‘food for thought’ for garden retailers beyond its shores.

By taking the opportunity to explore and harness the best of these strengths and ideas, garden retailers outside the UK can only benefit.


Find out more

Glee is the UK’s leading garden retail show, focusing on building year-round profits for buyers and suppliers within the core gardening, outdoor living and landscaping product categories.  To keep up-to-date on the latest Glee news visit



For more information, interviews or images please contact:

Kimberley Hornby, Glee PR Team, Hornby Whitefoot PR

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About Ascential plc

Ascential plc is a global business-to-business media company that informs and connects the business world in 150 countries through market-leading Exhibitions & Festivals and Information Services.

Ascential powers the prestigious Cannes Lions festival for the branded communications industry, the world’s premier payments and financial services congress Money20/20, Spring Fair/Autumn Fair, the global fashion trend forecasting service WGSN, environmental risk data business Groundsure, e-commerce analytics provider One Click Retail and advisory and business services firm, MediaLink.

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