• Homeowners’ tendency to “improve not move” should make it a good year for garden products.
• An environmentally-sound supply chain is key.
• Homeowners’ tendency to “improve not move” should make it a good year for garden products.

Shortages of timber continue to impact on timber merchants, retailers of timber products and DIY outlets. However, recent external factors look set to have an effect on the UK market for timber garden products. “Improve not move” will be the mantra for many homeowners across the country, as they wait to see what effect interest rate changes and the credit crunch have on house prices. While consumers seek added value in the form of aesthetic and structural features both inside and out, merchants, garden centre retailers and DIY store can capitalise on demand.

Throughout this time it will be vital for suppliers’ services to be robust enough to support timber merchant, retail and DIY customers. For example, a strong service culture that can offer additional value in all its capabilities will be relied on to deliver a consistent supply of materials.

Training at all levels, from grass roots to board level, ensures that staff are confident in their knowledge of the products they are selling, and prepared to answer any question which the consumer or tradespeople may throw at them. Supplementing this with aspirational and constantly updated sales literature and innovative merchandising displays, which clearly outline the features and benefits of various products, provides the greatest opportunities for sales.

Logistics are key

Suppliers’ logistical capabilities are also key. Just-in-time deliveries free up valuable warehouse or shop-floor storage space, keeping both risk and costs at an optimal low for the customer. All aspects of delivery need monitoring, from point of order through to customer satisfaction monitoring.

Product innovation is an important element for all merchants, retailers and DIY stores to consider. Consumer-savvy professional tradespeople will constantly seek the latest trends, combining these with other garden design elements such as colours, material textures and horticultural elements. Partnering with a supplier that is attuned to, and can deliver on, the current themes, as well as investing in strong research and development, to ensure product designs move with the times, is another ingredient for success.

Finnforest is finding that log cabins continue to dominate the garden structures market, with multiple uses demanded, from home offices and gyms to garden rooms and outdoor dining spaces. Our Garden Inspirations Valo and Lampi cabins are designed to offer this type of versatility. Valo, for instance, is L-shaped to slot into corner plots and maximise space.

While the perception is that decking sales are on the wane, 2007 proved that there is still great demand for this versatile outdoor surface. Offering a mecca for landscapers and builders in terms of the opportunities to design in bespoke features such as raised levels, balustrades and pergola features, decking products need to be offered in a variety of styles and materials.

Range of products

Variety is also key to repeat custom, and offering both softwood and hardwood products will cater for all needs. Our new hardwood decking and garden furniture range now includes deck tiles that can be used in a mix and match effect, plus there is a choice of tiles in hardwood and hardwood with a stone inlay.

Garden structures, including gazebos, pergolas and arbours, complete the wow-factor for professional tradespeople or homeowners. A pergola over a decked area provides shade and support for plants, walkways can be created to make a small garden seem larger, while gazebos provide shelter all year round.

Finally, partnering with suppliers giving guaranteed sustainable policies is vital in an increasingly environment-conscious climate. Forest certification and chain of custody should be demanded as a matter of course. Marrying all these aspects of product offering, service and support together will stand the merchant, retailer or DIY store in the best position to make the best of the spring and summer months.