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Outdoor living and barbecue trends spark optimism for spoga+gafa

Europeans experts share sunny view of 2012 garden season

COLOGNE, Germany - Weather conditions play a significant role in the success of the garden supply business. In advance of the Sept. 2-4 spoga+gafa garden trade fair in Cologne, trade and industry spokesmen are optimistic about the 2012 gardening season as the trend toward ‘outdoor living' continues.
According to European experts in the sector, many segments are also seeing a stronger demand for high-quality products.
The German Garden Industry Association (IVG) reported that there were some clear winners in 2011 - in particular in relation to barbecue grill related merchandise. However, the greenery, outdoor, garden furniture and ceramics and decorations product ranges also performed well.
The 2012 garden season has been much more subdued as far as IVG members are concerned because of cool weather conditions. However, the IVG believes the trend toward using the garden as a place to relax, pursue leisure activities and express oneself creatively will continue undiminished.
IVG member firms were already recording a strong demand for garden decorations and garden furniture at the beginning of the 2012 spring season. The cultivation of fruit and vegetables is also enjoying a comeback. As a result, a predominant number of IVG members anticipate positive developments in the ‘green' market - a trend the overall boom in economic conditions should help to keep going. Additionally, consumers are not only becoming increasingly quality and brand oriented but also want products that have been manufactured as sustainably as possible.
According to the Barbecue Industry Association (BIAG) the trend toward outdoor living and the barbecue culture are having a complementary effect on each other. Barbecuing is developing into a cultural phenomenon and is becoming a year-round activity. Customers want to have fun outdoors, and are ready to pay more money for high quality or more individualized equipment. This is the reason why turnover for 2011 was so much higher than the figure originally predicted by the BIAG. Last year in Germany almost 1.1 billion euros was spent on barbecues, fuel and grilling accessories. Barbecues themselves accounted for two thirds of that total. At the same time, the European charcoal market - including briquettes - has grown to around 1 million metric tons. According to the BIAG, the grill sector has retained its innovative strength, and this will remain to key to growth in the sector.
The BHB - Retailers' Association for Building, Home Improvement and Gardening - was reporting an exceptionally good start to 2012. According to the BHB, the spring season got off to a strong beginning in March. Unusually warm and sunny spring weather, particularly in the second half of March, accounted for the robust sales of items used for outdoor activities at building and DIY stores. Year in, year out, growing sales in the garden supplies segment highlight the potential of the "green sector." According to the BHB, around 23% of turnover in garden supplies account for a significant portion of building and DIY store business.
In 2011, the gardening segment of building and DIY stores posted gross turnover of around 4.1 billion euros - 2% more than the figure for the previous year. The European DIY Retail Association (EDRA) also confirms that the garden segment continues to be an important area of growth for the European DIY market. According to the EDRA, in some stores this segment makes up 30% of turnover, and the share of turnover is seldom less than 15%.
The German Garden Centre Association (VDG) reported that most garden centres ended 2011 with a healthy increase in turnover. That was especially true for stores offering a large variety of merchandise or an inviting catering area where customers could linger. Furthermore, garden centres run by owner-operators benefited from their expert know-how. The VDG noted that demand for brand-name products and regional products was particularly high in 2011. This year has also started very well for garden centres. According to the VDG,
plants will continue to be the main product sold at garden centres. In particular kitchen gardens are seeing a renaissance - regardless of whether the focus of interest is vegetables, fruit trees or bushes. Modern furniture and assorted flowerpots are also popular - as are high quality barbecues now that the barbecue culture is really taking off.

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