Out and about at Chelsea last week I was encouraged by how many big industry names were on show again this year - whether they had taken a stand or created a spectacular show garden.
There were a number of successes, with Bradstone, Homebase, Hillier and Westland all bagging RHS medals for their creations, and stands by the likes of Bosch, Burgon & Ball, Hozelock and Gardman all well thought out and bursting with product. It was great to see and left visitors in no doubt that the garden industry has a lot to shout about at the moment.
Chelsea is probably the most famous gardening show in the World and its prominence and relevance to our industry is growing every year, so, you may ask, 'why wouldn't brands take part?' However, it is also, no doubt, still an expensive endeavour to have a presence at the show, which is why, after another tough year for many, it was heartening to see the industry out in force last week.
There has also been a notable increase in the number of press releases announcing investment in ad campaigns, expansion plans and product development, dropping into my inbox. A positive change indeed and one that means our pages are filling up with good news rather than the doom and gloom we've become accustomed to.
Could we be starting to turn a corner? Companies are investing again - Bayer extended
its TV ad campaign, Loctite has had a rebrand and launched a £5m campaign
, while B&Q revealed it is ploughing £69m into a range review
across its stores. Meanwhile, UK vacancy rates have improved
, an independent retailer has come out of retirement to open a new DIY store
and Topps Tiles, which has seen a slump in sales for some time now, recorded a 4.5% LFL uplift
over the past seven weeks.
Of course, I don't want to get ahead of myself and it could be that the recent sunshine has gone to my head but, while conditions are likely to remain fairly tough for a while, things are certainly starting to look up. Even without the record sales increases, companies are still looking to enhance their offer and, in turn, upping their ad spend to shout about it - and that could be just what is needed to boost confidence and get the market moving again. As the Watson family, who have just spent six months and a fair amount of their own money refurbishing their hardware store, says: "You have to spend a bit to try and tread water."