License Global catches up with Cathy Snow, licensing manager, Royal Horticultural Society, to find out more about how the U.K. lockdown lifting is affecting them and what green-thumbed consumers actually want.

Ben Roberts, Content Director

August 25, 2020

5 Min Read
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The Royal Horticultural Society is no stranger to open spaces, but how are retail sales faring now that lockdowns in the U.K. are lifting, and what do green-thumbed consumers actually want? We catch up with Cathy Snow, licensing manager, RHS, to find out more.

 

License Global: Has there been a post-lockdown uptick in landmark and protected destinations like the RHS gardens?

Snow: We have definitely seen some extremely happy visitors returning to visit the gardens. Although daily visitor numbers are limited and guests (and even members) must pre-book, most have understood and dealt with this change exceptionally well. Retail at RHS Garden Wisley managed to re-open for plant sales early in June. Prior to that, because the plants in stock still needed to be looked after, the retail team set up (from scratch) a local delivery service. This also helped support all those nurseries that might otherwise have had to dump plants they had grown for sale at stores that were not able to open or at flower shows and other outdoor events that were cancelled.

There have also been some interesting statistics from an RHS-commissioned survey (2000) that show the positive surge in gardening; 

·         71 percent of respondents who have an outdoor space (1,338) felt that having a garden/outdoor space has helped their mental health during lockdown;

·         60 percent of respondents felt that having a garden outdoor space has helped their physical health during lockdown; 

·         Almost double (15.89 percent) the number of people with an outdoor garden feel very satisfied with life currently compared to those with no outdoor space at all (8.73 percent);

·         Over a quarter (25.65 percent) say that they value their houseplants more now during this time of lockdown;

·         82 percent of respondents could name specific garden activities that had a positive impact on their mental health. Weeding is the top gardening activity overall having a positive impact on wellbeing; and

·         66.67 percent of people who have no outside space are more likely to want it when they next move house.

 

With this in mind, could heritage brands face a new peak in consumer activity?

With staycations the new norm, I think all heritage sites will see increased demand and, if this proves correct, sales of products via their own retail and through retailers stocking licensed products should grow. People seem to be keen on purchasing locally, and not relying so much on imported product. Our online sales are booming, too. In general, I think there is a new appreciation of all that the U.K. has to offer, and heritage brands play a big part in offering fantastic days out, information and products.

 

How has the RHS adapted to survive across lockdown?

There have been many new measures put in place at our gardens to ensure visitor and staff/volunteer safety. There has been a huge upsurge in social media activity and in the number of visitors to rhs.org.uk. Even the AGM was digitally broadcast this year! Home working was possible, obviously. A large number of staff have been furloughed and there have been cost savings. In addition, the Virtual RHS Chelsea Flower Show should be mentioned. This was amazing. Half a million people from 134 countries visited the Virtual RHS Chelsea Flower Show with more than 2.1 million visiting the website in that week; 28 percent of the online audience was under the age of 35. More than 20 million impressions on social media were for this virtual flower show. And RHS Instagram grew by 17k during Virtual RHS Chelsea Flower Show week.

 

How have you seen retail change, and what are you doing to maintain consumer engagement?

Obviously, there are restrictions in store. We have seen a huge uplift in online sales to rhsplants.co.uk and rhsshopco.uk. Rhsprints.co.uk has also seen an uplift. The membership (500,000+) continued to receive their monthly magazine. We worked hard to promote licensees’ products via all possible channels including the member’s magazine and via social media. The gardening team for instance did an excellent podcast from the Heather Garden at RHS Garden Wisley on the importance of bees. The Heather Garden is sponsored by our licensee Warner’s Distillery and the podcast included a thank you to them.

 

What are people looking for now lockdowns have been lifted in terms of CP?

I think things to improve their home and garden. People seem happier to entertain themselves at home, learn a new skill, and take up a new hobby or just chill out with a book. I think people are still a little cautious about going out and eating out, so we will see a lot of focus on staying in and staying local. That certainly seems to be the trend within my circle of family and friends.

 

What are you looking to do in 2021 that speaks to the British consumer of tomorrow?

We have some fantastic new product launching early spring 2021 that will really put us on the map with young consumers. We are also looking to capitalize on interest from the 20-40 age group in gardening and growing their own. We have exciting things happening at the RHS with 2021 seeing a new science and learning center opening at RHS Garden Wisley and a brand new RHS garden opening – RHS Garden Bridgewater near Salford, Manchester. Rhsshop.co.uk offers a newly updated online shopping experience too. 

As always, we will be looking to our archives to release new artwork for licensees to create more beautiful products. We are also looking to expand partnerships with key retailers and widen the product categories and territories we currently license to.

 

About the Author(s)

Ben Roberts

Content Director, License Global

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