Malcolm Gough, Group Sales & Marketing Director Talasey Group is BMBI’s Expert for Natural Stone Landscaping Products, Vitrified Paving & Artificial Grass.
Winter weather conditions in the final quarter were mild enough to see products continue to move from merchants to landscapers and their sites across the U.K. For a seasonal product sector, it was a positive end to the year. We estimate 2017 market volumes up by about 4%.
Shipping prices usually ease around this time of year but we have yet to see any major changes. The rupee is looking promising against the pound but it’s too early to comment on the effect of exchange rates on prices.
The definitive colour trend for 2017 has been ‘grey’ – from stone and polished concrete to Italian porcelain. Early pre-season merchant orders indicate this trend will continue in 2018. Product brochures for 2018 have been arriving early to merchants with ranges including true vitrified Italian porcelain and even cheaper vitrified ceramics hoping to stir up the market prices.
I am confident that vitrified paving is here to stay, as a growing market, offering an affordable option for most projects. Many branches are now stocking vitrified paving ranges, providing an alternative to direct to site trading. This stock on the ground should see an upturn in sales, and even more confidence in this growing market sector.
Artificial grass is another recent market entry that gives landscapers an interesting alternative. Branches stocking it stand to benefit, although lower quality lines are fast becoming a commodity. While some prices are being driven down, quality may suffer. Merchants may buy solely on price but if landscapers look for higher-end artificial grass elsewhere, branches may be stuck with unsaleable lower price roll stock.
The newest landscaping market for merchant distribution is resin driveway construction. It’s a cottage industry being handled increasingly by landscapers who expect their local merchants to hold stocks. Let’s hope this trend develops, adding more sales in 2018 for forward-thinking merchants.