Malcolm Gough, Group Sales & Marketing Director Talasey Group is BMBI’s Expert for Natural Stone Landscaping Products, Vitrified Paving & Artificial Grass.
It was a mixed second quarter for landscaping. April was very buoyant, as predicted in last quarter’s report, following an incredibly busy first quarter. But the market cooled down in May and June with much poorer weather in June. An increase in economic and political uncertainty also probably prompted people to postpone landscaping projects.
Not all products were affected. Sales of resin-based products did well, a relatively new product which is generating interest with more landscapers offering it as a solution to customers. Vitrified porcelain paving also bucked the trend and is also still seeing positive growth. There was a slowdown in sales of artificial grass, but we believe this was a blip and just a slight loss of forward momentum. In support of product sales, our own Talasey Training Academy is working flat out, keeping up with the demand for training in all areas. It was particularly busy in June as landscapers tend to down tools during poor weather conditions.
Looking towards the rest of the year, economic uncertainty will continue to put pressure on two important areas: shipping and exchange rates.
Shipping costs and a weak pound play a large factor of the cost of natural stone products, but they also impact on a number of other imported landscaping products. Shipping rates are still high and have not fallen as a result of Brexit uncertainty and the pound just keeps getting weaker. As smaller businesses pay more for the stone and the shipping, they may feel more pressure to pass on some of these higher costs to customers if rates remain high. This issue affects many sectors, not just construction, as companies decide how much stock they should bring in.
Speaking for our own group, currently the second largest stockholder of natural stone in the UK, we’ve committed to maintain high stock levels to mitigate the uncertainty.
The strong momentum of the first quarter did not continue into the second quarter. However, we believe the landscaping market will pick up momentum again in the third quarter despite negative headlines from the turmoil in Westminster.