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What does the current “landscape” look like? PlaceMakers’ Gary Woodhouse is happy to report that the last 12-18 months have delivered substantial growth for the blue barns’ landscaping category.
The key factor behind this growth, he says, is the housing boom that has affected many categories in the hardware channel where increased equity combined with a somewhat scary and unstable market has seen people stay where they are and improve their existing home rather than risk selling and moving.
Gary Woodhouse is also seeing far more expansive projects being undertaken by his customers than in previous years as landscapers have begun to work closer with PlaceMakers as a merchant of choice.
I ask him what he feels has motivated landscapers to shift to PlaceMakers away from dedicated landscape suppliers.
“People tend to say landscapers will only buy from a traditional landscaping outlet. But a lot of people forget that landscapers use quite a lot of building products – whether it’s cement or power tools.
“So, when you talk about landscaping products they do tend to fall into one category but the fact that they are able to buy a much wider range of products to complete the job from us has helped,” he says.
“The other thing is that we’re there at the start of a house build so we can we can put landscapers in touch with some of our builders or vice versa. So they’re working with tradesmen who are part of that wider home build, which is pretty important.”
DON’T BE TOO HARD ON SURFACES
For a supplier’s perspective I spoke to Craig Nees of International Merchants, home of the Permadeck brand, who says the company has done well thanks to a shift in consumer preferences to quality composite decking products.
“We are going leaps and bounds with our Permadeck decking and that’s largely because we are offering a really quality product that performs,” he explains.
“People want security around what they purchase and I think we can offer that and if there is any question about a product generally not performing up to someone’s expectation we’ll go out of our way to meet their expectation and put it right.”
Whether he is actually taking any market share from his competitors Nees isn’t sure and suggests that it’s organic growth which has helped Permadeck pick up some major national contracts that is probably the most likely factor.
This growth seems to have done well for Firth as well with Firth Architectural Consultant, Bernice Cummings, reporting big uptake in the last 12 months of masonry paving in large formats and going down with consumer trends going toward square rather than rectangular shapes.
CHANGES PERMEATING THE MARKET?
One of the more interesting areas of development in paving is in permeable products such as Firth’s EcoPave system that allow water to run into the ground below, thus reducing pressure on stormwater systems.
The main factor behind the new demand for permeable products comes from recent, and ongoing, legal changes in the requirements around permeable hard surfaces.
Lynn Cairney of Auckland’s Fusion Landscape Designers welcomes the changes: “With the new Unitary Plan, Auckland Council is now accepting a lot of Acceptable Solutions for permeable hard surfaces.
“Suppliers have been fighting them for years and they have never been accepted, but now they have. So that is allowing people with very small sections and very big houses to have a lot more hard surface in outside spaces than they could before,” she explains.
“So there is a lot more opportunity for somebody to put in a nice patio area. And, as a designer you’re able to specify a permeable surface as it doesn’t count in the impermeable calculations which have to come to around 40% of the property.”
Landscaper Adam Evans of Urbis landscapes has also been kept very busy keeping up with the changes which have opened up new options for many of his clients.
“Every job you do has to take permeability into consideration. We are doing a job right now where we have to use StoneSet, a resin-bound gravel paving surface, rather than concrete because the clients are pushing over their permeability limit.”
Landscape designer Dee McQuillan of Ivy & Bloom has also welcomed the Unitary Plan’s changes around permeability as they have seriously opened up options for indoor-outdoor flow for designers and home owners.
“It depends on how your section is categorised but there is generally a lot more awareness of what’s happening on the site and how much space you need to allow for outdoor living and permeability.
“And that’s encouraging some clever design as well as just encouraging people to think about how you can create useable liveable space without concrete or decking,” she says.
Even decking has been impacted, with the new laws creating more flexibility about what constitutes a permeable deck within a range of variables including height, materials and zoning areas a move that is surely good news for plenty of players in the hardware channel.
You can find out more about what Auckland Council currently counts as permeable in the shortened links below.
FROM HARD TO “SOFT” LANDSCAPING…
To get a perspective from a big retail player in outdoor furniture, I spoke to Mitre 10’s Category Manager for Outdoor Living, Jared Bernard.
Looking at how trends have progressed in recent years, his main observation is that the outdoor category has followed close on the heel of interior trends with more product options becoming available that have been readily snapped up by consumers and mixed and matched in interesting ways.
He says: “10 years ago the concept of an outdoor lounge setting was a fairly foreign concept so the current trends in outdoor come from a customer desire to move away from the purely functional towards spaces that they can enjoy.
“For example, there’s a focus on luxury materials in outdoor furniture whereas previously the only question a consumer would ask would be ‘how long will it last?’”
And, while Jared Bernard stresses that durability is still important it is now just one of a few key components that go into a quality product offering.
One aspect that Mitre 10 has focused on in its new outdoor catalogue is the ability to mix and match chairs, tables, umbrellas and other items with different finishes and materials from other sets.
This flexibility follows on from current trends in interior decorating that eschew matchy-matchy minimalism for eclectic mixes of pattern, texture and colour, itself a flow-through from the fashion industry.
“There’s this idea of rules in this category that is antiquated really. So we feel the customer should be able create their own look and we’ll be right there with them to offer whatever they like pretty much,” he says.
So far, consumers do seem to be responding very well to Mitre 10’s expanded outdoor options. I asked Jared Bernard if his consumers were typically planning larger projects or just replacing older sets for summer?
“We get both. There is still some reactive behaviour in terms of someone just wanting to do some work or have an event this weekend but we do offer a really decent range so we definitely see more long term behaviour also,” Bernard explains.
“You’d expect, for example, that we would sell a very small amount in the off-season but we actually get customers coming in in winter and working with us to upgrade outdoor areas either as part of a planned build or as part of a planned landscaping for the upcoming summer.”
Permadeck Deckorators Vault Decking
New to Permadeck is Deckorators Vault Decking. This American-made composite decking product is described as “a giant leap forward in wood-alternative decking” and is completely waterproof with one of the highest power to weight ratios and slip resistance levels in the market. It’s scratch resistant, won’t stain or fade, is unaffected by moisture, sun or microbes and has a very low thermal expansion and contraction rate. This strong, lightweight and stable product is currently available from Permadeck in grey and teak in 5.8 metre lengths and comes with 25-year structural, removal and replacement and stain and fade warranties.
PlaceMakers’ new landscaping catalogue
PlaceMakers’ new landscaping catalogue features a greater range of products than previous years and also puts greater focus on showing these products in situ. PlaceMakers’ Gary Woodhouse feels the new catalogue showcases the company’s products ranges and what they can offer consumers better than ever: “It’s about helping customers make better decisions and also to be able to try to get some inspiration. Because typically a customer might look at the traditional paving, a bit of planting or replacing a deck so we’re trying to show them that there’s a whole lot more to it than just those traditional starting points.”
LawnMaster goes Lithium
The new Steelfort LawnMaster Lithium outdoor power range rivals any petrol tool in terms of power, economy and reliability. Each LawnMaster Lithium tool is powered by an interchangeable high density 58V battery, giving you more power with less of the bulk. The battery is smaller, lighter and easier to handle. This universal power source can be conveniently swapped between each unit so you can finish the job, when you’re on the job. A highlight is the LB 010002 20-inch mower with a steel deck, 27-75mm cut height, no-load run time of 80 minutes, and 55 Litre catcher.
New to Firth and proving very popular is Firth Flowpave, part of Firth’s EcoPave Permeable Paving range. These permeable systems help to reduce storm water run-off, allowing water to filter through to the underlying drainage system. Firth Flowpave features nib spacers that create wide gaps around paver to allow water drainage offering a permeability rate of 5500 mm/hr and are an ideal solution for light to medium residential traffic areas including carparks and driveways.
LIANZ releases five-year plan
Aiming high and looking to the future, the landscaping professionals’ peak organisation Landscaping New Zealand (LIANZ) has shared its five year targets from a new plan that is before the strategic board. The KPIs currently approved include:
Entry forms and information have also been made available for the 2018 Landscapes of Distinction Awards that will be judged early next year.
Tough? Yates proves it!
Yates has been working busily behind the scenes on the next innovation for the Yates Zero weed killer range – Yates Zero Tough heavy duty weed killer – which was launched in Autumn this year.
Confident that it had the best tough weed killer ready-to-use spray on the market, Yates commissioned Eurofins Agroscience Services in Hastings to conduct independent trials.
Ivy, Wandering Trad and Gorse were treated with Yates Zero Tough weed killer and two key NZ competitor tough weed killers in a greenhouse (average air temperature of 13°C), over a 31-day period commencing 25 July 2017.
Check out the graphs to see how Zero Tough performed. Yates is proud of the results and confident retailers can stand behind Zero Tough when recommending it to customers.
Mitre 10’s outdoor furniture trend insights
Mitre 10’s outdoor living range for the summer 2018 season comprises versatile furniture, barbeques, umbrellas, outdoor heating, lighting and accessories.
Mitre 10’s General Manager Marketing, Jules Lloyd-Jones, shares insight into the emerging trends that have shaped this year’s range.
“One key trend is the desire to extend the indoor lounge look outside, so that outdoor spaces can be more broadly used with greater integration of accessories such as plush cushions, outdoor rugs and throws to create a cosier more inviting space.
“Natural, softer lighting and ambience is becoming more important too. Functional spotlights while still popular are increasingly being swapped out for hanging more decorative solar lights, braziers which also add warmth, lanterns and candles.
“In terms of textiles, we’re also seeing more use and incorporation of natural materials and rustic textures such as woven rope, bamboo and wicker. A popular trend is to mix these age-old materials with modern materials and design.
“For colours, while grey tones are still popular as are the more muted natural tones such as creams and whites, we’re seeing a greater use of more vibrant colours as well as patterns.
“Durable and low maintenance furniture remains important to Kiwis, so aluminium and wicker-look settings continue to be popular choices.
“Comfort is also becoming more of a priority, with preference for deep seats and plush cushioning. These advances in fabric technology giving better quality fabrics like Olefin means customers can enjoy more luxurious feeling cushions which also last longer.”