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Exporting garden pots to Europe

Takes about 16 minutes to read

The European market for garden pots is growing, as European consumers are connecting with nature. The United Kingdom, Germany and France are especially interesting target markets, with large numbers of hobby gardeners. The relatively new mid to high-end segments offer you good opportunities. To supply these segments, you need to focus on decoration, craftsmanship and premium materials. Sustainability can also add value to your garden pots.


1 . Product description

Garden pots (or planters) are containers to cultivate and display flowers, plants and vegetables in. They come in all shapes, sizes, colours and materials. European consumers outside cities place garden pots on porches, front steps and in gardens, while in urban settings they use them in small gardens, on balconies, rooftops, or inside the home.

Tip:

  • For more information about outdoor home decoration, see our special study on the garden.

Quality

Functionality

Garden pots need to allow effective water circulation to keep the plants healthy and the soil fertile. Sizes need to provide the plant’s roots enough space to create a good airflow.

Material

Various materials can be used for garden pots, such as terracotta, plastic, wood, stone, metal and biodegradable materials. To facilitate shopping, transport and garden makeovers, garden pots should be easy to carry and move around. This makes lightweight materials popular.

Design

Garden pots needs to respond to trends in indoor and outdoor decoration, because design features such as shape and decoration matter. Oval and round shapes dominate, but rectangular and other shapes are used depending on whether styles are more expressive or minimalist.

Garden pots are in a competitive, price-sensitive segment, and planter design also needs to maximise container space. For that reason, pots are often designed with their packaging and the overall loadability of the container in mind.

Durability

Garden pots are generally an outdoor product. They need to withstand changes in weather, ranging from high levels of sun to rain and snow. Wooden containers may need annual treatment with a preservative or stain to retain their appearance and prevent deterioration.

Labelling

  • Information on the outer packaging of garden pots should correspond to the packing list sent to the importer.
  • External packaging labels for garden pots should include the producer, consignee, material, quantity, size, volume, country of origin and caution signs. They should also show the number of pieces, bale/box identification, total number of bales or boxes, and net and gross weight.
  • EAN or barcodes on the product label are common in Europe.
  • Your buyer will specify what information they need on the product labels or on the item itself, such as logos or “made in…” information. This is part of the order specifications.
  • Use the English language for labelling, unless your buyer indicates otherwise.

Packaging

Importer specification

You should pack garden pots according to the importer’s instructions. They have their own specific requirements for the use of packaging materials, filling boxes, palletisation and stowing containers. Always ask for the importer’s order specifications. These are part of the purchase order.

Damage prevention

Properly packaging garden pots minimises the risk of damage by shocks. How an item is packaged for export depends on how easily it can be damaged. Packaging should ensure the items inside a cardboard box cannot damage each other. It should also prevent damage to the boxes when they are stacked inside the container. Packaging therefore usually consists of outer and inner cardboard boxes filled with protective materials like bubble wrap or paper.

Dimensions and weight

Packaging must be of easy-to-handle dimensions and weight. Standards are often related to labour regulations at the point of destination, specified by the buyer. Boxes are usually palletised for air or sea transport. Make maximum use of pallet space.

Cost reduction

Nesting or stacking garden pots inside the container reduces costs. While packing has to provide maximum protection, you must also avoid using excess materials or shipping “air”. Waste removal is a cost to buyers.

Material

Importers are increasingly banning wooden crating and packaging due to their unsustainability and high material and disposal costs. Economical and sustainable packaging materials are more popular. Using biodegradable packing materials can be a market opportunity. For some buyers, it can even be a demand.

Mould prevention

Wooden garden pots can mould or crack, so you need to properly dry the wood after production. Condensation inside the container during transport can cause mould, due to humid air becoming colder at night and warmer during the day. You need proper air ventilation inside the container to prevent this. Before shipment, you must inspect containers for air holes. You can also place products to reduce humidity amongst the cargo. Make sure to follow the importer’s instructions.

2 . Which European markets offer opportunities for exporters of garden pots?

There are no relevant trade or production data available garden pots. According to industry experts, China and Vietnam are leading suppliers of garden pots, with German and Dutch traders dominating distribution across Europe.

The European market for gardening products like garden pots is expected to continue growing in the coming years. The main European markets for garden pots are the United Kingdom, Germany and France. The majority of adults in these countries have access to their own outdoor space. Many of them are active gardeners.

Tips:

  • Study your options in the United Kingdom, Germany and France.
  • Compare your products and company to the competition from China and Vietnam. You can use ITC Trademap to find exporters per country. You can compare on market segment, price, quality and target countries.

What is the effect of real private consumption expenditure on European demand?

  • Private consumption expenditure is an important indicator for the European home decoration market. The sector is closely linked to economic conditions. When money is tight, consumers postpone buying non-essential items until they have enough disposable income.
  • Between 2017 and 2019, European private consumption expenditure is expected to increase, so consumption of decorative products is likely to rise. Especially in emerging markets, consumers will have more money available to spend on decorating the home. Consumers in mature markets already spend a fair amount of money on decoration, so growth in their consumption will be moderate.

3 . What trends offer opportunities on the European market for garden pots?

Closer to nature

European consumers are embracing the pleasures of the garden. They enjoy their outdoor space both passively (for example sunbathing and reading) and actively (like gardening, socialising with friends and family). Garden pots have an important role to play, both indoors and outdoors. They add instant nature and decoration, and allow consumers to grow decorative plants and food crops.

Flexibility

Consumers can use plants in pots as a type of screen divider, to create flexible spaces. Moving garden pots around can create a secluded and private space, or a public area for socialising. This lets consumers realise a mini makeover of their outdoor space, just like they would indoors. Plants in garden pots also allow consumers to enjoy tropical species, which they can move indoors when seasons change.

Tip:

  • Design your pots to be suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. Use durable and lightweight materials, as well as specific finishes to allow for outdoor use.

Material innovation

Garden pots come in a wide range of materials. Innovation is driven by consumer demand for lightweight garden pots, trend-sensitive mid-market consumers and the increasing decoration of the garden.

Tips:

  • Experiment with new materials, combinations of materials and semi-industrial production to offer increased convenience and different finishes.
  • Optimise your production to achieve economies of scale, improve your sourcing capabilities and lower material cost whilst broadening your offer.

Interest in sustainability is increasing

Sustainability is a continuing trend on the European home decoration market, including in the garden. Green values give the consumer status and may give you a competitive advantage. Garden pots of natural materials fit in well with this trend. Manufacturers can improve sustainability through the purchase and use of raw materials, production, distribution, use in the market and waste disposal.

Related to this is the strong trend in Europe to buy local. European-produced garden pots offer lower transport emissions and costs, as well as greater control over quality and logistics. Traditionally, Italy, France and Portugal have had strong traditions in the production of terracotta pottery. Recently Eastern European countries are coming up in supplying industrially produced planters for the garden. 

Tips:

  • Clearly communicate the added value of your “green” alternatives to the importer, to ensure that the message comes across at retail level.
  • Investigate greener (renewable, biodegradable or recycled) raw materials for your garden pots. When innovating, keep in mind that some composites that are lightweight and offer greater design flexibility have a large carbon footprint (climate change impact).
  • Clean up your production process, for example by managing energy, water and waste. This can save costs, help the environment and provide better working conditions for producers and workers.
  • Look for reductions in transport volume and costs. As transport is a big issue in the garden pot segment, all reductions help both planet and profits.

Continuous segmentation

Garden pots are traditionally low and mid-low market products, varying from widely appealing design, to trend and price-sensitive garden pots. However, consumers increasingly consider their garden an extension of their living room. They want to decorate, distinguish themselves and express their own taste in their garden. As a result, garden pots are now moving into the mid and high-end market segments as well.

Tips:

  • For the low-end (volume) market, you need to (further) optimise production and increase product quality. This boosts customer satisfaction, as they receive more value for money.
  • To target mid-market segments, you need to study the popular styles. Offer garden pots that let consumers create a contemporary, romantic or nostalgic atmosphere in the garden.
  • To appeal to the high-end market segments, offer “statement” items using premium materials and techniques, design and functionality. Respond to consumers’ need to use the garden as a platform to express themselves, their level of taste or their social status.

The inner garden

Boundaries between interior and exterior decoration are blurring and values merging. The garden has also literally moved indoors. Consumers have an increasing need to be surrounded by green. Houseplants are more popular than ever, especially evergreen and hardy plants with strong sculptural forms that require a minimal amount of care. The office has followed suit and here too a green environment is advocated a as way to stimulate productivity.

As plants are gaining in popularity, so are garden pots. Large pots are placed on the floor and clustered to create a mini forest. The windowsill is filled with pots, as are the kitchen, bathroom, study and bedroom. Urban consumers also keep their plants in spaces like balcony gardens, square-foot gardens, instant gardens and mini-conservatories.

Tips:

  • Extend your collections with indoor garden pots. Study the trends in product design and adopt them for your indoor plant pots.
  • Determine your options to target urban citizens, a market segment that demands clever solutions.

For more information, see our study about trends for Home Decoration & Home Textiles and our special study about the garden.

4 . With which requirements must garden pots comply to be allowed on the European market?

With which legal and non-legal requirements must your product comply?

General product safety

The European Union’s General Product Safety Directive applies to all consumer products, including garden pots. It states that all products marketed in Europe must be safe to use.

Tips:

  • Read more about the General Product Safety Directive.
  • Use your common sense to ensure normal use of your product does not cause any danger.
  • The RAPEX database lists products that the European Union has rejected at the border or withdrawn from the market. Check the database for similar products for an idea of what issues may arise.

Packaging legislation

Europe has specific packaging and packaging waste legislation. It for instance restricts the use of certain heavy metals. Europe also has requirements for wood packaging materials (WPM) used for transport, such as packing cases, boxes, crates, drums, (box) pallets and dunnage.

Restricted chemicals: REACH

The REACH regulation lists restricted chemicals in products that are marketed in Europe. For example, REACH restricts the use of:

  • lead in the paints and glazing of ceramics
  • cadmium compounds in various applications
  • arsenic and creosotes as wood preservatives.

Tip:

Wildlife Trade Regulations and the Timber Regulation

The Wildlife Trade Regulations restricts the international trade in specimens of wild animals, plants and derived wildlife products. This is the European Union’s strict implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). According to the Timber Regulation, you must prove any timber used was harvested legally. This also applies to wooden garden pots. Products with a FLEGT or CITES licence comply with the Timber Regulation.

Tips:

What additional requirements do buyers often have?

Sustainability

Social and environmental sustainability make your products stand out on the European market. Consider sustainable raw materials and production processes. European buyers increasingly demand the following certification schemes:

  • Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI): European retailers developed this initiative to improve social conditions in sourcing countries. They expect their suppliers to comply with the BSCI Code of Conduct. To prove compliance, the importer can request an audit of your production process. Once a company has been audited, it is included in a database for all BSCI participants.
  • Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI): This initiative is an alliance of companies, trade unions and voluntary organisations. It aims to improve the working lives of people across the globe who make or grow consumer goods.

You can use standards such as ISO 14001 and SA 8000 to read up on sustainable options. However, only niche market buyers demand compliance with such standards.

Tips:

  • Optimise your sustainability performance. Reading up on the issues included in the initiatives will give you an idea of what to focus on.
  • Buyers appreciate a good story. If you can show that you value your company’s environmental and/or social performance, this may be a competitive advantage. Consider a self-assessment like the BSCI Self-Assessment for Producers, or a code of conduct such as the BSCI Code of Conduct or the ETI base code.
  • For more information, see our special study on sustainability.

What are the requirements for niche markets?

Fair trade

The concept of fair trade supports fair pricing and improved social conditions for producers and their communities. Especially when the production of your garden pots is labour-intensive, fair trade certification can give you a competitive advantage.

Common fair trade certifications are from:

Tips:

  • Ask buyers what they are looking for. Especially in the fair trade sector, you can use the story behind your product for marketing purposes.
  • Check the ITC Standards map database for more information on voluntary standards and their requirements, including fair production.

FSC certification

FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification is the most common label for sustainable wooden products, including wooden garden pots. The FSC label guarantees that a product’s source material comes from responsibly managed forests. These products are especially popular in Western European markets.

Tip:

Crystalline Silica in ceramics

Respirable crystalline silica (RCS) can cause lung cancer through inhalation. The ceramics industry mostly uses crystalline silica in the form of quartz and cristobalite. Although European legislation cannot regulate working conditions in non-European countries, European buyers care about worker safety. They may demand good handling of crystalline silica during production.

For more information, see our study about buyer requirements for Home Decoration & Home Textiles.

5 . What competition do you face on the European garden pot market?

The competition for garden pots does not differ significantly from the sector in general. See our study about competition for Home Decoration for a general overview. Also refer to our 10 tips for doing business with European buyers.

6 . Through what channels can you get garden pots on the European market?

The market channels and segments for garden pots do not differ significantly from the sector in general. See our study about market channels and segments for Home Decoration & Home Textiles for a general overview.

Market channels

In the European market, garden pots are commonly distributed both off- and online through garden centres, DIY outlets, florists and general home decor retailers.

E-commerce

E-commerce in home decoration is increasing and can help you reach a broader range of customers. Retailers often combine online and offline channels. Consumers research and purchase products online, shopping around and comparing prices on home decoration items. To supply e‑commerce retailers you must be able to work with individual packing and labelling, as well as limited minimum orders.

Tips:

Trade associations and fairs

The following trade associations and fairs are useful sources for finding trading partners in Europe.

  • Ambiente, Frankfurt, February
  • Cerame-Unie (European Ceramic Industry Association), represents the European Federation of Ceramic Tableware and Ornamental Ware (FEPF)
  • Maison et Objet, Paris, January (main event) and September
  • Spoga + gafa, Cologne, August (specifically for the garden)

Market segments

The European market for garden pots is extremely segmented. Supermarkets, DYI outlets and garden centres sell low-priced, basic, undistinguished pots. The mid-end segments supply more decorative products, whereas high-end segments offer premium materials, design and craftsmanship. There are opportunities for you, especially in the higher-end markets if you add value with high quality design and materials.

7 . What are the end-market prices for garden pots?

There is a wide price range within the European market for garden pots, as the product itself is widely varied. Prices depend on material, size, design, as well as complexity and additional features.

Table 2 gives an overview of the prices of ceramic and wooden garden pots in the low, middle and high market segments.

Table 2: Indicative consumer prices of garden pots

  Low-end Middle-end high-end
Garden pots € 15–50 € 50–150 € 150–375

Consumer prices depend on the value perception by the consumer in a particular segment. This is influenced by your marketing mix: product benefits, promotion (brand or not, communication of product benefits), points of sale (reseller positioning), and a matching price. For consumers shopping at a garden centre, price expectations are different from those at a premium department store.

Shipping, import and handling add 25% to the price of your garden pots. Wholesalers account for a further 100% markup. Finally, retailers may add another 100–150% to the price.

Tips:

  • The value perception of your product in the chosen segment determines its price. The quality and price of your garden pots must match what is expected in your chosen target segment. To determine your price, study consumer prices in your target segment and adjust your cost accordingly.
  • Understand your segment. Offer a correct marketing mix to meet consumer expectations. Adapt your business model to your position in the market.

Please review our market information disclaimer.

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