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Exporting watering cans to Europe

Takes about 22 minutes to read

Future market prospects are positive for watering cans. As the boundaries between interior and exterior decoration have blurred, the garden has become more popular than ever. This has prompted consumers to invest in gardening tools as well as watering cans. Therefore, watering cans are worth an investment in product development for those who are already in, and for those who are not. If you are already working in metal-based gardening tools or garden accessories, a foray into watering cans seems a good choice.


1 . Product description

A watering can is a portable container, usually with a handle and a spout, used to water plants by hand. At the end of the spout, often a cap with small holes is placed to break up the stream of water into droplets, to avoid excessive water pressure on the soil or on delicate plants. The capacity of the container can range from 0.5 litres for indoor household plants to 10 litres for general garden use. Watering cans are usually made of metal, ceramic or plastic. Today, watering cans do not only have a convenience function, but they also add a personal, decorative touch that no hose or sprinkler can give.

Outdoor and indoor watering cans belong to the category of ‘gardening’ in Home and Garden collections, and are found under the product group of ‘gardening tools and equipment’. Refer to Annex I for the classification of watering cans.

Quality

  • Functionality: watering cans need to be functional:
    • Spout: narrow-spout watering cans are good for use indoors to pinpoint water flow near the base of the plant and not onto another surface. Wide spout watering cans are good for outdoor use to more quickly saturate the ground around the plant. Watering cans may come with a removable sprinkle or rose attachment to gently disperse water around the plant.
    • Handle: small watering cans have one handle, while larger cans need two handles or a single long handle that wraps from the side across the fill opening on top to provide balance and control while pouring. Ergonomic handles offer more comfort to the user.
    • Fill capacity: the large capacity watering can means fewer trips to refill, but greater weight of the can when filled. Larger cans may also be too tall to fit beneath an external faucet, meaning a hose would be needed to fill them.
  • Material: cans made of galvanised steel can weigh several pounds empty. Heavy cans can offer more value, as they are less likely to be blown away on windy days compared to lightweight plastic cans. Ceramic, glass or copper watering containers are also available but are best looked upon as a decorative piece since they are more susceptible to breakage or finish tarnishing. 
  • Aesthetic quality: on top of its functional qualities, the watering can has become a decorative piece of home decoration, both for in- and outdoors. It needs to appeal to different market segments, with different aesthetic requirements in terms of material, shape and decoration.

Labelling

  • Information on the outer packaging of watering cans should correspond to the packing list sent to the importer. Labels for watering cans on the outer box should include the following information:
    • Producer
    • Consignee
    • Material used
    • Quantity
    • Size
    • Volume
    • Caution signs
  • On the product label, EAN or Barcodes are widely used within Europe.
  • Please note, your buyer will specify what information they need on product labels or on the item itself (logos, 'made in..'). This forms part of the order specifications.
  • Use the English language for labelling unless your buyer has indicated otherwise.

Packing and packaging

  • Watering cans should be packed in agreement with the importer’s instructions. Every importer will have their own specific requirements related to the use of packing materials, the filling of cartons, palletisation, and the stowing of containers. Always ask for the importer’s order specifications, which are part of the purchase order.
  • Proper packing of watering cans can minimise the risk of damaging through shocks. The fragility determines the packing of the products for export. Packing should prevent individual items inside a carton from damaging each other and the cartons themselves when they are stacked inside the container. Packing therefore usually consists of inner and outer cardboard boxes, with appropriate materials to protect the products inside the inner boxes (this may involve materials such as bubble wrap or paper, depending on the preferences of the buyer).
  • Packing needs to be of easy-to-handle dimensions and weight. Standards here are often related to labour regulations at point of destination and will have to be specified by the buyer. Cartons are usually palletised for air or sea transport and exporters are requested to maximise pallet space.
  • Cost reductions can be achieved by nesting the items inside the container.
  • In packing materials, the balance is between using maximum protection and avoiding excess materials (waste removal is a cost to buyers) or shipping ‘air’. Exporters can reduce the amount and diversity of packing materials by:
    • partitioning inside the cartons with the help of folded cardboard,
    • matching inner boxes and outer cartons better and standardising the sizes of each,
    • by considering packing and logistical requirements already at the design stage of the products
    • asking their buyer for alternatives.
  • In terms of material, wooden crating and packing are increasingly banned by importers. This is a result of their unsustainability and high cost of the material and disposal. Alternative packing materials that are economical and sustainable are more popular. Using biodegradable materials in packing may form a market opportunity or can be demanded by buyers.
  • Consumer packaging usually does not take place with watering cans, but can boost a manufacturer’s brand’s image.

2 . Which European markets offer opportunities for exporters of watering cans?

(!) Please note that data presented below only gives an indication of production and consumption data of watering cans. Figures below cover a wide product range including tanks, casks, drums, cans, boxes of iron or steel, capacity less than 50 litres. Therefore, care should be taken when drawing conclusions based on the figure below.

European imports of watering cans are increasing. Although most imports originate from European countries, the share of developing country imports is growing. Europe’s main importers of watering cans are:

  • Germany
  • France
  • The United Kingdom

Their strong markets for developing countries makes them especially interesting focus countries. Emerging markets Poland and the Czech Republic may also prove interesting in the future. Although their imports from developing countries are currently low, their expected increase in private consumption expenditure is promising.

Imports

Source: Trademap (2015)

* This figure covers cover a wide product range including tanks, casks, drums, cans, boxes of iron or steel, capacity less than 50 litres.

Source: Trademap (2015)

* This figure covers cover a wide product range including tanks, casks, drums, cans, boxes of iron or steel, capacity less than 50 litres.

Source: Trademap (2015)

* This figure covers cover a wide product range including tanks, casks, drums, cans, boxes of iron or steel, capacity less than 50 litres.

  • European watering can imports increased from € 8.1 billion in 2011 to € 9.9 billion in 2015. The average annual growth rate was 5.0%.
  • In the coming years, European imports are expected to keep growing at this rate.
  • European imports of watering cans from Developing Countries amounted to € 764 million in 2015. With that, their share of European imports was 19%.
  • This share is predicted to increase slightly in the coming years.
  • Germany is Europe’s leading importer of watering cans, with € 2.0 billion in 2015. France and the United Kingdom follow with € 1.1 billion and € 722 million respectively.
  • These countries are also leading when it comes to imports from Developing Countries. Germany with € 397 million, France and the United Kingdom follow with € 249 million and € 247 million respectively. This is 19%, 23% and 34% of their total imports.
  • Imports from Developing Countries grew strongly between 2011 and 2015. Especially in Germany and the United Kingdom and these imports increased considerably, with € 142 million and € 85 million respectively.
  • Eastern European countries Poland and the Czech Republic are Europe’s fourth and sixth largest importers of watering cans. The share of developing country suppliers in these imports is much lower than Europe’s average, at 12% and 6.9% respectively.
  • Developed countries dominate European watering can imports. China is also an important European supplier, with 17% in 2015. With 6.1%, the Czech Republic’s relatively cheap production can be strong competition for suppliers from developing countries.

Tips:

  • Focus on Germany, the United Kingdom and France. Their large imports from developing countries make them interesting markets.
  • Compare your products and company to the strong competition from China, as well as Eastern European countries like the Czech Republic. You can use ITC Trademap to find exporters per country. You can compare:
    • market segment
    • price
    • quality
    • target countries

Source: Trademap (2015)

* This figure covers cover a wide product range including tanks, casks, drums, cans, boxes of iron or steel, capacity less than 50 litres.

  • European watering can exports consist mainly of trade within Europe.
  • Germany is Europe’s leading watering can exporter with € 261 million. Italy follows with € 246 million.

Production and consumption

  • European production of and demand for watering cans are balanced. However because there are also significant exports, there is a shortage on the market that drives imports. These increasing imports and exports make Europe an interesting market for watering cans.
  • Since 2011, European watering can production has been fairly stable around € 2.3 billion.
  • In the same period, European watering can consumption was also fairly stable around € 2.3 billion.
  • With € 708 million, Italy is responsible for 31% of European watering can production. Germany follows with € 364 million.
  • European watering can consumption is also highest in Italy and Germany, at € 520 million and € 347 million respectively.

Source: Eurostat

  • 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 2015 and 2017, European private consumption expenditure is expected to increase. This means that consumption of luxury and decorative products is likely to rise. Especially in emerging markets, consumers will have more money available to spend on these products. Consumers in mature markets already spend a fair amount of money on luxury, so growth in their consumption will be moderate.

3 . What trends offer opportunities on the European market for watering cans?

Leisure time in nature: Watering cans are in the spotlight in the wake of the renewed popularity of plant care as a way to spend one’s leisure time actively. This takes place indoors, with the plants and flowers in pots and vases, as well as outdoors, in the garden or on the balcony.

Part of this trend is the consumer’s desire to grow his/her own food in the garden or the balcony- or windowsill mini-version. Growing one’s own vegetables and herbs is seen as a more sustainable and healthier option than going to the grocery store. Moreover, the status effect of presenting your home-grown crops at the table is an even bigger incentive for modern consumers. This fuels the need to fill the garden shed with sufficient tools to do the work in all its facets. Therefore, tools for cultivation, maintenance, disposal and composting all need to be there. 

Tips:

  • A healthy product group, in a healthy gardening category, watering cans are worth an investment in product development. If you are already working in metal-based gardening tools or garden accessories, a foray into watering cans seems a good choice. For newcomers, the garden is a promising category, with plenty of opportunity in its various product groups.
  • Study trends in gardening as a leisure-time activity in Europe, especially by following garden magazines and TV programs, which are promoting further consumer interest in the categories of hobby and gardening.

The inner garden: As the boundaries between interior and exterior decoration have blurred and values merged, the garden has also moved inside. As a symbolic translation of this movement inside, gardening gives the consumer the sensation of being close to nature. Especially in urban settings, this is a valued experience. It has resulted in the consumer’s need to be surrounded by chamber plants and cut flowers, which are more popular than ever. This has prompted them to invest in gardening tools as well as watering cans.

Tip:

Continuous segmentation: Watering cans are essentially mid-market items, especially as they are usually reasonably priced. However, this mid-market segment is sub-segmented in quite a number of positionings, catering for different consumer needs. These do stretch the segment into lower-mid, mid-mid and mid-high, based on the design value provided. Examples are:

  • The hobby gardener will opt for a traditional watering can design, with a normal shape and a spout with removable sprinkle rose. Not too expensive, mid-low to mid-high.
  • The decorative watering can – romantic style, trendy colours, mid-mid.
  • Kids’ watering can – colourful, miniature, and often figurative. Kids’ items can be more or less price-sensitive depending on who is targeted as making the purchase (parents will be more price-focused than the grandparents), mid-mid.
  • The professional watering can – a professional instrument, ergonomic, durable, lightweight. Often, this type of consumer will have a selection of loose sprinkle roses for specialist jobs. This is the professional gardener or aspiring amateurs, mid-high.
  • The ‘designer’ watering can, usually in a novelty shape; often branded, mid-high.
  • Fun, always a good proposition for any home decor item in the EU. Also for watering cans.

Tips:

  • Consider the on-going stratification of the product group of watering cans as an opportunity for strategic marketing, by specialising on one or more positioning, or develop new sub-segments based on new target groups (such as the elderly, office plant care, or the nouveau riche). Your marketing mix (product, value, distribution and communication) will differ slightly for each positioning, bearing in mind that pricing will remain firmly mid-market.
  • Those focusing on decorative watering cans need to respond to the leading styles in home decoration in mid-market, such as the romantic, nostalgic or rustic styles. This necessitates a constant awareness of the market trends in home decor generally in these styles. Websites of leading wholesalers and retailers offering the styles, as well as trade fairs are useful sources to stay abreast of trends and developments.
  • Exporters offering professional gardening cans may need to select specific, specialised trade fairs and distributors for the promotion of their products. This may take some more researching, but prices can be at the higher end of the spectrum for this product group.
  • Consider extending your product assortment by offering watering cans and gardening sets for kids. These can range from toy-like items to genuine imitations of the adults’ tools. Since the market for children’s toys is extremely regulated to avoid any hazards in use, your market access regulations will be many and stringent. Study them well.
  • Ignore the small urban garden at your peril. The balcony garden, the square-foot garden, the instant garden, the mini-conservatory – they are all here to suit the urban consumer looking for increased wellness through plants and flowers. Clever solutions are demanded for this market segment. Develop outdoor and indoor versions of your watering cans, also to avoid the seasonality of outdoor watering cans.

From Green Fingers to Green Tools: The European consumer increasingly feels like they’re part of an intricately interconnected eco-system. Care and cultivation of plants and flower are experienced as a small step towards a more healthy and sustainable planet, stimulating greater biodiversity. Whilst the activity is green, the industry has not embraced the notion of making the gardening tools much greener. Main materials in watering cans are still synthetics and only rarely strategies involving the three Rs (recycle, re-use, and reduce) are seen.

Tips:

  • There seems room for green innovations in this product group. Think about how you can add sustainable values to your watering cans, in terms of environmentally- and human-friendly materials and processes. Price differentials are usually not based on green value, but if the design is also attractive, you can move mid-high in this product group.
  • Be aware that cleaning up production can also save cost, and as such boost a positioning in the watering can group, which is a mid-market item.
  • Consider fairtrade as a way to differentiate. Fairtrade distributers are already offering garden accessories and tools, and the watering can certainly has a place in this segment.
  • Consider certification when it adds value to the products in the segment of your choice.
  • Developing country exporters interested in developing green or fairtrade collections are invited to contact CBI, who have developed Sustainable Design and fairtrade coaching programs.
  • You can read more about this trend in our studies on Garden Pots and Bird Houses.

4 . What requirements should watering cans comply with in order to be allowed on the European market?

Figure 6: Buyer requirements for watering cans

water_cans_0.png

Legal requirements

General product safety: the General Product Safety Directive (GPSD) applies to all consumer products. It states that all products marketed in the European Union should be safe to use and forms a framework for all specific legislation on specific products and issues.

Tips:

  • Study the specific legal requirements listed but also use your common sense to ensure the product does not cause any danger in its normal use. Most buyers will require proof of the developing country exporter of compliance to legal requirements. You can read more about the General Product Safety Directive in the EU Export Helpdesk.
  • Check the rapid alert system for non-food dangerous products (RAPEX), a database with information on safety risks in consumer products notified by European countries and the measures taken to alleviate these risks.

Additional requirements

Sustainability: social and environmental sustainability offer ways for companies to differentiate their products on the European market. Opportunities range from sustainable raw materials, production, certification and use of labels (see Niche requirements). The following certification schemes are increasingly demanded by buyers:

  • The Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) has been developed by European retailers to improve social conditions in sourcing countries. Suppliers of BSCI participants are expected to comply with the BSCI Code of conduct, which can be proved with an audit at the request of the importer.
  • The Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) is a code of conduct developed to improve the working lives of people across the globe that make or grow consumer goods. ETI is particularly common in the United Kingdom.
  • Standards such as ISO 14001 and SA 8000 can be used to meet buyer demands for sustainability. However, only in niche markets compliance with these specific standards will be demanded.

Tips:

  • You can expect that compliance with the BSCI and ETI Codes of Conduct will be seen as a basic requirement as more and more European importers participate.
  • Look into the possibilities for improving your performance in sustainability. Even if immediate compliance with certifications is beyond your scope, familiarising yourself with issues included in these will give you an idea of what to focus on regarding sustainability.
  • For more information on sustainability, please refer to CBI Trend Special Sustainability in the Home Sector.

Niche requirements

Fairtrade products: Among the niche initiatives, the ‘fair trade’ concept, which supports fair pricing and improved social conditions for producers and their communities, is the best-known scheme, with a relatively large market presence (across various sectors). Forms of fair trade certification are available from bodies such as the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO), Fairtrade International or IMO Fair For Life.

Tips:

  • Ask buyers what they are looking for and possibly look for collaboration with a company in the fair trade segment to use the story behind the product for marketing purposes.
  • Please refer to the ITC Standards map database for more information on different voluntary standards and their requirements, including fair production.

5 . What competition do I face on the European market for watering cans?

Please refer to CBI Home Decoration Field of Competition, as the competitive field for watering cans does not differ significantly from this general overview.

6 . Through which channels can you get watering cans on the European market?

As market channels and segments do not differ significantly from the home decoration sector, please refer to CBI Market Channels and Segments for Home Decoration for a general overview.  

Market channels

In Europe, watering cans are commonly distributed through garden centres and DIY outlets, both off- and online.

Tip:

  • Consider targeting online retailers, in order to reach a broader range of customers. This means, however, supplying small batches/ individually packed items, prepared to pre-stock and offering more just-in-time supply concepts. Since e-commerce is expected to grow considerably in the coming years, this is a strategy for exporters with the possibility to scale up in a short span of time.

Market segments

In general, the market of watering cans predominantly consists of a middle segment and lacks low or high segments. Within this mid-market, sub-segments can be distinguished based on value perception: lower-mid, mid-mid, and mid-high.

In the low-mid segment, watering cans are for consumers who just water their in- and outdoor flowers and plants to prevent them from withering or consider gardening a (not too fanatical) hobby. The cans they use are functional, have a basic, traditional shape and a friendly price. Since this consumer will not shop around much for his watering can, shops need to be around the corner and have a one-stop shopping nature: hypermarkets, garden centres, on-line.

In the mid-mid segment, the decorative aspect of watering cans is important, so they must also look good, especially for indoors. Here, the items can make nice gifts. Kids’ watering cans can be part of this bracket if the grandparents want to ‘spoil’ the grandchildren with a cute garden set, at perhaps a slightly higher price.

At the mid-high end of the segment, out- and indoor watering cans are well designed, providing status to the giver and the receiver. Professional tools are included in this segment as well, both gardeners who view gardening as more than a hobby and for professional practitioners. Often, such professional gardening tools are endorsed by famous gardens (such as Kew Gardens) or horticultural societies, and distribution is selective.     

For an overview of prices of watering cans within these segments, please refer to the section below.

7 . What are the end market prices for watering cans?

Table 1: Indicative consumer prices watering cans

 

Lower-Mid

Mid-Mid

High-Mid

Watering can

€ 5-15

€ 15-50

€ 50 to 90

Prices for watering cans are first and foremost based on positioning: a can for a professional or would-be gardener will fetch a higher prices than for a hobby gardener; a decorative watering can will be more price-sensitive than a ‘designer’ item, despite the material. 

Tip:

  • Pricing is determined by the value perception of your product in the chosen segment (see Market segments). Once you have chosen your positioning, you must offer a marketing mix that offers the values that are expected for that sub-segment. Functionality and especially look of the watering can are the prime factor, with some small space to manoeuvre in terms of price. Prices are also dependent on the volume of the cans: the bigger the more expensive, but again, only if size is important to your chosen sub-segment: for the designer segment, for instance, size is not relevant at all and in itself will not offer a price differential.

Consumer prices depend on the value perception of the consumer in a particular segment. This is influenced by the marketing mix: product benefits, promotion (brand or not, communication of product benefits), points of sale (reseller positioning) and a matching price.

Tip:

  • Understand your segment and offer a correct marketing mix to meet consumer expectations. Study consumer prices by visiting retail outlets, going online, and reading consumer magazines. Adapt your business model to your positioning in the market.

Figure 6: Indicative price breakdown for watering cans, mark-ups in %

fig7-wateringcans.png

Source: ProFound, 2014

Useful sources

Trade fairs

Visiting and especially participating in trade fairs is highly recommended as one of the most efficient methods for testing market receptivity, obtaining market information and finding prospective business partners. The most relevant trade fairs in Europe for exporters of watering cans are:

Annex 1: Classification of watering cans

  • Harmonised System (HS): within Europe, the following HS codes are used as indications for trade in watering cans:
    • 3926.9050: Perforated buckets and similar articles used to filter water at the entrance to drains, of plastics
    • 7310.2910: Other tanks, casks, drums, cans, boxes of iron or steel, capacity less 50 litres, of a wall thickness < 0.5 mm
    • 7310.2990: Other tanks, casks, drums, cans, boxes of iron or steel, capacity less 50 litres, of a wall thickness > 0.5 mm
    • 8424.8110: Agricultural or horticultural watering appliances, both manually operated and not manually operated
  • Prodcom: the following prodcom code is used to indicated European production of watering cans:
    • 2229.2340: Household articles and toilet articles, of plastics (excl. tableware, kitchenware, baths, shower-baths, washbasins, bidets, lavatory pans, seats and covers, flushing cisterns and similar sanitary ware)
    • 2349.1230: Other ceramic articles of porcelain/china including non-refractory firebrick cheeks, parts of stoves/fireplaces, flower-pots, handles and knobs, signs/motifs for shops, radiator humidifiers
    • 2349.1250: Ceramic articles, n.e.s. (excl. porcelain or china) 
    • 2592.1150: Cans other than for preserving food and drink of iron or steel, < 50 litres

Please review our market information disclaimer.