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Lockdown aids and Landscaping boom

Financial indicators and busy workloads seem to show Kiwis are spending more on home improvements – including landscaping – as a consequence of Covid travel restrictions

Numerous indicators suggest that Kiwis, because Covid forced them to stay at home, are spending more on their backyards.

While travel slowed to a trickle in 2020, domestic spending picked up and, by May 2021, a Tony Alexander Spending Plans Survey found 27% of respondents intended to dip into their pockets for renovations around the home, up from 19% in April 2021. The survey also finding intentions to spend on gardening equipment were increasing month by month.

Meanwhile, Your Home and Garden magazine (which re-launched after lockdown) reported “cashed-up, house-proud Kiwis” are swapping “Thailand for tiling and San Francisco for swimming pools”.

Construction sales in the December 2020 quarter were up $897 million from the December 2019 quarter, partly driven by home building, while electronic card spending on items for homes was up 17% in January 2021, compared with January 2020 – a figure that Stats NZ Business Insights Manager Sue Chapman said “may reflect people nesting at home because they are unable to spend on overseas travel”.

When we spoke to Christchurch landscaper Dr Erik Ellis in late July, he was busier than in any previous winter, installing luscious gardens, pools and green walls.

Dr Ellis believes the increase in home investments is due to the ‘push’ factor of having money saved for travel that didn’t happen due to travel restrictions and the ‘pull’ factor of wanting to add value to a property through landscaping during a hot housing market.

“Many Kiwis tend to have quite a bit of disposable income, so when they can’t spend it overseas, they invest it at home,” said Dr Ellis. “Those holiday snaps that used to be in the Islands are now in our back yards.”

With median prices for residential property across New Zealand increasing 28.7% – from $637,000 in June 2020 to $820,000 in June 2021 – Dr Ellis believes the value property owners receive from landscaping is a big driver of the uptick in installation of swimming pools, outdoor fires, pergolas, louvres and paving.

“People see their equity increasing, meaning they have the confidence to spend more on home improvements and landscaping. If your house is worth $250,000, you can’t spend on landscaping – but when your house is worth a million dollars, you can.

Backyard supplies sales skyrocket

PlaceMakers Landscaping Category Manager Martin Brannigan said that all landscaping products have had sales increases in 2021 compared to 2020 and 2019. Another trend is that, due to the ongoing strong demand for timber, several wood-alternative products are gaining popularity.

“Many people are changing their initial timber product requirements to alternatives, with strong demand seen in composite decking as well as aluminium and steel fencing,” said Brannigan. “In some respects, Covid has led to customers exploring new products.”

Brannigan added there has also been “phenomenal growth” in the sale of cladding to builders.

“Due to Covid, people aren’t travelling, so they’re spending money on reclads, new landscaping projects and interior upgrades.”

Investing in Landscaping

Ollie Newman of Onlandscapes in Christchurch recently worked for some clients who were thinking of selling their home and realised that, while they couldn’t afford the extra $200,000 to buy an upgraded house, they could invest half of that money in landscaping – and get back nearly twice the increase in value.

“With low mortgage interest rates, people are putting their money into getting their dream house where they are, instead of upgrading to another place,” said Newman. “We have clients who would normally go to the Sunshine Coast each year, but they’re seeing more bang for their buck with investment at home.

“We’ve been operating for 12 years now, and we used to always look at how to get through August and September, but this year it’s pretty busy throughout the season. Most other winters we would pause landscaping and go and do building work, but now it’s landscaping right through.”

A regular at monthly Registered Master Landscapers Christchurch meet-ups, Newman says most other landscaping business owners are flat-out as well.

“In our open chat, landscapers tell us they’re booked out for months and months on end,” he said.

“High-end landscaping will always have the same demand; now, it’s the medium earners who have extra cash in their pocket that are starting to put in new decks, planting or paving due to not going overseas with the kids – trying to provide more entertainment at home.”

Now landscapers must figure out how to keep the boom in business consistent, Newman said.

“Some clients must wait six months, so we need to tell clients to order early, and landscapers need to be right on top of their game with communication.”


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