E-News: April 2009

APRIL 2009 – Welcome to the first IGCA E-News. Thank you to those who have contributed some words and special thanks to Leigh Siebler of the Garden Centres Association of Australia for volunteering his editing skills.

From Your President – Tom Courtright

First and foremost I would like to thank our Japanese friends for a wonderful administrators meeting and extension tour of Japan in February, 2009. I think all of us had our eyes opened to what a wonderful friendly place Japan can be. Eight days using chopsticks was very interesting. The last meal we ate was pasta and we all did ok. We look forward to a great meeting in England this fall and the next year in Japan.

Spring is just starting here in California and the early results look very positive. With a very slow fall and Christmas it is fun to see our parking lot full of happy shoppers. Shrubs and trees seem a little soft but plants with flowers on them are selling well. The star of spring is eatables of all kinds. Fruit trees berries and all your summer vegetables are our strongest department. Hopefully the excitement will last for the next few months.

Tom Courtright, Orchard Nursery & Florist, Lafayette, USA. tomcourtright@orchardnursery.com

Are you a leader of the retail industry? Yes? IGCA is looking for you!

The International Garden Centre Association (IGCA) is committed to the continuous improvement of the international garden centre industry and it is now looking for a new individual to join its executive board. The main purpose of the IGCA board is to direct the association resources towards the accomplishment of its mission: providing a forum for the mutual exchange of information and benefit of similar minded independent garden retailers. Interested individuals must be willing to attend and participate in meetings twice a year, usually in February (along with the national administrators meeting) and in September (a day before the annual Congress). If you are interested in shaping the international garden centre industry, please contact the IGCA office (info@intgardencentre.org) for a complete description of the board position that will be opening in September 2009.


Hello from the ‘Brits’

At last spring is here in the UK and the start to the season is going amazingly well; sales are well up at the moment defying the economic forecasts. If we can keep the momentum going with good weather we will be OK. One of our members reported sales of Grow your Own increasing by 300% – hopefully there is enough stock out there to satisfy demand. We are concentrating on the forthcoming IGCA Congress and getting as many delegates to attend. Please keep reminding your members because the Early Bird booking fee ends on 30th April. It’s a great programme and good value as the £ is still weak against most currencies!

Gillie Westwood, Chief Executive, GCA UK
gillie@gca.org.uk www.gca.org.uk


More from the ‘Brits’ – Sue Allen IGCA Vice President

The weather here has been brilliant, so at long last the tills are ringing. It is set to break down a bit this week, but we are all desperately hoping for a bumper Spring – haven’t had one of those for a while.

Last week I became the Chairman of the GCA Trust. This was created many years ago, and in the past it has been used to help college students in their horticultural studies (not just retail, but production, etc.). In recent years, fewer and fewer colleges are offering such courses, and the Trust is sitting on money that it would love to distribute annually. We know that nowadays many garden centres take on the responsibility of training young staff ‘in house’, so we are wondering if we could expand the remit of the trust to encourage students to spend time abroad gaining experience from other retailers.

Sending a Northern Hemisphere bod to the South for say 3 months, in your (Australia’s) Spring, could be beneficial to both employee and the host employer. In the same way, a Southern person coming to the UK in March/April/May could learn so much.

We were wondering if Australia has any trusts or sponsoring organisation that we could contact to see if a reciprocal arrangement is feasible. Our trust would pay for the return flights for hopefully 2 UK students travelling South. It would be up to the host centre to pay wages and help to sort out accommodation. If there was an organisation in Australia that could pay for the transport in the same way, we know there are centres here that would welcome a short term placement from Australia.

We think there should be an age limit, but haven’t set that in stone – maybe 25 or 30.

What do you think? I am also going to contact Gerdie in South Africa to ask the same question, as the North/South thing makes sense, as our crazy seasons don’t coincide. It is probably wishful thinking, but we would love to have something in place by this September when IGC come here, so we could shout about it. I know that in the past IGC tried to get a similar thing going Internationally, but we figured if we could maybe get it going just between two countries it could then potentially be rolled out to others later.

Look forward to hearing from you soon, Best wishes, Sue.

Sue Allen, The Millbrook Garden Company UK. E: sue@millbrookgc.co.uk

Editor’s note: Sue’s email was addressed to me. Any thoughts from Australia or South Africa?


Japan Garden Center Association

Events – We have the following shows from April to June

Japan Flower Festival 2009 in Tokyo Marunouchi
Japan Flower Weeks
Date: Apr 21-26

Hamanako Flower and Garden fair 2009
Date: May 1-10

International roses and gardening show 2009
Date: May 13-18

I am sorry that they have only Japanese web site. Please enjoy some pictures.


In January to February we have many exhibitions around Japan. We could see some trends this year, too. Japanese seed company propose new variety of main own flowers such as petunia, begonia and helleborus. At garden retail store, we sell vegetable seedlings very well because people are growing their own vegetables by themselves. We have sold plants well because of the warm winter, especially in this February. We can find many good designed pots and containers which have high quality and high technical function. We also focus on the ecological products and recycled materials products. In addition, improved organic fertilizers and functional products are coming. Exterior business, especially roof green and wall green systems will be more necessary especially in Tokyo.

Koichi Akatsuka
E-mail address: jgca@akatsuka.gr.jp
Web: https://www.jgca.gr.jp/community/
I am sorry that we don’t have English homepage now.

Recession – Surviving it in Tokyo

A lot of people, like in many other places in the world, are turning to gardening more and more. Even the Japanese with their one sq foot of balcony, surrounded by concrete and skyscrapers, have taken up the challenge to grow their own vegetables.

I can add to this, and I have gone as far as buying seeds! A couple organic too! For me, this is totally unheard of; however, with being inspired by the marketing over here and word of mouth about how ‘easy it is to grow your own veggies’ I went and splashed out! Even if it is just a lettuce leaf I figured it would be better to grow my own than to spend my money on buying lettuce leaves.

I went out and got equipped with the best seeds, pots and potting mix I could get my hands on. Well perhaps not the best quality, but what I could afford … Now I just have to get it up and running and plant the seeds so I can save on lettuce leaves and the herbs…

Having said that, I don’t really have that much of a gardening background, but more of a business background. You will be happy to know that I do have quite a few plants on my balcony, well for Tokyo that is. Two rosemary bushes, an olive shrub, quite a large aloe vera (almost a metre in height!), four spiderplants and a few other unknown ones too. Also I have a sansaveria inside my apartment with a number of bamboo in water and another plant that is unknown… Phew! Actually, compared to other single white females living over here in Tokyo, I think I am doing alright. Most of my friends say that they have plants, but they die after about a month… Some of my friends are even inspired by my garden! So think I’m doing ok…. by Japanese standards anyway!

From the point of view of a General Manager of one of the largest English business magazines over here www.japaninc.com I am being influenced by the opportunities that are out there. I believe that if the business is well-placed, you will be able to see the large amount of talent flooding the market. It may be the right time to upgrade and employ people who can take your company to the next level.

If you are in the black, then you could take advantage of the market and buy up! Make acquisitions when quality companies go ‘on sale’. Remember to emphasize what makes your company stand out from the rest!

And if you follow this, you may find your lettuce leaves just right to pick!

Tokyo Girl. (Sommer Wagstaff was an interpreter at the recent IGCA meetings in Japan.)

The Irish Association is busy

The Garden Centre Association of Ireland is a member-run, representative organisation for businesses whose main income is derived from gardening. We have one full time and two part time staff.

Benefits of membership of the association include:

* Representation to influential semi state bodies and other representative organisations
* Networking opportunities
* Training
* Promotional Calendar

In addition, we run several optional member services, such as a business improvement scheme, a buying group and a marketing group.

The business improvement programme (called PEGI, Profit Enhancement for the Gardening Industry) organises mentoring with garden centre consultants who are specialists in all areas of garden centre management and training. Back office systems along with staff training in merchandising and customer care form the core of this programme. Monitoring of key performance indicators and benchmarking are also an integral part of PEGI. Financial planning and management, along with the implementation of best practice systems in areas such as marketing, administration, human resources and facilities management are among the other areas covered.

Members of the association are also invited to join the buying group which conducts negotiations on behalf of members in the areas of dry goods, plants and seasonal produce. Plant buying, the newest category to be added to the buying portfolio in 2007, has gone from strength to strength. Along with individual member feedback, member subcommittees work alongside GCAI staff to secure the best deals for the group each year. The key to the success of this buying group is the absolute commitment of members to the deals made on their behalf.

Plantsplus, the marketing arm of the GCAI, currently consists of a group of nine centres, committed to working together to achieve agreed marketing objectives such as the rollout of a detailed week by week promotional calendar with exceptional promotional product deals, associated signage, advertising and email database newsletters. Plantsplus are close to launching a website, and have signed up to a single Plantsplus brand whereby all members will display the same signs, livery, uniforms, and will use the same stationery and consumables. Plantsplus members also work closely together by benchmarking best practice in their centres.

Anne McKenna, Garden Centre Association of Ireland Ltd.
Email: anne@gio.ie

Nick Stodel reports from South Africa

The South African Nursery Association (SANA) is working on an initiative to market gardening to the public. A lot of money is spend by garden centre groups on marketing their own businesses, but very little is spent to market gardening. A very exciting initiative that is currently happening for the month of April in the Western Cape is that of the Go South Africa! Campaign. It ties in with our national elections that take place on the 22nd April. Customers are encouraged to go to their local GCA garden center and to buy plants in the colour of the South African flag. Two Rand from each plant sold will be given to a local Children’s Hospital. Each garden centre has made use of their existing advertising spend, but has just put more emphasis on this aspect of the promotion. Boards in store indicate which plants are part of the promotion.

Some local radio personalities have also come on board to promote the concept, which has given the whole promotion a lot of media attention for a fairly low cost. We are still in the beginning stages of the promotion, but so far we have received some really good comments from customers who enjoy the fact that money is going to a good charity. So far, so good!

Editor’s note: Please excuse Nick’s silly glasses.

Nick Stodel | Managing Director | Stodels Nurseries.
EMail: nick@stodels.com | www.stodels.com


Canada is going green and wants you to join the movement!

Over the past few years, environmental concerns have grown and more and more people have identified our industry as being part of the solution. Despite the many proven benefits of plant materials and gardening on the environment, one issue remains strong in the green industry: plastic. It is everywhere: plastic bags, greenhouse poly, plastic pots, etc., and in many cases municipalities will refuse to make it part of their recycling program and all this plastic ends up in the landfills.

This is why the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association (CNLA) is developing a national recycling program tailored for the green industry. Working with partners across the country and with an MBA team from the Wilfrid Laurier University, the association is conducting a feasibility study on a program that would make independent garden centres collection depots for used plastic pots. The pots would then be classified, cleaned and recycled into new products, saving tons of plastic from the landfills every year.

(pic shows Victor & Lydia from the Canadian Association)

IGCA and AIPH working together.

Also of interest, Victor Santacruz, Executive Director of the CNLA and Secretariat for IGCA, has been appointed secretary of The Green City, a committee of the International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH). This committee will be promoting the benefits of green spaces at an international level and is currently collecting information on environmentally friendly initiatives in our industry. Tom Courtright, President of IGCA attended the last meeting of AIPH in March, 2009 in Taipei, Taiwan. During this meeting the Green City Committee of AIPH, formally opened the door to involve outside organizations including IGCA to work cooperatively promoting our combined industry. Thus far the potential participants of The Green City include: Communities in Bloom, Project EverGreen, IGCA, AIPH, Green Cities, and many other organizations that promote the benefits of ornamental horticulture.

Stay tuned for updates on the Canadian plastic recycling program and on how you can become involved in Green City.

Victor Santacruz, Executive Director
Canadian Nursery Landscape Association /Association Canadienne des pépiniéristes et des paysagistes
Email: victor@canadanursery.com

News from the Polish Association

May 2009

– patronage of garden & flower exposition in Chorzow


08.05 – 11.05.2009 ‘KAPELUSZ’ HALL in WPKiW in CHORZOW

– The GardenExpo-Flower and Garden Exposition in Poland can boast a very long tradition of 50 years. It is its 118th edition dedicated entirely to gardening. The Fair is visited by more than 20,000 people each year. This year’s Fair is focused on ”The Gardens of the World” – this is an invitation to find out as much as possible about the richness of styles of gardens from around the world including the beauty of the Polish gardens.
Exhibitors from all over Poland and Europe shall be presenting their best grown garden plants and a wide variety of accessories and equipment for gardening
The GardenExpo Fair is a joint event with the Flower Bazaar outside the ‘Kapelusz’ Hall, prepared for small business.
The visitors will be invited to participate in numerous contests and workshops, where a number of prizes can be won. It is a great opportunity for everybody to get inspiration for creating beautiful gardens around properties.
We know that you can not miss this event. We propose you to be a part of GardenExpo in Poland, as an exhibitor and co-organizer.

Magda Zakrzewska
e-mail: biuro@psco.org.pl, psco@psco.org.pl

News from Down under – Australia

Despite floods in the North (and other areas too) plus extreme drought and bush fires in many areas, Australian garden centres remain positive and mainly buoyant. Plant sales have lifted in most areas so that’s a great sign.

We have just had our main garden show in Australia, the Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show (MIFGS) and numbers were up compared with the last two years. 107,000 attended the show over five days. That’s a great indicator of consumer interest in gardening with other consumer shows and the Grand Prix having dramatically reduced attendances. MIFGS is really helped by great media support. The top rating Better Homes & Gardens program films at the show and then runs that on the Friday night with a weekend still to come. The program then gives MIFGS a wonderful boost on that weekend.

Interestingly enough, the two recent Gift Fairs (trade) had good attendances too.

GCA works closely with all the sate associations around the country. I am based in Victoria so have a particularly good relationship with the Victorian one. We are trialling marketing on the web with nine garden centres in a pilot project. The Garden Gurus have produced nine ‘Virtual Garden Centre Tours’ that are being hosted on their web site and linked back to the Victorian one. We think it will be the way to go in the future for garden centres. You probably all look at the net for restaurants, books etc so why not for garden centres. Have a look at www.ngiv.com.au click onto the Virtual Garden Centre Tours link and take a tour of some of Melbourne’s best garden centres. One even has a Health & Wellbeing Centre in it now


Colour sells! Landscapers have been planting grasses and strappy plants for some years now and the public embraced them but in my opinion colour is coming back. In fact, it has never stopped. Visit any good garden centre and you’ll see that ‘colour’ walks out the door.

Like all other countries the growth in vegetable and herb sales has been fantastic.

Australian Native plants have sold well but personally I doubt if plants actually indigenous to an area will be top sellers despite our droughts. It was interesting to see what plants did well in the heat and dry in Victoria and many so called exotics came through very well. I know I am biased but roses have been wonderful. The old Iceberg Rose that is almost a weed in Melbourne has never looked better. NB. Our respected garden writer Michael McCoy has just listed his research into the Top 10 ‘drought & heat’ survivors. Roses and Rosemary topped the list.

New Zealand plants suffered in the Victorian heat. Even though the industry here promoted phormiums and cordylines as being drought-hardy, they sure suffered in our extreme heat. In fact, it seems that nearly anything originating from New Zealand suffered (sorry NZ). The experts tell me our lack of humidity compared with NZ was part of the problem.

The Gardman company has only been in Australia for a few years now but it’s easy to see why they have been ‘Supplier of the Year’ to GCA UK seven years in a row; their products sell really well. Their new Grow It range will help vegetable sales grow even more.

We were very happy to copy GCAUK and introduce an Associate Members category over here. It is working very well for us.

If you after more industry updates from Australia then I suggest you click on www.greenworldmag.com.au and add your email address to our E-News section. GCA has an excellent working relationship with Greenworld Magazine.

Leigh Siebler
Garden Centres Association of Australia Inc.
PO Box 1056, Hartwell, VIC, 3124, Australia
P: 03 9889 5453 F: 03 9889 5281
E: leigh@gravity.net.au