E-News: April 2010

April 2010

GCA E News Number 5

The IGCA administrators and board met in Italy in February to discuss business including future congresses.

From President Sue Allen

Please include greetings to everyone from me, saying how much I enjoyed our visit to the South Tyrol region of Italy, and extending my thanks particularly to Victor and Rebecca from our IGCA administration office, Martina Schullian of Bolzano for organizing our visit and entertainment so well, and to Erwin and Bruno of Switzerland for being such great chauffeurs from Zurich and back. Erwin drove hundreds of miles on the day after the meeting, taking Gillie (UK GCA), Tammy (my daughter and study tour representative) Rachel Doyle from Ireland, and me down to the Verona and Lake Garda region, so we could visit yet more garden centres, and then on past Milan, Lakes Como, Lugano and Lucerne. A whistlestop tour around the edges of Switzerland, with some stunning snow-capped mountains and beautiful scenery inspired us on the way. Tammy believes that the way in which IGCA bonds so many nationalities together makes us eligible for a Nobel Peace Prize! That is not something that can be measured, nor sadly, can it be appreciated by those who do not participate in our congresses.

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


Join us on a tour of Italian Garden Centres in 2011…

The International Garden Centre Association (IGCA) Board of Directors and Country administrators recently met in Bolzano, Italy for meetings and to tour garden centres in the South Tyrol region. The IGCA intends to hold the 2011 Congress in the Bolzano region of Italy, with potential for additional touring in Switzerland. This region of Italy is extremely unique and will provide garden centre operators with great merchandising ideas, including the added bonus of all garden centres having a stunning backdrop of mountains and vineyards. Passing down the business from one generation to the next seemed to be a trend, with generations of families working together to grow and develop their businesses. In addition to visiting garden centres, an orchid growing facility was also toured, a bio dynamic winery, beautiful history sites of Bolzano, as well as a huge state of the art growing facility.

Mark your calendars to visit Italian garden centres in late Fall of 2011, and in the meantime plan to visit Japan’s International Garden Centre Congress this October 10th-15th, 2010. A study tour is also available at a special rate for individuals under 40 years of age.

For more information and to register for the IGC Japan Congress, visit www.igcacongress2010.com.

Rebecca Wetselaar, IGCA | rebecca@canadanursery.com


An Update from the West Coast of Canada

As with last month, it is all about good weather news and a positive impact on garden centre business. The first weekend of the Winter Olympics the cherry blossoms were blooming with magnolias in bloom the second week – both three weeks ahead of normal. The good weather has people out in their gardens and then turning to their local garden centres for early season colour, perennials, fruit trees and other ornamental trees and shrubs. Garden and container preparation has started and early season sales of vegetable seeds indicates the “grow your own” trend is growing stronger.

The Canadian economy has continued to be solid – the bankers say their prudence has been the cause! Consumer confidence is stronger and prospects are for a good season ahead. The strong Canadian dollar has made gift and furniture imports from SE Asia and plant purchases from the USA more reasonable with opportunities for better margins or sharper promotional offerings depending upon the individual company’s strategy.

Best Regards, John Zaplatynsky, GardenWorks, Canada,


Greetings from Ireland

We have had probably the most difficult trading year in Ireland, not just our industry but across all sectors. The most difficult factor was the weather; we have had everything thrown at us. Temperatures of – 18 (I never heard of before) to heavy snow falls (we are ill equipped to deal with) to flooding & roads being eroded away & no money for repairs.

Our government, our banks and our religious institutions have scandal after scandal coming out of the woodwork.

There’s always a silver lining; the incredible temperatures have killed all the tropical type plants that had become part of our landscapes. Cordylines, Phormiums, Pittosporum, Olives etc etc & I do believe we will have a bumper spring & everyone seems to have gone back to basics – ‘Growing their own’. Sales of seed potatoes, vegetable & seeds in general has soared & we are looking forward to further increases in the sale of these grown your own related products.

We are working at getting our association back on track, Bord Bia our government board responsible for promoting horticulture has been very helpful at facilitating two workshops & work will continue to this end.

Bord Bia has continued the garden centre awards which I believe are of paramount importance to the industry & Bord Bia is also launching a spring campaign to get the potential customer out in their garden.

Bloom, our superb garden festival organised by Bord Bia, will go ahead this year in the Phoenix Park in Dublin on the June Bank Holiday weekend. This has brought the gardening & food industry to a new level.


Rachel Doyle – Arboretum Garden Centre, Ireland. E: rachel@arboretum.ie


Rebecca, who looks after the IGCA administration, reports from Canada

Here is a short and sweet notice from Canada! A photo (left) from our Awards of Excellence Gala (caption: “Anthony O’Neill chair of CNLA’s Garden Centres Canada, Winner Wayne Chichak from Greenland Garden Centre, Tim Miotto from JVK, and Winner Tim Chichak of Greenland Garden Centre”) – two photos of Greenland Garden Centre are left .

Canada’s Garden Centre members are gearing up for the Spring, looking forward to a busy year ahead. Our Garden Centres Canada (GCC) commodity group has had a busy winter, with major plans underway for new program and services for members following a strategic planning session. Our Strategic plan identified the following priorities:


1. Environmental (i.e. recycling of plastics and plastic replacement)

2. Member Benefits (training programs and resources for garden centre staff, garden centre inspection program, improved member communications)

3. Public Education / Marketing Outreach (“Week of Gardening at Schools” program in development with an MBA team)

4. Political Action in conjunction with our national association, the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association.

At our February board meeting, GCC handed out our first ever garden centre award, based on the Garden Centres Canada Inspection Program from 2009. Greenland Garden Centre in Sherwood Park, AB (member of Landscape Alberta) was our winner, and brothers Tim and Wayne Chickak both were able to attend the awards and speak about the benefits of the inspection program to their business. The award was sponsored by JVK and was awarded based on the highest score achieved in the 2009 Pilot Inspection Program. We are excited to provide this new benefit program for our members and are already seeing lots of interest in the inspection program for the upcoming year.

We look forward to a busy 2010 and wish everyone all the best this year.

Rebecca Wetselaar E:rebecca@canadanursery.com


A South African Report

We are at the end of what seemed like one of the longest and harshest summers ever experienced in South Africa. As expected the financial year-end showed a decline in overall sales at most Garden Centres throughout the country.

Economy not withstanding, the strange weather patterns in South Africa had a huge impact in keeping gardeners out of their gardens and nurseries this summer. Some of our regions are experiencing crippling droughts and strict water restrictions while at the other end of the spectrum some regions were burdened by heavy rains and flooding.

The weather also left nursery owners and staff with problems such as more rotting of plants and increased cases of fungi in areas with heavy rain, while nurseries in areas with water restrictions had to come up with ways to keep stock watered without breaking the limitations of said restrictions.

While the weather is definitely changing the buying patterns of customers, no real decline can be seen in the number of visitors or the frequency of their visits. There is however a decrease in their spending and we stay thankful for those customers that visit us rain or shine.

With the “home grown” trend still going strong and growing we have had numerous reports that sales in herbs and veggies is still rising and with less people that went on holiday this summer some centres have shown an increase in the sales of pots and water features as people staying home wanted to create a soothing and relaxing environment.

Initiatives by garden centres to promote the reduction of our carbon footprint are starting to take effect and gardeners are coming up with new and innovative ways to get wildlife back into their gardens. This also includes the planting of more indigenous plants and trees.

In an effort to increase sales and lure in more customers, members of several regions in conjunction with South Africa’s industry related marketing initiative “Life is a Garden” launched promotions of which parts of the proceeds were donated to specific charity organizations chosen by each region. This proved to be very successful and members are already planning to have promotions such as these again.

With all that said I am very happy to report that customer visits to nurseries have started to pick up over the past few weeks and increases in sales have been noted. For me personally this is a very good sign that even though we still have an uphill battle the economy is on the mend. Taking baby steps, the industry was able to withstand the worst and we are positive that working together and supporting each other both nurseries and suppliers alike will build the industry back up to what it used to be before the recession.

Christo Coetzer
GCA National Chairperson, South Africa


Gillie Reports from the UK

Does anyone know where Spring has gone? We, like most of Northern Europe, have experienced the coldest and snowiest winter since the early 80’s. Having enjoyed a wonderfully mild autumn and overall growth of 10%, winter arrived with a vengeance at the beginning of December and is still with us; daytime temperatures do not climb above 5C and drop below zero at night and as I write, no end is forecast. Naturally this has had repercussions, the two recorded months of this year show sales of outdoor plants are down by 30% and overall sales are 4.5% down – not a good way to start the year.

Not all is bad though, we enjoyed an excellent IGCA Secretariat’s meeting in Bolzano, Italy last month; it looks like Italy will be able to host the 2011 Congress which is great news. One of the many highlights was visiting a massive orchid production nursery – what a wonderful sight seeing row upon row of glorious orchids. Another highlight was hearing the sound of a cork popping – only in Italy could you have a glass of Prosecco, a shot of espresso and delicious olive bread at your 10.30 coffee break – it has now set the standard for future meetings!

We started the garden centre “inspection” season on 15th March (until the middle of June); this year we have introduced an environmental section so it will be interesting to see how it progresses. At least our members are positive about it and view it as a step in the right direction.

I hope spring comes soon so I will have more to report the next time. Here’s to a good season for all.

Gillie Westwood, Chief Executive, UK GCA


News From Japan

Sakura (cherry blossom) season starts from the end of March. We had slightly warm winter rather than ordinary year instead of a huge difference of temperature in a few days.

Our garden center industry is still hard time, but many companies try to buy new designed, and eco related products during winter exhibitions in order to activate their garden market in their own regions and to enrich for their customer satisfaction. They also try to differentiate from the competitors with their own professional plan such as garden seminars, original private products, and designed display.

Our main gardening season comes soon, so our members hope to get good spring. Our garden center association is now preparing for welcome all of IGCA members to Japan congress, so please expect to enjoy differences from your countries and look for the various business style of Garden Centers.

Best Wishes from Japan,
Koichi Akatsuka, Japan Garden Center Association

For more information and to register for the IGC Japan Congress, visit www.igcacongress2010.com.


News from Switzerland

Some input from Switzerland but not about Switzerland. There seems to be an interesting new Garden Centre concept in the US: www.unearththepossibilities.com.

Best regards from Switzerland,
ERNST MEIER AG. Erwin Meier-Honegger
Email: emh@meier-ag.ch www.meier-ag.ch


A Brief Report from Australia

We have had an incredibly mixed year so far with extreme weather variances all around the country. However, as always, garden centres who are pro-active are still doing quite well and are moving forward. The trick seems to be:

  • Do something different and re-invest in your business!!!
  • Get out, have a look at what other successful businesses are doing.


Leigh Siebler.

E: leigh@gravity.net.au