E-News: December 2010

December 2010

Number 8, December, 2010

From Your President Sue Allen

I am writing this as snow falls outside my window, and the warm October weather and the warm welcome the IGCA delegates experienced at the Japanese Congress seem so long ago now. From the moment those drummers beat 200 delegates into silence at the Opening Ceremony I knew we were in for a memorable week, and our Japanese friends did not disappoint. We were all able to get a glimpse of the Country’s fascinating history, culture, cuisine and traditions, while still having the opportunity to discuss our business problems and share information and great new ideas. The young group on Bus Number 5 certainly kept the rest of us on our toes.

Those who have not attended a congress will never know what they are missing, and if you don’t hurry up and book your place for Italy in September 2011, then you will miss even more! Places really are limited and already more people than ever have booked at this stage for the main congress. The ‘young’ Study Tour Group for under 40’s is staying in a hostel (4 to a room!) but otherwise will experience everything the main Congress is offering, but at a much cheaper price, and with much more group discussion, analysis, and energetic input.

So go to www.igcacongress2011.com and book your place. This really is a value- for- money opportunity to glean information and good ideas to inspire you in the constant need to improve your business.

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


Congress 2011 in Italy

Welcome to South Tyrol and Lake Garda … and for all who book the Pretour welcome in Tuscany.

We are very pleased that so many from 16 countries have registered for the IGCA Congress in 2011, and with all other applications, this Congress in the heart of Europe, will be the unforgettable event of 2011.

A very interesting program we will put together with partners from Tuscany for a few days in Tuscany as Pretour. It is a typical Italian program in Tuscany. Chianti, Fiorentina, Impruneta, Pistoia – who does not know these ingredients for a traditional holiday in Italy.

Visit the homepage www.igcacongress2011.com and you will find some more information, pictures and clips about the place and surrounding areas of the Congress and the PreTour.

Gärtnerei Schullian Floricoltura info@schullian.it


Greetings from Ireland

Our green island is in more disarray. The IMF and ECB are in town and we are getting a bail out from Europe – only €85 billion!

Some of our banks have been nationalised and we the tax payers are paying the price. On December 7 we will face what promises to be one of the most difficult Budgets since the foundation of the State. Fear has gripped the nation and people are afraid to spend money.

Some garden centres are suffering very badly and are unable to buy products due to a lack of credit facilities.

Christmas, which we are all waiting for, has been marred by heavy snow storms and freezing conditions. As I write this our garden centre is closed and will be for the next number of days.

We had made a major decision to do national TV advertising, we have Santa’s reindeer resting on their way to the North Pole and we have had to reschedule breakfast and supper with Santa because of the weather. We have also lost a lot of revenue. In Ireland we are ill equipped to deal with these Arctic conditions.

On a positive note, I believe as soon as this weather changes, customers will come in their droves to visit the garden centre.

I also believe we will have good Christmas sales. Bord Bia have carried out a lot of research on all aspects of the horticulture industry and our garden festival Bloom will go ahead in 2011.

Irish people are a proud, resilient nation and we will come out of this better people. I have no doubt that we will reinvent ourselves and bounce back!

Wishing you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year,

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


Greetings from the UK

Why break a habit of a lifetime and not talk about the weather! Winter has arrived ahead of schedule with freezing temperatures and snow; this is usually reserved for January or February so I do hope this isn’t a taste of what is to come – the last thing we need is the weather disrupting the Christmas build up.

Trading has been mixed but on the whole garden centres in the UK are so far up by about 2% on last year. Non-core gardening categories seem to be fairing better than traditional gardening with outdoor plants over 2% down YTD (due of course to bad weather during the spring season) and house plants continuing to decline at -7.8%. It is the food/farm shop categories and clothing that seem to be this year’s winners growing by 8% and 11% respectively. Cafes still continue to grow.

Planning for our annual conference which takes place at the end of January is well under way. The first day will be largely about standards and best practice and the second day about wider business topics specialising in retail. We have many well respected speakers coming and subjects to be covered include the economic climate and prospects for retail business and plans; making it easier for the customer to buy; how we can improve our offer in particular for the novice gardener and ways we can improve profitability without large investments. New for this year one of our main sponsors, Westland Horticulture, is offering 25 free places aimed at staff below branch manager level who may progress in the future. They are keen to bring forward the future management of the industry and believe this will expose garden centre staff to information and thinking they wouldn’t normally see, and give them a wider view of the industry. We have also just announced that Alan Titchmarsh who is a very well known TV gardener and presenter in the UK to be the guest after-dinner speaker – it’s quite a coup.

Before I sign off I would like to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

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


Nick Reports from South Africa

Garden retail in the northern parts of the country has been particularly positive over the past few months. Members have reported an above average growth for peak season attributed to the fact that spring and early summer has been quite dry. Average sales have only marginally increased but there is a positive turn in customer count.

The bulk of the growth has been mostly in and around the bigger cities of Gauteng province and we have seen a number of suppliers from further out making inroads into the market traditionally held by local growers.

Colour bedding and perennials have driven sales with impulse colour sales still high. We have seen a return to tried and tested favourites in favour of new releases.
The south of the country has also seen strong sales growth, mainly due to good weather from around August which is much earlier than normal. Like with the north, customers are buying impulse colour lines.

Parts of the Cape are still experiencing water restrictions which are effecting business in those areas.

Nick Stodel | Managing Director | Stodels Nurseries

EMail: nick@stodels.com | www.stodels.com


Here is the news from Switzerland:

From a recent press release:

Dehner – Europe’s largest Garden Centre Group – co-operates with Coop DIY & Garden. Coop DIY & Garden enhances the competence.

Flowers and plants are a fast growing market segment in Europe and Switzerland. To fulfill the customers needs in this growing market even better and create more expertise, Dehner is looking forward to a long-term cooperation with Swiss-based Coop. Dehner is the largest garden center group in Europe. Coop DIY & Garden is the No. 1 home improvement store in Switzerland. This alliance shall increase Coop’s product range and product quality in the garden sector and significantly expand its leading position further.

The flowers and plants business is a growth market – not only in Switzerland but throughout Europe. This market is traded by specialized retailers, Garden Centers and more and more by DIY stores. To strengthen the current position in this market the traditional German company Dehner is contracting a long-term cooperation with Coop DIY & Garden. The aim is to improve the range performance in flowers and plants and the product quality. Dehner will also provide technical assistance with its know-how to Coop in the procurement and sale of flowers and plants.

By the start of the gardening season 2011 the first results of this cooperation shall be experienced by their Swiss customers. The ranges of indoor and outdoor plants are due to be heavily revised: The partners also plan to develop a new garden center concept, which is integrated into the existing home improvement stores. Two pilot stores are planned and will be opened in spring 2011.


In over 60 years, the family has developed into Europe’s largest Dehner Garten-Center Group. Founded 1947 as “Dehner & Co. – Seeds Breeding – Seed Wholesale”, the company today runs 106 garden centers in Germany and Austria with 5,000 employees. This is Europe’s largest garden center group. In addition to the core competence Garden Dehner has other strengths in Zoo, DEGRO (wholesale) and agriculture. The headquarters is located in the Bavarian Rain am Lech (Germany).

The owners – the Weber family – now lead the business in the third generation. This continuity is also reflected in the company’s philosophy: Entrepreneurial geared to the needs of the time at highest quality standards. The company also puts emphasis on high environmental standards.


Coop is the second largest retail group in Switzerland and employs about 53,000 people and has over 1,800 outlets. The Division Coop DIY & Garden has 73 stores and more than 1,800 employees and is therefore the Swiss market leader among home improvement stores.

Images are at the bottom of this e-news

Best regards from Switzerland!

Mit freundlichen Grüssen

Erwin Meier-Honegger

Ernst Meier AG | EMail emh@meier-ag.ch | www.meier-ag.ch


December 2010 Update from Garden Centers of America®

Christmas, taxes and the weather are the hottest topics at the moment. Last week was the American Thanksgiving Holiday including the infamous Black Friday. Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving and is the official kick-off for Christmas selling in the US. Traditionally major retailers will have mega discounts on door-buster items to get the customers into their stores. Independent Garden Centers often have some specials and try to partake of these people motivated to shop. Finally the mass media in the US seems to be more optimistic and less fatalistic regarding the economic outlook for the country. Small increases in the overall sales for the holidays are expected. People seem to be shopping again though with some differences. A few of my GCA members reported sales increases in the last week or so of November with fewer customers yet slightly higher average sales per customer. After so long with dismal news even small increases are heartening.

Also in the news this week is a tax program put into place by former President Bush. The multi-year program was set to expire at the end of this year. Both democrats and republicans are agreeing to continue this program for the working class citizens – exactly how that will occur is not yet known. The stock market seemed to take the tax program’s continuation as a good sign with a couple hundred points increased in a single day after the announcement.

Trends in the stores: fairy gardening is a strong category for some stores. For the holidays – creating mixed greenery combinations seems to be a long standing tradition for many. Fresh ideas for re-purposing products were seen through several stores on GCA’s recent Holiday Tour. Some photos for example are on the last page of this E-News.

Shanan Molnar, Garden Centers of America®

Vice President of Operations


And from Canada

Happy Christmas from the West Coast of Canada! As our calendar year draws to a close, most Canadian Garden Centres are reporting that results are down in the 0% – 5% range. In British Columbia, 2010 was a challenging weather year. Our weather was as cold and unstable as our provincial government! New Tax added at the start of the year, followed by a promise of a 15% cut to personal taxes only to be rescinded with the early resignation of our Premier!

How’s our future look? If you ask Karl Stensson of Sheridans, Scott Pearce of GardenWorks or Brian Minter of Minter Gardens, all would say our Canadian Economy is resilient and is improving albeit slowly. Early indications are that Christmas sales “Back East” in Ontario are well up over last year. Christmas sales on the West Coast are anticipated to be flat. Seasonal profits are expected to be solid with the strong Canadian dollar.

For 2011, we are all looking forward to making the most out of the continuing trends of “Grow Your Own Groceries” and gardening being a “family” affair! Kids gardening workshops book up quickly. Garden Centres are becoming “the” place to get married, or to hold your child’s birthday party! As Canadians, we are optimistic (and polite!) and look forward to delighting gardeners with innovative and extraordinary plant material while creating a unique and inspired shopping experience!! Best wishes to all for a lovely holiday season and a prosperous 2011!!

Leanne Johnson, GardenWorks

Chief Operating Officer, Leanne Johnson [johnsonhome@telus.net]


Peter Botz, German Garden-Center Association

VDG Service GmbH launches online shop for its members.

Internet shopping has become normal for 50% of the population. Until now, there are no real good offers in Germany, although there are very successful companies active in the green industry. If our member’s don´t want to lose that growing area to other providers, an offer is inevitable. 10.7% of sales are made online across all industries already. It’s just a matter of time before the green industry will find connection.
Now 21 Garden Center have signed contracts with us. The VDG SERVICE GmbH, a 100% subsidiary of the Association of the German Garden Centre Association, will take over the whole process. The participating garden center gives his good name and links his homepage to the shop.

The online customer may order in its garden-centre online store or in the VDG-garden-center Shop. He gets his goods at very short notice. Depending on what he ordered, he receives his entire order in several shipments from different locations (Amazon System).

The VDG-members can link the shop to their site and individualize it, so it acts as a personal online shop. Each participant can free select the total number of items that fits in his company. The overall coordination and execution of the sale runs from a central location.

The sales prices will be identical in all VDG affiliated stores. These prices must adjust to realistic market activity and partially differ from those in the garden centers. Low-cost operators of us have to explain to their customers why their online store is more expensive and garden centers with a very high price level have to explain why their shop is cheaper.

The garden center will receive a commission from the sales, which is made through its website. The goal is to find the necessary expansion of the VDG Service GmbH, the highest possible yield (> 10%) will be distributed to the participants.
The garden center is committed to pursue any additional shops. It may request an additional individual VDG-shop module, but services and shipping of its products is on their own responsibility. For these goods, there’s an article code, with the same conditions as other suppliers.

A property is already searched. For all items a close cooperation with our suppliers will be sought.

The suppliers of major items (grill, furniture) can deliver the order directly from the factory to the customer. The other products will be sent from the VDG-Service-GmbH-storage collected to the customer.

On Valentine’s Day 2011 the VDG shop will go online.

VDG-Jutta Lenz [verband@garten-center.de]


From Australia Down Under

The words being heard around at the moment is, “just like an old fashioned season”. We saw a wet cold winter with above average rainfall. In South Australia spring normally starts in mid to late august, not this year. We endured a cold wet august and September where sales were down. We had some nice days during this period but unfortunately not on the weekend and we all know what that means.

October brought with it some finer weather and translated into some very busy trade around for all in South Australia. We all like to be very busy but wouldn’t it be nice to spread it out over a few more months? Weather during October although finer, daily average temperatures were still down.

Outdoor furniture early in the season is down dramatically but as the weather gets better so do the sales of outdoor living. (See it’s not just plant sales that are affected by the temp.)

November again has started with below average temps, trade is humming along very nicely and up dramatically on last year as we endured a two week heat wave for the first two weeks.

Sales are looking good for the period leading up to Christmas. Interest rate rises do not at this stage seem to be affecting trade.

Water restrictions are being eased on the 1st of December and this is giving confidence to the public and having a positive effect on our industry.

We are selling a broad range of stock with edibles, screening, colour and shrubs being popular. We are also seeing demand for old fashioned lines which seem to be in short supply.

I hope you all trade well and take time out to be with family and friends over the festive season

Merry Christmas,

Milton Vadoulis, President Garden Centres of Australia

In such a large state as Queensland there has been diverse variables in trade throughout Spring.

One positive though is that most of our dams are in the vicinity of 100% full and over flowing with the exception of Toowoomba. This all leads to promising times ahead.

We have just had one of our wettest October on record followed by our coolest November. Trading is patchy and being heavilly influenced by the weather patterns and a few sporting events ie. Cricket. Edible gardening is still proving to be popular and with all the rain fertilisers and herbicides for all weeds are other strong sales items.

Landscape design is also picking up with the addditional plant sales area a real bonus. Another positive is we still like to dine out so cafes are proving to be an added drawcard for those fortunate to have one. As I write this article guess what – it’s started raining again.

Best wishes to all for Christmasmas from Queensland.

Dennis Nielsen, Nielsen’s Native Plant Nursery

There is no doubt that Spring 2010 was certainly a challenge! The fabulous news was that our 13 year drought was finally broken, however it brought a ‘mixture of seasons weather’ which delayed the ‘normal’ start to spring which usually kicks off in September for Victoria.

The edible scene still remains strong and growth in this area continues. Colour is well and truly back and we have found that customers are decorating their gardens and entertaining areas with an affordable solution that gives fabulous results.

Summer does not seem to be even close with December’s weather bringing plenty of rain. Over the past two months we have had one fine weekend and we have had excessive rainfall. Furniture has suffered as a result and high ticket items are still slow. We are hopeful that we will pick up sales in this area in the New Year.

Food on the other hand is different. Our cafe continues to grow and people always find money in their pockets when it comes to breakfast, lunch and a delicious dessert or even a glass of wine. We have had good growth in our gift and home wares and sales are up leading into the busy Christmas period. Best wishes to you all.

Karen Moad.
Managing Director.
Rivers of Yarrambat.

There’s no doubt that we nursery people are affected by the weather just like farmers. In Australia we have had a severe drought for ten plus years and it has broken this year, except regrettably in Western Australia. However, it is of course now too wet and sales are not great. To me, it’s insurance for the longer term though and we should have strong summer and autumn sales. Cheers.

Leigh Siebler, Garden Centres of Australia Administrator.