E-News: December 2011

December 2011

Number 12, December 2011

Do be sure to register for the IGCA Congress in 2012 – August 26 – 31.
Have a look at www.igcc2012.org for full information.


Greetings from IGCA President Nick Stodel

The South of South Africa has seen a wet beginning to spring which has surprisingly not seen a huge impact in sales. Parts of the Cape that were experiencing drought have seen water restrictions being dropped due to fuller dams. This has helped increase sales in the region. Customers in this area seem to be looking for value which has resulted in garden centres offering great deals.

Trade in the northern parts of South Africa continues to be under pressure as previously reported. Extreme heat waves through early October into November did not help. Very few members are reporting trading up and smaller independents are particularly taking strain. Retail members with Christmas departments have also reported a slow up take compared to previous years. There is still however a positive sentiment amongst our members.

Over the past few months our members have taken part in a regional campaign through the Association marketing initiative www.lifeisagarden.co.za raising funds for the Cancer Association of South Africa’s (CANSA) 80th Anniversary Celebrations.

2 Rans from the purchase of every item identified by the garden centre as a CANSA promotional plant or product will go to CANSA South Africa. 1 Ran comes from the retailer and 1 Ran comes from the supplier. The campaign has moved though the regions supported by our administration and has been well supported by our members.

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


From IGCA Vice President Rachel Doyle

This time last year Ireland was blanketed in a carpet of snow and temperatures had plummeted to -16 °C. As I write this the sun is shining and all garden centres, DIY and hardwares are stocked to the brim with snow shovels, ice breaker, sledges and winter fuels. Supermarkets and other big stores are continuing to stock garden centre products such as weedkillers, compost and pots. So we decided if they can do this so can we. So now we are selling fire starter kits, coal and briquettes.

We are keeping our heads above the water and are constantly driving our sales through innovative marketing strategies. Who would have ever thought that you would pack a garden centre with 400 ladies and two chippendale models for a fun night out. We had incredible sales figures on that night. We believe that theatre and events are a driving force, as the saying goes “if you snooze you lose”. (Rachel, what were you thinking?)

Bord Bia are constantly researching all aspects of the market, peoples’ buying habits and consumer trends. Recent research shows that 11% of all plants purchased are from the garden centres, followed by Tesco at 6% on amenity products. From this detailed analysis it shows the garden centres have to stand out and be different or they will lose out to the supermarkets.

Ireland is experiencing one of the worst recessions ever, as are our European partners. We have decided that now is the time to once again invest heavily in our catering facility as this will be the driving force for future expansion of the Arboretum. The last time we built our catering offering I was accused by other garden centres of being mad; sadly these centres have fallen by the wayside or are struggling to survive these challenging times. Once again we have listened to our customers’ comments, both good and bad, and are now re-developing our restaurant.

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


And from the immediate Past President Sue Allen

How the time has flown since our great Congress in Italy, when I handed over to Nick Stodel as President of IGCA. I had a fantastic two years, culminating in the Congress that nearly didn’t happen. It was only thanks to the enthusiasm and energy of individuals within a country that is not even a member that it all came good in the end. Hopefully we will soon hear they have successfully launched an association which will benefit from membership of IGCA.

You may be wondering just what I am doing now to keep myself busy, and the answer is – GARDEN RELEAF DAY. Next spring throughout the United Kingdom we will all be celebrating the launch of the spring season on Garden Releaf Day, 13th March 2012. This initiative was inspired by just one man (Boyd Douglas-Davies, previously of Webbs of Wychbold Garden Centre) who stood up and said ‘If we, as an industry, only do as well in 2012 as we did in 2011, then that will not be good enough.’ He has galvanised us all into action, and I am now the administrator for the project.

The aims are:
1. To kick-start the gardening season by engaging gardeners, old, new and potential – Nationwide,
2. To have fun doing it and 3. To raise funds for our industry’s charity – Greenfingers, which builds gardens for children’s hospices.

Our media, celebrity gardeners, garden centres and suppliers are behind this, and there are lots of crazy events being organised, including World Record Attempts at planting the most seeds in a day, nationwide cream teas etc. Watch this space.
I hope you all have a peaceful and happy Christmas, followed by a successful and fulfilling 2012.

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


Christmas Cheer from Canada

It’s true that last Spring has been scratched off our garden retailers’ Christmas card lists. But a renewed optimism has been unpacked, along with the twinkle lights and glittered ornaments. In the spirit of the season, special events that make shopping pleasurable and relaxing, while giving back to the community, are being held at garden centres across the country.

One of the most entertaining examples comes from GardenWorks in Burnaby, which hosted “Chicks, Cheese & Christmas”-a girlfriend’s shopping extravaganza! The ticketed wine and cheese featured product demos, book signings, refreshments, door prizes, and silent auctions. Reports of hunky, uniformed firefighters serving appetizers hit the Facebook-o-sphere, and 5% of the evening’s sales were donated to the firefighters’ favourite charity, a local burn fund.

Dutch Growers in Saskatoon, the garden retailer that leads the pack in fashion merchandising, sponsored a pair of “Choc‘laCure” events this fall. Boasting the world’s only Vero Moda shop-inside-a-shop, Dutch Growers was the perfect location for a fall fundraising fashion show. Customers contributed more than $7,000 in admission fees and donations toward medical equipment for the Saskatoon Cancer Centre, while previewing the latest in winter apparel. The greenhouses were transformed once again in November to host a glamorous Choc’laCure gala.

For others, Christmas is a homespun affair. Greenland Garden Centre in Edmonton shares “old-fashioned” holiday cheer in the form of hayrides, carol singing, and cookie decorating, while Parkland Garden Centre (Red Deer) sends a “Christmas Card to the Community” by creating a series of ice sculptures in the display gardens. At Bylands in Kelowna, they are fortunate enough to book a few hours of Santa’s time; they fly him in especially for their customers-by helicopter! All that these folks ask of shoppers is a donation for the local food bank, or a toy for a needy child.

Virtually no Canadian garden centre is without a seminar series on holiday containers and arrangements, photos (for kids and pets!) with Santa, community craft markets, tree-lightings, or gingerbread house contests, at this time of year. What a contrast to last week’s news reports, which highlighted the box-store practice of narrowing aisles on Black Friday to create chaos and stimulate frenzied buying!

Perhaps there is nothing new or trendy about our members getting into the Christmas spirit, but never before has having a sense of community and customer kindness become so clearly a competitive edge. Special events like these emphasize a key point published by the 3/50 Project (a non-profit cheerleader for independent retailers):

For every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll, and other expenditures. If you spend that in a national chain, only $43 stays here. Spend it online, and nothing comes home. (www.the350project.net)

What does that mean for CNLA? We are heartened by our members, and are reminded that their success runs deeper than increased profitability. We continue to look for programs that will strengthen them-and their communities-in the coming year. Unfortunately, we have to hold our tongues on a new collaboration designed to do just that, so watch for an update in 2012!

Seasons Greetings,

Renata Triveri , Canadian Nursery Landscape Association
Email: renata@canadanursery.com


Hello from Switzerland

This year we experienced an exceptionally dry and mild autumn. Right up until mid November there were hardly any frosts in level lands, therefore the gardening population were able to be very active to their heart’s content. Are these signs the first impact of global warming? One feels that we could live with that.

During the summer JardinSuisse organised a study trip to Austria. The group visited five very different businesses. The mix ranged from the big Garden Center to the small retail shop and all were received with lots of interest. The participants were enchanted with the small unobtrusive business Koprax (used to be a tree nursery) who pay a lot of attention to the detail. Sanders in St. Florian is a more traditional business with an extensive own production.

A surprise was the Wachauer Chili, a speciality of the nursery Hick in Weissenkirchen which is in the world cultural heritage of Wachau. With this chili the nursery found a niche which makes them well known beyond the area boundaries. Impressive was also the 90 hectares large tree nursery with adjacent Garden Center Praskac in Tulin. The participants returned with lots of impressions and experiences. Once more was proven how valuable international contacts can be.

Othmar Ziswiler, mail: o.ziswiler@jardinsuisse.ch www.jardinsuisse.ch


Rising Slowly from France

An 18.4% increase in plant protection products sales saluted last October the official publishing of essential texts of the new French plant protection products distribution legislation. The global retail sales increase that month was also quite positive.

This growth trend began in August (+ 0.2%) to rise slowly in September (+1.1%) up to +5.1% in October.

The warm weather (3°C above average), with lots of sunshine, certainly drew people to their gardens and thus to their garden centres. This is a very good example of how the new generation of our consumers thinks: unaware of basic gardening rules (bulb planting needs some rain first and some chill after…), but eager to be outdoors and feel like a gardener whenever the weather is nice.

Christiane Weiller, cweiller@fnmj.com


Greetings from Poland

Year 2011 the green industry was characterized by questions related to global crisis. Like in other branches of industry, garden centres’ owners approached the business very carefully.

Despite this fact several members of our Organization decided to invest in expansion of their stores. Certainly, investments have been made much truncated compared to the original plans but these are actions that will show whether they were right in the long term.

With good weather at the beginning of the season our main sales period was better compared to last year. At present, our garden centres, after finishing trading on All Saints Day, are very busy preparing for sale of Christmas. As the analysis of the market, despite the economic crisis, consumers will spend more than 5% more for Christmas than in 2010.

We therefore need to be prepared!

And from the life of the Association in November there was held Annual General Meeting of PSCO. This year’s Congress proved once again that the need for information exchange, cooperation and education is enormous, and by joining forces, each individual becomes more efficient in their operations.

Best regards,

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


An Update from Japan

In the towns of Japan, winter illuminations are changed into a little bit quiet ones, and are used LED lights because many Japanese think about saving electricity.

In recent years, many containers, gifts, and ornaments for Halloween came to be offered in Japanese garden centres in October. In December, winter gifts have been needed as the thanks gifts in the end of year since before in Japan. Especially, cyclamen, poinsettia, cymbidium are sold very well.

Also, the new year’s decorative plants will be shown in the end of December. Many varieties of containers of pine tree, bamboo, and Japanese apricot tree show the localities and traditions in each place in Japan.

Kengo Satomi, Akatsuka Garden Co., Ltd.
E: k-satomi@akatsuka.gr.jp


Greetings from the UK GCA – and goodbye from Gillie

Following the coldest summer since 1993 we have had the warmest October and November on record – very bizarre! Like everyone in Europe and the US, our economy and the prospects for the immediate future are not good; however garden centre retailers are at least on average, holding their own.

YTD figures show that catering continues to grow by 5%; outdoor plants by 3.82%; food/farm shops by 3.75%; the other categories are either even or down. Overall we are about 1% up on last year.

Christmas is now in full swing so we are hopeful this will improve the lacklustre trading. Our annual Christmas Display competition is underway and as I write the finalists are being judged; we had 75 entries to the competition from all over England, Scotland and Wales. The judges have been amazed by the amount of care and attention and the effort that has gone into making the Christmas displays magnificent – garden centres really lead the way for a magical customer experience at Christmas.

We had very sad news to announce earlier this month about the death of David Clark whom many of you would have known. He was IGCA President for four years from 1993 and UK GCA Chairman in 1980. In 1997 when the UK hosted the IGCA Congress David was instrumental in organising an amazing trip to his native Scotland. He was one of life’s true gentlemen and will be sorely missed by all his family, friends and colleagues.

Finally, I have to say goodbye to you; this will be my last contribution to the IGCA E-news. From the end of January I will be retiring. I have had 13 memorable years with the GCA and have met and worked with some wonderful inspirational people. I will especially miss the IGCA – my international colleagues and of course the wonderful Congresses – they have been the highlight of my job.

So I wish you a fond farewell and hope you all have a very Happy Christmas and a healthy and prosperous 2012.

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


USA Report for 2011

Garden Centers of America® is delighted to share a good report following last week’s black Friday! In the US we have a Thanksgiving Holiday the last Thursday in November. The following day is the official kick-off of the Christmas selling season. People get up in the middle of the night to go stand in line at major retailers for super discounted products.

There is an absolute shopping frenzy! All reports from the Black Friday Sales suggest that Americans purchased more than forecasters predicted by roughly 6%. While these selling frenzies are often targeted at the mass merchandisers in the US – smart independents take their piece of the action as well. Advertising is strong and social media certainly allows the independents a voice to their targeted audience as well. There was also a movement to specifically target independent businesses on Saturday after Black Friday.

On November 30th, 2011, the stock market in the US had an increase over 500 points (the largest increase since 2009)! While consumers remain somewhat wary, we are hopeful that economic recovery is imminent. Honestly, that would be a great Christmas present for the whole country.

Shanan Molnar, Garden Centers of America®
Vice President of Operations, smolnar@asginfo.net


News from Holland

December in Holland is like everywhere in the world an important season. Garden centres expect 20 % of their annual turnover. This year the expectations are even higher because in Holland business is slow since the second week of May. Hopes are high to have a make-good season.

Until now the weather is much better than the previous two years where an early snow season scared many customers off. garden centres look extremely bright in this season with a competition in who has built the nicest Christmas style-corner. Tuinbranche Nederland established a CRS award with a garden centre as a very happy winner on our CSR congress. Groenrijk Haule won the prize for its consequent attention on the CSR matters People, Planet, Profit. Both environmental attention (heating on wood) as well as social responsibilities (working with detainees & mentally handicapped people) are excellently taken care of.

Met een vriendelijke groet,

Rard Metz, Directeur,
E: rard.metz@tuinbranche.nl l www.tuinbranche.nl


Hello from Germany

We have a lot to do preparing our winter conference from 15/1/2012 until 17/1/2012 in Dortmund. We expect about 250 people which take part of our conference. With the motto: “The ball is round and our game lasts 365 days;” we will prepare our members for their personal win. Besides the lectures we will visit 4 Garden-Centres in the area and have a little cultural program planned.

We also are busy in preparing our congress in Germany 2012. Actually we have 73 registrations already. Please promote our congress in your country. We will send you brochures if you need -or look at the IGCA-archive.

Have a look at www.igcc2012.org for full information.

The garden-centre Moubis in Ibbenbüren opened their second garden-center on 20th October and the garden-center Schley in Gelsenkirchen opened on 3rd November their third centre.

Have a look on their Homepages: https://www.moubis.de/ , https://www.schley-gartencenter.de/

The weather in Germany is very dry and too warm for autumn. All in all it was a difficult year for selling plants. The very good sales by plants in spring prevent a big sales decline now. The sales winners were grills, garden furniture, plant protection and indoor plants. Bulbs are sold very good in autumn.

Besides the exhibition IPM in Essen (24.-27. 01.2012) we will also be present -the first time -with a booth at the ‘Christmasworld’ in Frankfurt (27.-31. 01.2012).

Best Wishes, Jutta Lenz, German Garden-Center Association
VDG-Jutta Lenz verband@garten-center.de


From Australian President Milton

After a somewhat cold and quiet winter, spring started early in august with a mix of nice rains and sunny weekends. Both August and September were up on last year with good sales across most categories. Then came October with good weather again and good sales but most of us fell short of last year. This really surprised me so as I investigated into it further I could see that last year October was a cracker month so always hard to beat. Most people I speak to are line ball with last year or slightly up YTD.

As I mentioned, we saw sales good in all categories and especially strong in edibles, colourful shrubs, seedlings and garden hardware. One item that has been particularly strong is raised garden beds for growing vegies in. Those with cafes reported good growth in sales. Outdoor living has also been good this season and I’m putting that down to two things; one the weather was better and two sales were very bad last year.

Water restrictions are no longer in SA with our desalination plant almost on line. Customers are feeling more confident that water will be available for them to water their gardens albeit at a cost. The negative thing here is the media that is always talking about how much water has gone up and how much more it’s going to go up. We now pay $2.75 per KL and there is talk of it going up to $4 per KL. Either way if you can afford it you can use all the water you like. We are finding most people want to have a beautiful garden.

As we head into summer we see the usual trend in sales turn to gift giving and getting gardens ready for the Christmas season. Good opportunity for lots of sales.

Milton Vadoulis, Vadoulis Garden Centre SA.
E: miltonvadoulis@bigpond.com


Karen Moad – Rivers of Yarrambat

It would be nice not to talk about the weather but unfortunately it’s almost difficult not to! In my last report I had finished off with ‘Fingers crossed that the weather is kind and the transition to spring is a good one!’ Mmm, what was I thinking! For what was looking like a fabulous spring ended up with a very ordinary one! Melbourne’s unpredictable weather was in full force (it continues as I write this) with rain, hail, storms, sunshine and wind from overnight lows of 2 degrees to daytime highs of 32 degrees only days apart!!

Weather aside, the excitement of colour and fragrance in and around the business with some lovely new release plants has been the real highlight over the past few months. This has included Petunia ‘Bumblebee’, gorgeous Geraniums, Daphne Eternal fragrance and the gorgeous hybrid tea rose ‘Pope John Paul’ to name a few. Our focus on bringing colour in every way possible into our customer’s lives has been a very successful one and has created in some great sales and inspiration.

High ticket items have dropped right off and outdoor furniture and leisure have performed poorly for obvious reasons. Gifts have been strong as you would hope and the café and functions centre have been keeping extremely busy. The promotion of ‘The Garden Party’ – an initiative aimed at inspiring Victorians to get back into their gardens this spring was a great start. I think there is a fantastic future to ignite this campaign further in the future. (Mack the Labrador certainly joined in on the festivities as you can see!)

I always look to the future with a positive outlook as you just don’t know what is around the corner! Best wishes to all of you all across the world for a magical Christmas and a safe and happy new year to come.

Karen Moad, GCA Director, karen@riversofyarrambat.com


Queensland Report

Spring appears to have come and gone quickly this year. We have had some beautiful weather which inspired consumers to a short, sharp buying frenzy but has started to ease off now with the hot weather in November.

Shrubs, to 1.5m high, have proven to be the most popular category in plants this year followed closely by potted colour and herbs/vegetables. Also, small growing natives have enjoyed resurgence too. Large trees and architectural plants have underperformed as a whole.

Gardening for the spring appears to have centred on consumers maintaining their gardens rather than investing in new garden makeovers or large plantings. Planting media and fertilisers have performed well and there are reports of good sales in some pot categories. This probably has a lot to do with the retail market being suppressed and consumers have retreated to ‘nesting’ inside. This is reflected by good increases in homewares and gift sales.

Unfortunately, as a whole, consumer spend appears to remain suppressed but we all look forward to a good run into Christmas trade.

Jason Searle, GardenWay Home & Garden. jcsearle@searle.com.au


The Zany Tim Pickles reports from NSW

We have had great success again this spring with Petunia ‘Raspberry Blast’. We have planted these in pots and hanging baskets at the entrance to the nursery and they really put on a show. We sold them at 2 for $30 and despite Flower Power selling them for $8.99 in smaller pots, we still sold 100 in just 2 weeks. It just shows how important display gardens are to our business.

In contrast the new release Black Velvet and Bumble Bee petunias have been sales disasters. We have been searching for a black-flowering plant forever but now we’ve got it nobody wants it.

Best wishes Tim Pickles.

E: timsgardencentre@internode.on.net | www.timsgardencentre.com.au


From Leigh

We have received a lot of images this time and will place them on the GCA web site for better viewing. I’ll email you again when they are there.

Leigh Siebler,
Garden Centres Association of Australia Inc.
PO Box 1056 Hartwell VIC 3124
T: 03 9889 5453 F: 03 9889 5281
M: 0409 889 779
W: www.gardencentresaust.com.au