E-News: June 2011

June 2011

Number 10, June 2011


A Week in the Life of the President

Sunday May 22nd. The UK GCA Club Dinner. Our annual get-together of retired or ex-garden centre owners. Held in London, in the Library of the Marriott, County Hall, looking out over the River Thames to The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. This is always such a lovely opportunity to catch up with old friends, or renew acquaintances. I up-dated everyone on the IGC. Many of the guests had attended our congresses over the years and had such great memories. The eldest member attending was Derek Worrall, 90 this week. His quote ‘Oh, I’ve only organised a short walk on my birthday’. It is on just such energy that I believe this industry has been built.

Wednesday 25th May. Chelsea Flower Show. Delightful lunch in bustling Italian restaurant with Martina and Sylvano (our Italian Congress organisers), John and Sally Zaplatynsky from Vancouver (John is on the IGC Board) and my daughter Tammy. Then on to THE show. In warm sunshine the most famous flower show in the World really was looking its sparkling best. I felt very proud that our International friends could enjoy this unique occasion.

Thursday 26th May. Visit to Garden Centres. Following a request from the managing director of a group of centres, I just went to check on how a couple of them were looking. How many other industries could call on what some would see as ‘the competition’ to do that?

Friday 27th May. Barbecue at Tammy’s. Ian and Merilyn Moad of Rivers of Yarrambat Garden Centre in Melbourne were staying for a couple of days during their 6 week tour in Europe. The previous week they helped build the famous Fleming’s Australian Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show. From Tammy’s they were heading South West to visit – yes, you’ve guessed – garden centres and gardens. Paul and Carol Cooling of Cooling’s Garden Centre joined us for a fun evening. Yet another example of how great the friendships forged through both our National and International organisations are.

The Czech Republic and Russia have recently joined the IGC. Let us hope they and all of you will gain increasing benefits from your membership. I’m looking forward to seeing 180 of you in Italy in September.

Best wishes,

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


Nick Reports from South Africa

The GCA has celebrated top performers at the annual winter SANA Convention which was held in Bloemfontein in Central South Africa during May. The Convention not only celebrated the GCA Grading and overall winners it also included the SANA Awards where Paul Vonk received the Presidents Cup. This year the convention delegates also toured the local GCA members. Plant Paradise won the coveted Garden Centre of the year award. Stodels Nursery Bellville won the best large garden centre in SA and Eckards Garden Pavilion won the best in Gauteng South. All our winners were featured on ww.facebook.com/sanurseryassociation and on the website www.sana.co.za

Back in the garden centres the northern parts of South Africa traded down for the second autumn in a row with very few members bucking the trend. Besides the general retail decline in sales, the unseasonable high rainfall slowed garden centre sales and delayed winter planting once again. The Retailers and Growers have reported huge stock losses during April and May the availability of colour stock was limited. The bulb and seed planting seasons were less affected than bedding plants.

Trade has been buoyant in the Southern half of the country; although there is big concerns that input cost increases are going to result in a drop of profits. Consumer debt levels in the south of the country are generally lower than in the north, and the result has been good trade. The quality of the plants currently being produced in this area is very good.

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


Report from Tuinbranche Nederland

Tuinbranche Nederland had a successful launch of the “Nationale Tuinbon” which is an electronic gift card. The Nationale Tuinbon is a daughter company of the association and responsible for the initiative. The launch started with a group of 80 companies with good coverage throughout the country. More garden centres will follow soon.

Also the website www.nationale-tuinbon.nl will contribute to its goal to take a fair market share of the money spend on gifts which is an estimated 7 billion euros a year. The gift card business takes about 1 billion of this market. The participants can either bring or take value to and from the gift card through a fully web based system. The cash register communicates with the data system where the card and its value are identified. The information is 100% connected with the money transfer from the garden centre to the third party account. The up loader is rewarded with 2 % of the value; the off loader (where the money is spent) pays a 5% commission. From the 3 % the cards are ordered, the ICT system is updated and promotion is arranged. The participants pay a € 150 fee for the connection between their cash register and the Nationale Tuinbon data system.

Met een vriendelijke groet,

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


Greetings from Garden Centres Canada

Do you ever get the feeling that the whole country is too busy to garden? Spring in Canada felt this way.

A federal election in May had homeowners hanging onto their pocket books with uncertainty; a provincial election is pending in British Columbia, and a referendum on a controversial BC sales tax has shoppers wistfully hoping it will be revoked and refraining from making major purchases until the outcome is known. There have been Royal Weddings and hockey playoffs and global politics all making the news.

Meanwhile the ground is still cold.

This spring’s gloomy weather has set Canadian garden centres back, from coast to coast. Many retailers are reporting significant losses. Some say that they are more than a million dollars behind last year’s sales.

The shortfalls have echoed through the industry in not altogether positive ways. Canadian retailers are importing more U.S. plants than ever in efforts to save money. The Canadian ‘Loonie’ continues to hold parity with the American Greenback meaning that Canadian growers, who revelled in cross-border selling, have all but lost the American market. They are grasping at the domestic market as local retailers cross the border for bargains.

Indeed, retailers’ efforts to curb spending has also meant that the Garden Centre Inspection Program carried out by Eve Tigwell, and modelled after those in the UK, Germany and Denmark, has fewer than a dozen subscribers this year despite positive feedback. Identifying trends has proven difficult with product moving so slowly.

This is not to say that there aren’t exciting developments in garden retailing. The state of the art, $37 million Enjoy Centre in Edmonton has opened, and colleagues are awaiting its completion to see if the European model (including growing facility, rooftop greenhouses, spa, food service, and more) will be the new way of garden retailing in Canada.

CNLA’s National Plastics Recycling Event has six times more participating retailers than last year, making good press and collecting plastic pots and trays. The edibles craze continues and would presumably thrive (if only it were warm enough to plant a tomato!)

We are holding hopes for a warmer, less eventful, and more sales-friendly summer!

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


Greetings from the UK

We had a fantastic start to the spring season; warm weather, very little rain and near perfect conditions. By the end of April, trading was up by 24% on the month and about the same YTD and everyone was on a high. Then came May! The weather deteriorated with Scotland worst hit receiving 122% of its spring rainfall; ironically a large part of England has received only 2% so they are desperate for rain.

From the trading figures received so far, May was probably the worst it has been for many years with most garden centres down. Surprisingly seeds and bulbs, that for the past few years have seen unprecedented growth, are down by 20% on the month and 15% YTD – does this mean the Grow your Own phenomenon is losing its momentum? Despite the poor results in May, YTD trading is still up by 5% so it’s not all bad.

Our garden centre standards inspections will be finished by the middle of June and there will be some healthy competition at the Area Awards evenings around the country in July when the results are announced. The GCA Garden Centre of the Year awards and other main awards will not be announced until our annual conference in January.

I am pleased to report we have had an influx of 18 new garden centre members in the past couple of months which very heartening; it is the standards inspection programme that is the UK GCA’s main strength and those who join see this as a vehicle for taking their business up to the next level.

I hope you all have a good summer/winter and look forward to meeting up in Italy for the IGCA Congress.

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


The French Report

As in February, the weather in March was very good. This warm and sunny climate gave consumers the desire to go back to work in their garden after a harsh winter. The total sales increase in March reached 8 %. The nursery has registered + 17 % and the flower market saw its sales rise 10 %. Over the quarter, the total turnover recorded a 10 % increase. Only, the cold greenhouse and the pet market remain stable.

Although April showed a more moderate growth, the accumulation in the first four months still reaches 9 %.

Christiane Weiller, cweiller@fnmj.com


Urban Gardening in Switzerland

Now open: «Wyss GartenLaden» in Biel and Berne

To bring town dwellers closer to the crafts of working with soil, plants and vegetables and to promote the joys of gardening, Wyss has opened two new specialist shops in Biel/Bienne on 250 m2 and in Berne on 160m2 under the name «Wyss GardenLaden».

In so doing, Wyss has seized upon the trend for urban gardening and combined well-known traditional elements with the demand for a meaningful and enjoyable lifestyle. Whether you own a flower bed, herb garden or vegetable patch: with a little imagination and the necessary basic knowledge, you can transform even the smallest space on your balcony, terrace, roof or backyard into a green oasis.

The product range is designed with innovation and sustainability in mind, and includes a wide selection of both seasonal and regional products. These range from freshly cut flowers, house and balcony plants, seedlings, culinary herbs, seeds, shoots, soil, tools, garden equipment, plant pots, useful accessories for inside and outside as well as delicacies for the kitchen. In addition, the shop in Biel has a selection of around 200 varieties of choice teas. Professional advice and events centred upon the topic of gardening make the garden shop a really interesting venue.

Well worth a visit! See photos at the end of this E-News.

The report above is about a new urban gardening shop concept of the following Swiss company:
Wyss Samen und Pflanzen AG
Schachenweg 14a, CH-4528 Zuchwil-Solothurn

Best regards from Switzerland.
Erwin Meier-Honegger
Ernst Meier AG | EMail emh@meier-ag.ch | www.meier-ag.ch


E-News from Germany

In Germany, the weather has brought a great start to the spring. Permanent sunshine ensured happy faces in the green industry. Lack of rain slowed down the growth from now. The barbecue and garden furniture season has probably never started so early. We can see a much stronger trend to the vegetable garden. Self-harvested fruit and vegetables from the own garden is very highly appreciated.

Accordingly the demand for herbs and vegetables is very good. The stocks of fruit trees are sold out as far as possible. Old varieties and a wide variety of species are certain topics that we can win in the next few years.

25 people have registered for our 2-day Trip to the garden-centers of Belgium. The Belgien garden-centers won a European competition in innovating ideas and we will participate . See photos at the end of this E-News.

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


Rachel Doyle Reports from Ireland

Ireland has been gripped by recession but we are being positive. The season got off to a brilliant start. April was an exceptional month, weather super and that feel good factor was very evident especially in our industry. There was a strong emphasis on everything, gardening, plant sales, garden furniture, BBQs and grow your own. Sales in May dropped but year to date sales are up.

We had a visit from the Queen of England, the first time an English Monarch has visited Ireland in over 100 years. In light of the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland (the bit ruled by Britain), this was a historic occasion and lifted the spirits of the nation. There was a real sense of putting the past behind us, living the moment and looking forward to a brighter future. One week later the U.S. president Barack Obama visited our country and there was such a positive air of excitement.

Last week we had our biggest event in the gardening calendar ‘Bloom’ in Dublin. It is now in its fifth year and was an incredible event. Bord Bia, our government body staged the event. The quality display gardens, craft displays, food and everything related to horticulture was available at the event. It is now recognized as an International Event. The media coverage on all TV channels, radio and the press was invaluable to the industry.

When the U.S. President was here he learned a sentence in our native language. “Is Féidir Linn”, which translates to “Yes we can”.

I believe that it’s true and lets all take that positive attitude.

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


Greetings from Japan

Dear friends, Many friends sent warm and heartful messages to our Japan members and to me. Thank you very much for encouraging us and supporting our country.

All Japanese members were strongly shocked about happening in our country. Almost of our members are suffered from this disaster still now. Especially members who have garden centers in northeast Japan around Sendai and Fukushima haven’t got back to normal condition. However, we are making a lot of effort to recover our condition with a close bond of our mutual help.

Until May, people restrained themselves and it caused big damages for Japanese economy including garden center business. Many growers and garden centers couldn’t use electric power, gas, and water for long time. Some growers around Fukushima couldn’t continue their business because of reactor problems. But now we try not to restrain any more and try to active our economy with our sympathy to victims and people in stricken area. Therefore, now we are getting a gradual recovery.

We have to save the electric energy for the very hot summer, so we promote green curtain of bitter melon or morning glory and flower curtain for shading sunshine.

We hope to meet you in Italy congress.

Koichi Akatsuka, Japan Garden Center Association, ffcplan@akatsuka.gr.jp


From Australian President Milton

We were all waiting for autumn to come and kick in with good sales, well I’m still waiting. Autumn has come and gone and we are all left to wonder where it went. Sales were all a bit ho hum, with weather in South Australia being very good for good sales but customers were a bit scarce. Easter was late this year and lots of us in retail thought this was going to be the one, the one to really kick us along and again that came and went with only some mixed results.

Looking back now what happened? Well I think either gardens are still looking good and not much work was needed or people are just not out there spending money. Maybe a combination of both.

Some interesting numbers to look at are seedlings and colour is up along with giftware and garden hardware. The poorer performers were tree and shrubs and outdoor living. We go into winter with great uncertainty, what to expect; good sales of fruit trees and roses or poor.

We will continue to promote and sell as we normally do and adhere to our promotional plan and like always it will turn around. Keep Warm.

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


A Victorian Report from Karen Moad

The wonderful thing about retail is that you just never know what is on the cards – what the next day will bring, what the next trend is and what the weather will really be!

There is no doubt that retailing is challenging at the moment…so what can we do about it? Use the time with your team and look at the opportunities – this is hard to do in the busy times when you are just trying to keep up with the pressures of the day-to-day things.

We have been concentrating on our promotional calendar in the last couple of months and we are bringing people in though education and workshops which has been successful.Mothers Day brought some surprises from previous year’s trends. We saw a huge swing to the gift shop with women’s fashion, accessories and general gifts rather than the traditional wrapped plant. In saying that, Orchids and cyclamen were strong sellers.

Winter seems like it’s been set in for a while now, so let’s hope that people are acclimatised to the cold weather and are ready to get out into the garden and prepare for the spring ahead. People are definitely adding colour to their garden at this gloomy time of year, so keep the benches stocked and the baskets looking pretty!

Karen Moad, GCA Director, karen@riversofyarrambat.com


Queensland Wrap – Two Reports

April started full of hope for good autumn trade but wet weekends and subdued consumer spend meant that most retailers did not achieve their expectations. The Easter weekend provided mixed results for retailers – some experienced good trade whilst others were quiet.

Mother’s Day trade was good for most retailers but feedback from many retailers was that consumers generally spent less with lower average sales. The main purchase areas were flowers and small gifts – large gift items and garden decor did not fare well.
Since Mother’s Day, retailers have reported that sales have fallen away significantly. I do not think that it is the cool weather conditions affecting sales at present rather the consumers have simple closed their wallets, tightly.

Plant sales have been the main area of decline over the autumn period. This has had a real impact on secondary sales of pots, mixes and fertilisers. Businesses with gift lines and homewares have had increases in these departments, which has offset declines in other areas.

The decline in plant sales throughout Queensland in autumn, on the back of dreadful summer trade from floods and rains, has meant that most garden retailer’s sales are well down for the financial year 10/11.

However, we will not despair, as many retailers believe that spring trade will be better than the last couple of years.

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


And from Nielson’s Native Nursery

It’s still difficult here in Queensland in all sectors of retailing. From discussions with many retailers, 15% to 20% down is the norm. There is absolutely no confidence in the Government. Utility fees are rising and after the floods rental accommodation shortages forced rents up.

A massive decline in new homes and construction work and then we’re still getting rain. Rained out again yesterday.In today’s paper many parents can’t even pay day care fees and debt collectors are being brought in for as little as $50.00 outstanding.

We’re just getting on with it at the moment. Being a bit more prudent, buying in smaller quantities and using much of our own stock as possible. Lorikeets (restaurant) is going well. People are still eating.

Marine Mates (salt and fresh water fish & accessories) is consistent with a few purple patches.

Dennis Nielsen, dccnielsen@bigpond.com


The Final Say

Some of the reports could be a bit depressing this month but I’ve been in this industry long enough to know that business will come back with a rush. The secret is to be ready. In the meantime, keep positive, try something different every day and involve your staff with ideas, innovation and marketing. They will bring fresh thinking to the table.

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