E-News: March 2011

March 2011

Number 9, March 2011


From Your President Sue Allen

March 11th 2011 – I am writing this on a day that will certainly go down in the history of Japan as one of the most devastating for their people and country. I know that as the true horror of the massive earthquake and tsunami unfolds many of us will wish to express our sympathy and concern to Koichi and the many Japanese we have got to know over the last few years, culminating in our wonderful Congress in October 2010.

I know that Suichi, Koichi and all their team were so proud to show us their beautiful country and to overwhelm us with their hospitality, and I can only hope and pray that they are all safe. They will have all been affected in some way by this disaster and hope they will gain strength from the support and concern of their friends within our global industry. Such a tragic event serves to put all our other petty concerns into proportion – the weather, the economic climate, new rules and regulations and so many other issues that our industry is affected by throughout the World. Only a couple of weeks ago 22 of us, including Koichi, enjoyed our 3 days together in Bonn at the Board and Administrators Meeting, and had the opportunity to renew old friendships, make new ones and to discuss so many of those issues, but in the circumstances I find it hard to enthuse about the great things we achieved.

All good wishes to everyone in IGCA, my thoughts are with you all.

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


Register today for a Garden Centre Study Tour in Italy!

The International Garden Centre Association (IGCA) is planning our Annual Congress in Italy this September from the 11th-16th, 2011. A special study tour option is available for Garden Centre Managers and Directors under the age of 40, with special pricing and learning opportunities! There are only 12 spaces left – sign up today and experience a trip of a lifetime, to learn from over 150 top garden centre owners, managers, and staff from around the world!

What is included in the Congress?

The IGCA Congress 2011 is an all-inclusive event (Except the dinner on Tuesday). From the Sunday evening reception at the Park Hotel Laurin, Bozen-Bolzano , everything is taken care of during the Congress. Visit top garden centres, take in cultural sites, and network with like minded individuals during this tour. Flights and transportation to/from the airport is extra.

What’s in it for me?

The purpose of the Study tour is to ensure that the congress is used as a learning opportunity for the younger generation of Garden Centre Managers or Directors by;
• Ensuring the most is made from each visit during the congress – through additional explanations or information about each business from owners or managers plus having the opportunity to ask questions about what we have seen
• Analysing and discussing each visit to get the most out of it
• Learning about cultural differences and how these affect each business
• Facilitating discussions – sharing common problems and what is done around the world to resolve these challenges, comparing your own business success and failures
• Forming friendships and a peer group to help you resolve any future challenges and discuss opportunities

Special Pricing for Study Tour Participants!

Please note the Study Tour will stay at a Youth Hostel close to the Congress Hotel.
The Study Tour registration fee is a lower price as that of the main congress:
Early Bird Bookings, Before or on May 31st, 2011: 4 people (1 shared room) – 1.000,00 € per person

For more information and to sign up, visit: https://www.igcacongress2011.com/ – don’t miss out, sign up today!


Vice President Nick Reports from South Africa

The GCA members in the northern parts of South Africa had a good season (August to October) with most stores reporting strong growths to the end of December. January saw higher than average rainfall which held back trade for the first three weeks of the year but numbers were above average for the end of January. Our northern retailers are seeing good year to date growth but many of the smaller and the more specialised stores are still taking strain.

Stock losses have been a big knock for many of our growers and retailers as stock had to be dumped after the unexpected heavy rain which has also added to cash flow concerns. As we approach our autumn trade the general feeling amongst our northern retail members is positive but as always the balance of cash flow will dictate the mood over the next few months.

In the south, plant availability has been a challenge due to the high sales growth in plants experienced in the area. There are still droughts in some of the areas which is causing a continued drop in sales in those areas.

The Life is a Garden national marketing initiative will be promoting food gardening through autumn to stimulate an extended season for this department.

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


Greetings from Ireland

Spring is here & there’s a great buzz in the garden centre industry. We have had our general election & our new government will be sitting this week. The party that has been in power for the past 14 years was defeated & we now have a coalition of Fine Gael & Labour. I’m not sure how this marriage will work but they have a tough road ahead. We badly need confidence, so people will start spending again; the country has been gripped by fear.

Having had two successive bad winters & huge losses in the plant world, we have to revisit what we sell & for what position. Our challenge is to get people to change their mind set, not their plants. Many plants such as cordyine ‘Charlie Boy’ we are now suggesting as a patio plant that can be moved in if we get a severe winter.

The restructuring of our garden centre association is ongoing, & Ann McKenna has organised a group of our owners, managers, and staff to go to the UK to visit some garden centres for two days. This is a very positive exercise & a great networking event.

See you in Italy

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


Garden Centres Canada National Awards

Garden Centres Canada is pleased to announce Sheridan Nurseries – Unionville, ON as the winner of our 2010 Garden Centre Inspection Program. Scott Baillie, General Manager of the Unionville store, attended our recent awards gala in Vancouver, BC and was presented with the award by GCC Chair Anthony O’Neill. This is the second year for our awards program, and we are looking forward to the 2011 inspections being held this June across Canada.

Rebecca Doutre, CAE, Manager of Provincial Relations
Canadian Nursery Landscape Association,
Email: rebecca@canadanursery.com


And Leanne reports from GardenWorks, Canada

Christmas in Canada was good. Sales were stronger than expected in most garden centres (up from 5% to 16%) as economic optimism prevailed and Canadians opened up their wallets and revved up their credit cards. Canadian households have set record levels of personal debt this year. Will personal debt levels impact what guests to our centres are willing to spend this spring? Most folks I’ve spoken to are hopeful for a strong spring. There is certainly pent up enthusiasm to “get into the garden” after such crazy winter weather.

Record snow falls & temperatures coldest in 40 years… How’s YOUR early spring weather? In almost all of Canada, we have experienced tough conditions for “growing our businesses”! From January, sales in most garden centres are down 12%+, even MORE on the west coast where last January/ February was a warm, sunny and ‘OLYMPIC’ start to our spring.

Gardeners in St. Albert, Alberta (just outside of Edmonton) are eagerly awaiting the opening of ‘The Enjoy Centre’ next month. Years in planning, and building the Centre, brothers Jim & Bill Hole have created a truly unique experience for their guests and for their community! A tribute to their parents, Ted and Lois Hole, the facility is like none other in Canada. Over looking ‘Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park’, the stunning facility on 4.5 hectares will surely inspire and delight! Check out www.unearththepossibilities.com

Wishing all of you a prosperous and enjoyable SPRING! See you in Bolzano!

Leanne Johnson, GardenWorks, Chief Operating Officer, johnsonhome@telus.net

Erwin Meier has a brilliant new Garden Centre

Just a short notice about our own Garden-Centre that opened its doors on March 1st. We relocated our downtown location to the highway exit at the border of the town. The Garden-Centre covers 37’000m2, the sales area is 15’000m2.

Please feel free to download some pictures from our opening: https://www.meier-ag.ch/presse_download/

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


Report from the United States

Weather, weather and government…. A harsh winter for most is being followed by flooding in much of the eastern US. Today the tsumanis are hitting Hawaii with California expected to get some effects. Horrible for the people but long term for the green industry many plants, trees, shrubs will need to be replaced. Continued economic uncertainty is leaving the housing market slow to return to pre-2005-06 levels.

Spring is near and most in the garden center industry are more hopeful than in the last 2-3 years. Florida is already into their season with the rest of the country poised for a better season. Customers are tired of being frugal and hopefully will spend in the garden centers too. Better Homes and Gardens is a prominent magazine for women in the US and their gardening segment featured the new black Petunia (Ball Seed). I am attaching a link to their list of plants to look for in 2011. https://www.bhg.com/gardening/flowers/new-annuals/?sssdmh=dm17.513736&esrc=emrbB0311aR3a&email=2557951042

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


Greetings from Poland

In some parts of Poland temperature during the night still drops from a few to several degrees below zero but during the day, the sun shines nicely, making the temperature rise to a few degrees. Spring is in the air … The garden centers are preparing for the spring season, a big move when it comes to arranging large amounts of incoming goods in all possible assortments. In the last week of February it was held GARDENIA Garden Fair in Poznan that opens for the 5th time gardening season. Our Association is heavily involved in this event and once again organized training courses for garden centres’ owners, managers and staff.

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


Germany was the host country for the Administrators this year

Hello everybody!

Hope you all had a good and safe trip home. I was really encouraged to meet you all. Our Administrator Meeting from 21st til 23rd February in Bonn was attended by 20 persons. It was an, enjoyable successful Meeting and the weather was sunny but cold. Actually we are working intensivesly preparing for congress 2012 – the meeting was a good training. Our Online Shop is working as expected and it’s still exciting!

The weather is actually very good -sunny but still cold (about 10° Celsius). That entices the customer into the garden-centers and they have rising sales especially in spring plants! Not even the carnival season has hurt the business. The garden centre Selbach in Leverkusen – we visited- said that they had 40% more sales figures than last year at that time!

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


Greetings from the UK

The start to 2011 has been very positive, something we weren’t predicting back in December especially after experiencing the coldest, snowiest winter for 30 years and with the spectre of a VAT increase in January; job losses etc. February’s figures show that overall sales are up 32% on this time last year and 35% year to date. Customer numbers are up by 29% on the month and 34 % YTD and customer spend is up 18% on this time last year and 16% YTD – all very encouraging.

All we need now is the benign spring weather to continue especially during the public holidays in April/early May. Prince William’s wedding on 29th April has been planned to coincide with the Mayday holiday making it a four day weekend – great news, extra shopping days! However we still have a very antiquated law here about not being able to trade on Easter Sunday, this has been as bone of contention for years now and successive governments have ignored any lobbying from our sector. There is absolutely no logic to what would be the busiest trading day of the year; even the consumer does not understand it. We live in hope that sense will prevail – eventually.

Whilst my report is upbeat, I cannot help thinking about our friends in Japan; our hearts go out to them and of course to New Zealand and Australia too. We can’t begin to imagine what it must be like for those experiencing so much devastation.

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


Australian President Milton reports from South Australia

After a cool wet spring we headed into summer looking forward to strong sales. So how did we fare?

Well it was a bit mixed, for most of us leading into Christmas plant sales were up on last year as was garden hardware; gifts were about the same as last year and outdoor living was dramatically down. There was one garden centre in South Australia that was an exception to that. All this put together made Christmas ever to slightly up on last year.

Post Christmas sales were just steady with no records being broken and January ending again even so slightly up.February, the worst trading month for all of us in South Australia, turned out not too bad. Green life sales up slightly and the rest up to steady.

We, like many other states of Australia recorded a cool, wetter than normal summer and for us not to have day upon day in the 40s was a blessing I must say; this for us kept sales even to up. Yet still most are saying trade feels quiet and not pumping. I think with the good weather we had this season we would have expected sales to be stronger than they were; customers are being very cautious with their spending and higher ticket items are suffering the most e.g. Outdoor furniture.

We now head into autumn (natures planting time) and with beautiful days ahead we are looking forward to good sales in green life.

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


Rivers of Yarrambat, Victoria, Australia

It’s difficult to get away with not talking about the weather and this report is no exception. The last few months have certainly been interesting as we have experienced the coolest summer on record and the rains are still falling putting our 13 year drought, that was finally broken in 2010, well out of mind.

Sales of edibles and colour continue with strength, but green life is suffering as gardens are so green and lawns so lush, that gardeners are spending their time on weekends maintaining rather than planting or creating. Furniture has been badly hit as the need for people to purchase high ticket items in such a cool climate has been negligible.

Our home and gifts department on the other hand is experiencing extremely good growth. Our strongest category is in fashion with handbags, jewelry and clothing selling fast. It’s interesting how women always find money to buy things for themselves! Kid’s products and gifts also continue to grow.

As usual, people always find an excuse to go out and eat! Our café amazingly is still growing. We hope to be building a new café by mid 2011 and our staff are very excited about that.

Until next time, take care. Karen.

Karen Moad, GCA Director, karen@riversofyarrambat.com


Don’t Blink

The Garden Inspirations Group (GIG) ran their very successful functions in Victoria and NSW again this autumn with a brilliant guest speaker from New Zealand. Damian Luiten is the owner of Palmer’s Garden World in Whangarei, New Zealand. He is a great speaker but importantly practices and proves what he talks about.

His presentation titled ‘Don’t Blink; was very comprehensive and will be on the Greenworld and GIG web sites. It’s in the form of a PowerPoint slide show and also the words that went with it. I suggest you step through the slide show (there is sound on the second slide, be patient and ‘Don’t Blink’) and read the words at the same time. There is a lot there but I do believe that there is ‘something for everyone’ running a retail business. Damian covered it all in half an hour. It’s on https://www.gigaustralia.com.au and will be on
www.greenworldmag.com.au under the Web Feature button early next week.

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