E-News: September 2010

September 2010

Number 7, September, 2010

From Your President Sue Allen

Last month we were sorry to hear that the American Nurserymen and Landscape Association had resigned its membership of the IGCA. As one of the original and stalwart member countries they had hosted 3 congresses in the past, and for many years a large group of American delegates attended the congresses Worldwide. In the last few years these numbers had sadly declined, and the association did not believe that membership of IGCA was offering value for money for the majority of the members.

The concept of ‘Value for Money’ is an interesting one in the context of IGC, as I have always believed that as an individual garden centre owner the value of any Trade Association is in direct proportion to the amount of effort you put into it. As my Dad always said ‘You don’t get something for nothing in this life’.

However, I am delighted to be able to tell you that the Garden Centres of America group of over 350 members has now joined us, and we look forward to seeing some renewed interest from these retailers who are possibly much more in tune with what we all on an International level are trying to achieve in offering excellence to our customers.

Our congress in Japan is now only a few weeks away, and with over 180 delegates from 18 countries, I am sure it will be yet another memorable and exciting Congress to add to our list of successes.

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

From Tom in the USA

In the USA, the weather has been a major player in many facets of our economy including garden center retailing. In the Midwest and Northeast, soaring temperatures, 100 – 110 degrees Fahrenheit, beat many records. The West coast of our country has been unseasonably cool. Many fields of fruits and vegetables are slow to ripen and vintners are wondering what may become of their harvest.

Our economy and unemployment continue to be a major problem. Many reports of nurseries and retail garden centers are closing, or have already closed because of the changes in our banking systems lending practices. Those who have survived in the past with lines of credit can no longer obtain them. In the state of Oregon alone we had several hundred wholesale growers close up shop leaving a glut of under-priced plant material that got ‘dumped’ into different marketplaces.

As far as what was ‘new’ for retailers this year, we found a new Scott’s product, E-Z Seed, to be our biggest seller in the hard goods department. It is a mixture of grass seed, mulch and fertilizer in a container with an easy to apply shaker top. We generally sell a 1 lb. box of grass seed that will cover about 200 square feet, for about $5.99 to $7.99 US. The E-Z Seed covers only 80 sq. ft. and sells for $25.00 US! We couldn’t keep it on the shelf! Admittedly, Scott’s did a big promotional program on the product and it was all over the television. They made it look so easy and so convenient that the customers couldn’t resist it. Unfortunately, Scott’s ran into a little trouble keeping up with the demand. No matter what you said to someone, you couldn’t convince customers that they weren’t going to get the coverage they needed and that it wasn’t worth the asking price. GEE! Now if only all my advertising could be that effective and profitable!

Happy Trails,
Tom Courtright, Orchard Nursery & Florist, Lafayette, USA. tomcourtright@orchardnursery.com

South African Report

During the 2010 World Cup Football we saw sales slow down dramatically, particularly in the Johannesburg area but fortunately the games were on during our slowest sales period. An early black frost in the northern parts of the country during June also added to the slump in sales through winter. Sentiment has improved after the Gauteng province has had an early start to the 2010 season with above average temperatures bringing the consumers out.

Members in Gauteng have reported as usual the trend for instant colour and impulse sales are driving the turnovers but are also experiencing earlier demand for Lawn products. With August ending on a high note Gauteng members are hoping that the good numbers continue into September.

The south of our country has seen a very successful start to the season on the back of optimism following the successful World Cup. The weather during our wet winter was drier than normal which in non water restriction areas helped sales. Other parts of this region are still gripped in very heavy water restrictions and in those areas sales are reported to be about 40% down on last year.

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


Report from Switzerland

We are currently observing a massive attack of box tree caterpillars (Diaphania perspectalis) in Switzerland (please see the following document for details: https://www.fera.defra.gov.uk/plants/plantHealth/pestsDiseases/documents/boxTreeCaterpillar.pdf). Complete defoliation of box plants is widely observed in many regions of Switzerland. The situation seems irredeemable. Therefore we are questioning to continue to sell box trees in our Garden Centres. I would be very interested in getting any feedback from colleagues that have more experience regarding this new challenge: emh@meier-ag.ch.

Personal matter
Some colleagues do know about our project in relocating our Garden Centre. It is due to open March 1st 2011. As we are very much looking forward to open our new place very soon I’m happy to show you a first aerial photograph of our new place.

ERNST MEIER AG. Erwin Meier-Honegger
Email: emh@meier-ag.ch www.meier-ag.ch

Here is the German News

Because of the dirty weather, in Germany the sale in the spring started unusually late. Most regions were able to catch up the delay, only in the southeast of Germany was the transition to fast from the cold and rain into the summer heat. In the balcony plants there is a very strong trend towards tri-color combinations in 12-13 cm pots. In recent years, this trend began with Calibrachoa Million Bells, now follows a variety of genres. Particularly popular this year was the three-colour Nemesia Sunsatia by the German breeder Kientzler. Outdoor Living is emotionally still a big issue. In addition to the garden furniture and in particular the barbecue is very important.

In autumn the plants Calluna are the most important. Here also are more colors in one pot very popular. Previously the planting of the grave sites in the fall had an important place here, unfortunately there is a strong decline. On the one hand, graves will be smaller because of a trend for combustion, but there are also more anonymous burials.

The Christmas markets in our garden centers are the largest magnet for visitors. The plant plays a minor role in this period, although there is hardly a German household without Poinsettia.

Best Regards, Jutta Lenz, verband@garten-center.de

Greetings from the UK

One thing is certain in the UK – the uncertainty of the weather! Other countries are puzzled by our obsession with it but when at the end of June the temperatures were raging (for us anyway) at 30 + C with drought conditions and by mid-July onwards we experienced autumn weather, it is hardly surprising. As we know this industry is weather dependant and the sales of outdoor plants reflect that; they are still down YTD by 1.5%. Despite that, overall sales are up YTD by about 2% according to our trading figures for August. Categories that are performing quite well this year are Seeds and Bulbs +3%; Furniture and BBQ +6%; Gifts + 6%; Clothing +8%; Cafes + 4% and the relatively new category of Food Halls/Farm Shops, where there has been quite a lot of investment, is up by 8.8%.

I mentioned in June that we had a newly elected coalition government; it is now clear that their manifesto is to bring the budget deficit down by making significant and in some cases drastic cuts to public spending. As we suspected, our sales tax (VAT) will be raised from 17.5% to 20% on 1st January. Many businesses have already started incorporating the tax rise into new stock – how this will impact sales next year, only time will tell.

We have been inspecting our members’ centres on an annual basis for many years (it is a compulsory condition of GCA membership) and from this standards audit the garden centre with the highest score is awarded the coveted prize of Garden Centre of the Year. However, very often the same centres dominate the top positions and some of the smaller garden centre members do not feel they have a chance of winning. This year we decided to address this by introducing an additional Garden Centre of the Year award based on turnover.

So come our conference in January we will be able to announce Garden Centre of the Year in the under £4m category and Destination Garden Centre of the Year in the over £4m category. It is a very exciting prospect and personally, I am looking forward to the awards because there will be quite a few surprises. The PR gained from these awards is invaluable and not only that, to win is incredibly motivational for staff – just ask Bents winners for two years running.

Now all 47 delegates from the UK are looking forward to the Congress in Japan – good luck Koichi!

Gillie Westwood, Chief Executive, UK GCA

Greetings from Ireland

Once again one must always seize the opportunity as is very evident “with those that do & those that don’t”. We are all aware of the downturn which is world wide, but this is no excuse for doing nothing. We have to work, a little harder, a little longer to get that little bit more.

We have an old expression in Ireland “ an ill wind brings good” and mother nature dealt us one of the most severe winters in 50 years with the temperatures plummeting to 17 degrees C which in turn many gardens & garden centres suffered severe losses. As a consequence of the severe winter we seized the opportunity to take advantage of customers needing to replace plants that perished.

The secret to our phenomenal growth in plant sales is having the philosophy of “why sell one when we can sell two” and this has been achieved by training & up skilling of our staff & turning customers needs & wants into sales. As mentioned in a previous E-news our demographic has changed & 50 years plus are now our cash king customers.

Our over whelming growth in gyo (grow your own) will continue & garden centres that have developed this market are investing in future sales. “ Whats hot & whats not”.

Hot: (a) colour (b) edible (c) value (d) multi buys (e) buy one get one free

  1. Not :
  2. 1) Bad customer service
  3. 2) Lack of choice
    1. 3) Large specimens
  4. 4) Tender shrubs & trees
    1. 5) Conifers

Dare to be different – sell plants by day dance by night!

See attached photo of our barn dance held at Arboretum, one must always keep networking as marketing is key to the future.

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


An Update from France

93% of French households have an average of nearly six types of plants inside and outside their place of residence. A rate of vegetation record for 2009, which not only moves up one point last year, but also accompanied by a diversity of vegetation, up nearly 4%, enough to think that the crisis economy is quite favorable to our industry and that all the seed market recorded good progress this year. A renewed interest from consumers who explained, including the search for authenticity, quality, the desire to “yourself”, taking into account the environmental factor and of course the crisis
For the year 2010, climatic conditions cause chaos in late August a decline in turnover of less than 1%.

Christiane WEILLER
Secrétaire Générale
Fédération Nationale des Métiers de la Jardinerie


Leanne Johnson Reports from Canada

John Zaplatynsky Retires from GardenWorks

On August 31, 2010 a very special garden gala event took place at the original location of GardenWorks in Burnaby, British Columbia. The evening, suitably named “27 Springs” was a tribute to John Zaplatynsky in honour of his retirement from day to day operations of the garden centre business he founded in 1984. Growers, vendors, media along with past and present employees joined John and his family for an uplifting and fun-spirited evening.

John was recognized for his vision and leadership which extended far beyond GardenWorks to include many influential roles within and outside the horticulture industry, including tenures as the President of both the BC Landscape & Nursery Association and the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association.

John is looking forward to his continuing role as Chairman of GardenWork’s Board of Directors. He begins what will surely be an energetic and engaging retirement with travel plans to the IGCA in Japan, a family adventure to South Africa, and a buying trip to Asia!

Thank you John, for your inspiration, your leadership and your ability over these past 27 Springs, to transform a Garden Centre Company into a family!

After the coldest and wettest May in several decades, Canadian garden centres basked in the warmth and sun of an excellent summer. Across the country, July and August was sunny with pleasant temperatures. A number of garden centers reported record-breaking sales over the summer months!

Canada’s economic recovery is still somewhat slow in Ontario, Sales year to date have ranged from -10% to +1% compared to 2009.

Our garden centres are now flush with our spring blooming bulb offerings, and we look forward to a solid fall nursery business as our economy steadily improves!

THE most exciting development in the Canadian Garden Centre world is the much anticipated opening of ‘The Enjoy Centre’ in November 2010! This 4.5 hectare site located in St. Albert, just bordering Edmonton, reflects the unique passion of brothers, Jim & Bill Hole. 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 facility designed by Dutch architect, Ernst von Meijenfeldt is meant to inspire and to attract guests year round. That’s saying something for a city that receives an average of 132 cm of snow each year! The 3 storey facility will offer a spa, a restaurant with stunning views, a wine store, a convention center & wedding facility – Oh, and there is a state of the art, environmentally inspiring garden centre too! www.unearththepossibilities.com We can hardly wait!!

Leanne Johnson, ljohnson@gardenworks.ca
COO, GardenWorks, Canada


State of the Industry update from the United States.

New Garden centers
With the economy still struggling in the US not many new stores are popping up at the moment. One of GCA’s founding members – Don Riddle in the DC Metro area opened up a 2nd location this spring. Don’s flagship store was already one of the highest grossing stores in the country. With an event planner on staff and constantly moving toward the next innovation, Homestead Gardens new location is small footprint with tons of potential. Placed in an amazing area for the high end demographics, many lessons learned are already making an impact in this new store.

Eagle Creek Garden Center is a new acquisition for Pettiti Garden Centers in the Cleveland, Ohio area. This makes the number of locations for Pettiti’s 6 or 7. A mega marketing presence in the Cleveland, Ohio area, their reach was broadened further by this beautiful facility. A grower and retailer with excellent gift lines this makes Pettiti’s one step closer to being the highest grossing garden center retailer in the country.

As the US still struggles to recover from the economic downturn of the last couple years, garden centers are all having to work smarter and be more creative. Roughly the same prices and some lower seem to exist across most markets as they have for the last 2-3 decades. The Grow Your Own craze has been welcome relief for many centers. New product lines and new customers eager for the products that are ready and wanting to learn. Most of the world is more advanced in the ecological aspects of living on this planet; much of the ‘greening’ of the world has been slow to come to the US. It has however come at a critical time when many American Consumers will consider spending hard earned funds on items that seem more environmentally friends. US Retailers still have much to share regarding the overall benefits of plants in the home and landscape.

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


Retail Round Up – Australia

This E-News is rather long so I have left Australia until last. Read it if you have time. I think it’s interesting as it’s a report from a number of people. Since the report below, most Australian states have had welcome rain and our long, long drought has broken in most area except regrettably Western Australia. In fact, spring has started too wet in many areas and we are now complaining about too much rain. Can we ever be pleased? Seriously, like true garden centre people, we are still very optimistic about a great year ahead. Leigh Siebler…..

July is probably the worst month of the year to ask garden centres about business but July it was and I am delighted to report optimistic comments from all I spoke with. I have only quoted a few comments here but spoke with numerous retailers and suppliers including at Green Expo Queensland; they were all positive. Many respondents indicated that we are having a ‘traditional’ cold winter in most of Australia which almost certainly means a great spring as people venture outside as the weather improves.

How did your financial year end? (June – July)
Sales were down slightly for the Financial Year – about 2% overall. This was mainly a result of garden design sales being softer and the plant sales associated with this was smaller in value. Plants were the same, mixes & ferts were up, pots were up and home & gift was down slightly. The result was better than expected however as we had budgeted for a larger decrease due to economic and weather conditions.

How optimistic are you about Spring 2010 and the 2010/2011 year?
Reasonably – getting rid of election(s) would help. I think it will be better than 09 spring but still not quite as good as 08 spring.

Can you name one top seller that has perhaps surprised you in the last 12 months? (plant or product, it doesn’t matter)
The stand out has been traditional colour – potted, camellias, roses, azaleas, lavender etc. Also, a big increase in demand for standards and topiary plants. Feels like a blast from the past!

Can you name one trend that stands out in the last 12 months, other than Grow Your Own?
Colour, colour, colour – architect plants, dry climate, natives and to a certain extent grasses have all experienced decline. After the rain, gardeners are desperate for flowers, shrubs and perennials. Another emerging trend in spring could be a rise in Indoor plants – this category has been strong over autumn and winter when traditionally that is a quiet time for them. Keep an eye out for that trend.

A general comment on the industry would be good too.
Whilst there is pressure on garden centres and potential impacts of impending ‘Box Store Wars’, garden centres are still a destination for inspiration, design and trends. Consumer trends are changing so rapidly and are influenced by many factors outside our industry that the flexibility of garden centres gives a competitive advantage over the coming years. I am still troubled that participants continuously focus on competition from within our industry rather than looking for opportunities/ threats from other sectors i.e. leisure dollars. Jason Searle, Gardenway Home & Garden, QLD

It has been a tough year in WA for garden centres in a spring with wet and cold weekends followed by one of the longest and hottest summer/autumns on record and rains have only now begun. Final sales results for the financial year were poor which is disappointing following a year of strong growth in the previous year.

I am optimistic about the coming season working on the theory that it would be highly unlikely to have such unfavourable weather for two seasons in a row. We are planning and marketing for a very good season.

In the tough season that it was, the stand out sales was in dwarf fruiting trees. Dwarf citrus and the Fleming’s dwarf fruit trees performed extremely well and with new season’s stock now available this trend seems to be continuing.

In an industry that is so reliant on favourable weather, it does make it tough to go into the new season with a positive outlook but history would show that at least here in WA, we should be looking forward to a bumper year. It would be a shame to be caught out short because of lack of stock on the ground. As an industry we should plan for a successful season rather than base our forecasts on the poor season we have hopefully just left behind us. Hilton Blake, Nursery Australia (Waldecks), WA

Barry Teese was busy, as usual, and gave me short, succinct answers. “Our financial year was good and we are looking forward to a fantastic year ahead – as always.” Barry Teese, The Greenery, Heidelberg, Vic.

Full year up 5.5%, but budgeted for approximately 8%. First 6 months was good. Last 6 months let us down. I guess it is better to be up than the other way though.
We feel spring may break early or at least on time .Autumn and winter were early here for us. I think spring will be really good as we had some good rain. The full year should be as good as the last one and maybe a little better.

Best selling plant was purple fountain grass, and it’s still selling well. All pebbles, river-polish, colour etc. all sold well.

The trend that stood out for us was anything edible – from fruit trees to vegetables. All small growing natives were popular .Herbs are always good sellers.

People have learnt to use what water they have to use on their gardens more wisely. They are picking plants, grasses etc, to be more drought tolerant. Mulches compost and other water saving measures are still popular. Jim Carraill, Garden Grove, SA

Financial year was good and up on the previous year.

We are very optimistic about the coming spring season and 2010/2011. With the colder weather in the southern states and rain across most states, customers are restricted to indoors. Come the spring season and with a bit of finer weather, customers hopefully will be out and enjoying their gardens and looking for colourful plants and new releases.
Whilst there has not been any real stand out over the past twelve months, organic-based products and products associated with ‘grow your own’ have performed strongly.
Cottage plants and potted colour have had resurgence across most states, resulting in a softening of gardens. Native plants continue to have an upward sales trend.

After volatile weather patterns across the country during last financial year, it was pleasing to see green life hold its own and perform well. The ‘Grow your Own’ and edible category will continue to be a major focus within the community across all states and across all age groups. The challenge will be to ensure that the nursery/garden industry continues to develop not only this category but also the benefits of gardening in general.
I have provided your answers from a national green life point of view. David Hardie, National Buyer- Greenlife, Bunnings

We are happy with our financial year just ended. I am very optimistic with a nursery full of great stock and am just waiting for business to kick in. Last year we had an early start to business in July but not so this year. Politics are interfering with business and unsettling people. We need happy customers for our business. I feel that business will boom from mid September on.

Fruit trees were a little slower than last year but I’m comparing with an excellent July in 2009. Roses, particularly old-fashioned are top sellers for us and even better when they come into flower.

Espalier is becoming increasingly popular although it’s probably more a fashion statement than anything else.

Bruno, who is not noted for his use of technology, commented that many of his customers are now ‘Googling’ the garden centre before visiting and come in armed with questions. Many have found a plant on a growers (often Fleming’s) web site and come in for that. Be warned!!

As Bruno travels a lot I asked him about the stock position for spring and he was ok with it but did have some concerns with the possibility of the ‘Sheds’ pre-ordering certain lines and capturing supply. Bruno Zimmerman, The Heritage Nursery, ACT

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


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