E-News: June 2009

JUNE 2009

Hello everyone,

IGCA E News Number 2, June 2009

Greetings from California!

Well, let me tell you that this spring was the year of; ‘If you can eat it, you can sell it’!

Vegetables, grapes, berries, fruit trees, citrus…. anything and everything related to food flew off the shelves. Everything involved with growing your own food were the hottest items in our garden center and across the USA.

The Northern California weather did not cooperate with us very favorably so business, on the whole was down. The state of the economy didn’t help out either. Let’s all hope we’ve hit the bottom of the freefall. Inventory management and just-in-time deliveries were high on our list of priorities at the garden center this spring. The tightening of belts and the use of common sense have been a necessity.

I hope to see all of you this September in England where we can continue to share our stories. I’ve been told that we’re all going to have a great time!

Best regards, Tom Courtright, (IGCA President) Orchard Nursery & Florist, Lafayette, USA. tomcourtright@orchardnursery.com


A Bit of French Leave

During my recent stay in Brittany, I took the opportunity to visit the Floralies Exhibition. This returns to Nantes every five years and I thought it would be interesting to see how it compared with our U.K. shows – Chelsea, Hampton Court, etc.

It always surprises me how just that narrow strip of water (The Channel) can make our two countries so different, and the Floralies really emphasised this. The major displays were housed in five large, mostly dark, exhibition halls and were huge, avant-garde and arty, with very little inspiration for the amateur gardener, but lots of ‘wacky’ accessories such as over-sized models of dolls, mysterious swirling mists and dragons hiding behind tree stumps. The horticultural content was not particularly good and there were swathes of bare earth – a massive No-No in U.K. shows.

The highlight was the stunning floral art displays, many of which reminded me of our visit to the Ikebana School in Japan.

I had hoped to buy some interesting and unusual plants from specialist nurserymen, but the majority of the stands featured exotic cut flowers – Bird-of-Paradise and such like, gimmicky flower arranging accessories, succulents, or food! That was the most impressive part of the show – the choice was incredible – ice cream, chocolates, beef burgers, pasta, tapas, crepes to name a few.

So I came away convinced that the French Horticultural industry is missing a trick, particularly in the current economic climate, but with two good ideas:

1. A competition for schools planting a garden in a metre square wooden box,

2. Creating mountains from chicken wire wrapped in clingfilm for our Christmas displays.

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


Here are a few words on trends on the Canadian west Coast:

After one of the worst winters in 25 years and a slow start to the season, most West Coast Garden Centres are reporting very strong sales – in the range of 5 to 10% ahead of LYA. Much of the increase is being driven by the sales of replacement tender perennials and ornamental shrubs damaged or killed by our severe Winter, but there also has been a significant interest in gardening for food production – starting early in the season with seed sales, then fruit trees and berry plants, and now vegetable bedding plants and herbs.

At GardenWorks, we have capitalized on this increased interest by including in our monthly emails to customers articles high-lighting varieties of fruit and vegetable plants that may be planted, along with planting tips, as the season has progressed from April through June. To reinforce this message we have created a scheduled program of rotating product displays in our garden centres every two weeks to coincide with the email newsletter message. The in-store displays change twice as fast as we wanted to keep the presentation fresh and appealing.

Regards, John Zaplatynsky, GardenWorks, Canada,


The UK is holding the IGCA Congress this Year

Trading is still strong in the UK following an optimistic start to the season although May was a bit of a disappointment compared to last year. YTD figures show that on average sales are up by 11% – we hope that trend continues.

This years round of the annual Standards Inspection of our garden centre members is now complete and the results eagerly awaited. All 160 members were inspected between the middle of March until 15th June. During July each of the seven GCA Area Groups will be holding an awards ceremony; all garden centre staff members in that area are invited to watch a presentation by their Inspector so they can see best practice in their region. Awards are presented to those who have achieved the highest scores in various categories and at the same time the overall Area Winner is announced. We started the Area Awards last year and it proved to be highly successful and very motivational. Further awards will be announced at our conference in January 2010 including the Garden Centre of the Year.

We now have 204 registrations for the IGCA Congress in September which is fantastic news. The downside is that anyone wanting to book now will have to go on a waiting list and that includes Administrators.

Gillie Westwood, Chief Executive, GCA UK

gillie@gca.org.uk www.gca.org.uk


From the Irish Association

Our food and horticulture board, Bord Bia, have recently launched a promotion website for gardening. Included is a resource section called Scientific Studies which has some useful articles for the Green Industry. I thought they might be of use to IGCA members and one way to get this information out is to include it with the next IGCA E-News. The web address is https://www.bordbia.ie/Pages/IGT-ScientificStudies.aspx. There’s no need for usernames or passwords. I hope it might be of some interest to members.

Anne McKenna, Garden Centre Association of Ireland Ltd. E: anne@gio.ie


More from Ireland

Ireland with a population of just over 4 million is in a very difficult place at the moment, but we are a resilient people & will rise from the ashes.After a very wet Spring we are now encountering a heat wave. We can’t be satisfied, it’s now too hot and people are going to the beach & not to the Garden Centres.

Trends – Sale of garden furniture, B.B.Q & large specimens suffering – grow your own fruit & vegetables sales are excellent & impulse buying of colour & the less expensive plants are doing very well. We are all having to be innovative and working harder to attract and keep our customers. We had the first ever Camellia Festival in Ireland and was a brilliant success & for the first week in July we have planned a strawberry festival.

We now have the Irish version of Chelsea ‘Bloom’ which was held over the June bank holiday and was a fantastic event by any standards. It is already being likened to an Irish Chelsea. It was a super event; Bord Bia our government board responsible for Horticulture, Agriculture & Food ran this event which was attended by over 50,000 visitors. That, by our standards was an excellent attendance. Do you recall only 2 years ago when I reported that in Ireland we had full employment; well at the moment we have 12% unemployment & rising by the day.

I’m looking forward to meeting all of you in the U.K. this year at Congress.

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


GCC completes national Garden Centre survey

A growing trend in Canadian Garden Centres is increased volumes of sales in the smaller operators’ businesses. In addition, the survey results show that the average dollar sale per customer has increased from $77.74 CAD (in 2007) to $98.76 CAD (in 2008), suggesting that customers have the money to spend on Garden Centres’ offerings. Another increasing trend seen in Garden Centres is that our members are investing in customer service: 97% of respondents offer ‘a money back guarantee’ on green goods (as compared to 63% last year).

Some of the most successful marketing initiatives for member Garden Centres over the last season included holding contests, giving out coupons, holding gardening events/workshops, as well as offering weekly sales promotions through their monthly newsletter.

Survey results can be found on www.canadanursery.com, under the Garden Centre Canada section.

Some Canadian retail facts:

Did you know that Canadian consumers spent nearly $6.3 billion CAD at the retail level on ornamental horticultural products and another $1.8 billion CAD on landscaping services in 2007, with the average Canadian household spending $650 CAD on the sector’s products and services? (Information taken from ‘The Impact of Ornamental Horticulture on Canada’s Economy’ by the Canadian Ornamental Horticulture Alliance [COHA])

Canadian Nursery Landscape Association /Association Canadienne des pépiniéristes et des paysagistes

www.canadanursery.com E: victor@canadanursery.com/rebecca@canadanursery.com


Japan Garden Center Association

Japan Garden Center Association has annual general meeting and holds The Japan Flower Decoration Skill Contest on July 21 to 22 in Osaka. Many members and college students will participate in this contest this year. Some winners will be awarded by the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare, governors and many other institution and association.

In May and June, fortunately the weather is nice so many Garden Centers sales are not so bad, but our industry is still in the severe depression. Vegetable seedling sales are going up well and now we are ready for the Summer season with tropical and green plants. Many companies and public facilities utilize roof and wall green, shading by plants, and using water spray and resources.

Some Garden Centers had severe damage from the new influenza especially around area where infected people were found. Not only Garden Centers but other industries had to care about this matter seriously in Japan.

Many Japanese delegates will attend the UK Congress. We are looking forward to seeing you in Manchester.

Koichi Akatsuka, E-mail address: jgca@akatsuka.gr.jp

Web: https://www.jgca.gr.jp/community/

I am sorry that we don’t have English homepage now.


VDG (German Garden Centre Association)

The weather beats the economy!

2008 once again showed the Garden Centres how weather-dependent the green sector is. Snow in March and cold temperatures in April resulted in a late start to spring business and meant clear sales declines for the Garden Centres. Top Summer weather in May produced new sales records for the Garden Centres. The winter also began mild, but from mid-December turned really cold.

The previous year’s sales increases could not quite be matched in 2008, whereby the smaller Garden Centres found things somewhat more difficult than the larger outlets. Although there was a slight decrease in the number of customers, sales per customer were maintained.

The consequences of the poor weather in the Spring were reflected particularly in the declines in tree nursery articles. Shrubs as well as border and balcony plants recorded very slight increases. Pot plants and cut flowers registered slight growth.

The plant care/protection sector was not able to maintain the previous year’s good growth, while fertilizers registered slight sales increases despite the trend towards rising raw materials prices. Peat and potting soil recorded minimal slight declines as did garden appliances, garden supplies and the water appliance range.

Outdoor vessels and interior ceramics experienced a stable trend, while boutique articles increased slightly. Garden furniture declined slightly, furniture covers quite markedly. The ‘miscellaneous’ sector experienced good growth, in particular there were clear increases for the cafés.

The Garden Centre cafés are apparently well received by the customers and are an ideal complement to existing retail space aimed at offering customers a value-added on their visits to Garden Centres. As a result, once again this year several colleagues have set up new café areas.

All in all the VDG can look back on a satisfactory year 2008 for most Garden Centres, even if the previous year’s sales could not be matched by all members.

Due to the good weather situation in Spring, the Garden Centres are hoping for a positive trend in 2009. The slogan, which did the rounds at the VDG Winter congress at the beginning of February in Salzburg, is still valid: the weather beats the economy! As a result, the mood in the Garden Centres is currently very good!

Special Activities for this year:

* Seminars for the staff * Start of the second Junior-Group in September
* Garden-Centre Inspections (nearly finished) * Winter-Tour to London

Martina Lok, E: lok@garten-center.de


South Africa’s Top Garden Centres Announced

One of the highlights on the local GCA calendar is the annual GCA Competition. The members are evaluated through peak season and in the autumn a second round of random evaluations are done as part of the moderation process.

The 2009 results were announced at the SANA Winter Convention held this year near the Kruger Park 13 – 15 May.


Top honours this year:

  • Garden Centre of the Year 2009
    Leeways Garden Centre – Johannesburg – owners Jeff and Bev Parsley
  • Home Store of the Year 2009
    Builders Warehouse Port Elizabeth – manager Lara Maritz

The Garden Competition is divided into two main categories namely Garden Centre of the year and Home Store of the year. Garden Centres are traditional Garden centres and Home Stores are members who have garden centres as departments in a bigger offering. Entry to the competition is voluntary and around two thirds of the GCA members enter every year.

The competition organizers added three new categories from this year to garden centres that excelled in certain sections of their nurseries.

– Best Garden Care: Stodels Nurseries Bellville – Cape Town
– Best Outdoor Plants: Pretty Garden Tuinsentrum – Bloemfontein
– Best General Displays: Plant Paradise Garden Centre – Pretoria

The regional winners were also announced:
Eastern Cape – Floradale Nurseries PE
Free State – Pretty Garden Tuinsentrum
Gauteng North – Plant Paradise Garden Centre
Gauteng South – Leeways Garden Centre
Limpopo – Garden Pavilion Sterkloop
Mpumalanga – Garden Pavilion Montana
North West – Garden Pavilion Geelhout
Western Cape – Stodels Nurseries Kenilworth

All GCA members are graded according to their results in the competition and use this as a marketing tool as well as a means of motivating or rewarding employees. This year saw only two Platinum Awards being handed with the rest of the entrants receiving sixteen Gold, forty seven Silver and twenty Bronze Awards.

Gerdia Olivier, SANA, E: gerdie@sana.co.za


From Down Under – Australia

I think it’s fair to say that we agree with Martina’s comments from Germany, “The weather beats the economy!” Weather conditions, be they rain (too much or lack of), bushfires or extreme heat affect us much more than the economy. Our Inter-firm Comparisons for ten months ending April show:

– average growth of 3.85% over the previous year

– average sale of $49.83 is up 1.84%

– customer numbers up by 1.16%

May figures coming through are very good. YTD figures might not look great but I feel that Garden Centres are reasonably content considering all the adverse factors. The important factor has been in controlling costs where possible. This is a real balancing act and you need to ensure that customer service does not drop away. Debra Templar, a well known retail consultant in Australia has just told me:

“Real world business is interesting. I’m currently coaching 80 businesses in the Shire of Moira (which has been paid for by the Shire) and I am astounded at the lack of ‘smarts’ that has caught the businesses out. Under-prepared, lack of planning, NO marketing, excess stock and still ordering too much stuff. Majority of problems are two things: Lack of a system (whether buying, stock control, etc etc) and lack of marketing. Too many secret businesses out there.

Aside from that I’m doing Sales Rep and Service training for some major suppliers. They got away with it previously but now it’s biting .. drought, lack of cash reserves, lack of access to bank $…

Even the big boys are finding that although they’re moving stock, they have slashed margins…come July there are going to be some interesting results coming out… they’ve sold units but they’ve killed their margins.”

The charts below give you an insight into the Australian Market. They are by courtesy of Martin Kneebone from Fresh Logic. Martin’s company prepares the Australian Market Monitor for NGIA. www.freshlogic.com.au

The following figures confirm the swing to ‘anything edible’:

These figures come from a prominent NSW Garden Centre;

Vegetables as a % of seedling sales

Units 50.53% $ 39.61%

and % growth compared with last year.

Units 12.66% $ 13.10%

And from a large seedling grower:

The total shift of flowers to veges has been occurring for the last 8 to 10 years – we may have pushed this trend along a little quicker through the active promotion of Veges over flowers in this time. Today we see that veges are heading towards 70% of our sales; in 2006 veges would have been approx. 50 – 55% of sales.

If you would like to look at some images of the Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show or the Ball Hortivations event then log onto www.greenworldmag.com.au and click onto the Post Event Images logo. You’ll find some inspiration in the photos there. Please feel free to add your name to the Greenworld E-News button.

Warm regards,

Leigh Siebler

Garden Centres Association of Australia Inc.

E: leigh@gravity.net.au