E-News: September 2009

September 2009


IGCA E News Number 3, September 2009


Greetings from California!

Whether you’re in the Northern or Southern hemisphere this year, we’re all very well aware that the economy has played a large part in the way we’re doing business these days. Inventory levels and labor costs are more important than ever. There are tough decisions that need to be made and marketing and promotion dollars must be spent wisely. It’s been necessary to get everyone involved in the ‘business’ of doing business.

Having already experienced Spring of ’09 here in the states I can tell you that it was a little more than eye-opening. Here in the states, a quick survey of other garden centers let us know that the economy did funny things with our retail environment. High-ticket items are not selling anywhere near the level we are used to and that keeps our buyers busy finding ‘value added’ items to keep in stock so that customers can feel good about spending their dollars. Much of the business in specimen Japanese Maples, extra-large high end pottery and big ticket gift items took a back seat to a more practical and tentative approach by our customers. Yes, they are keeping their dollars close this year.

The good news is that in my business, as with many others in the states, we are all reporting the same phenomenon. The sheer volume of vegetables, fruit trees, berries and citrus plants that left our garden centers not only kept our heads above water, it kept our industry in the spotlight. Everywhere you looked, everything you read was about the amazing popularity of edibles. We sold more than double the number of 4” vegetables over last year. We ordered in fruit trees more often and we couldn’t keep a blueberry bush in stock. All the tie-in products, especially organics and mulch went out the door with the plants. It was a wonderful thing seeing families being brought together by our product. It seems as though the President and Michelle Obama’s White House vegetable garden had a contagious effect in both urban and suburban neighborhoods.

So, as we enter the fall season here in California, we plan to ride the tide and continue to promote edibles, find new ways to find new customers and offer flawless service and information. We suggest to those of you entering your spring season to heed the advice we offer and we hope it brings you success. We have yet to discover what the holiday season will bring our way. We’re planning lots of theater this fall and into the Christmas season.

There was a headline just this past weekend that told us the recession was over. Taken with a grain of salt and adding just a pinch of optimism, we hope we’ve planned accordingly. When it comes to making your way in this industry, it’s good to know that we are all out there together and when we network and stay in touch, our camaraderie and friendships become a valuable support system for all of us.


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


News From the Canadian West Coast

West Coast Garden Centres enjoyed a very solid Summer due to perfect weather conditions right through Summer. The balance of Canada experienced unseasonably cool and wet weather that was a drag on sales, particularly for garden furniture. There has been an increased interest in landscape design work as our Federal Government announced a tax credit program (backyard infrastructure?) that offers a tax credit of 15% up to a maximum of $1350.00 for home renovation work. Thanks to some good work by our National Association, landscape installations qualify under this program. We hear reports that Garden Centres that offer design service as well as landscape design/build companies have seen many inquiries and additional new business.

Here at GardenWorks, we have undertaken an increased emphasis on merchandising our spring-flowering bulb presentations under the theme ‘Buried Treasures’ – plant them now and be delighted in Spring! Initial reaction from guests to our Garden Centres has been positive and sales have started very well.

Best Regards, John Zaplatynsky, GardenWorks, Canada,


Selling More Local Plants, Locally

The Canadian Landscape and Nursery Association (CNLA) is working on a strategy designed to increase retail sales of locally grown plant material, within the local area. One of the first steps is to obtain input from growers and retailers as to their opinions, preferences and suggestions–to that end, online surveys have been designed for both commodity groups. We would like to get some perspective from garden retailers outside of Canada. The link below will take you directly to the International Retailer Survey.

Just click:

It should take no more than 10 minutes or so to complete, although provision for extended comment is available if you wish to ‘really get into it’. We’d like to hear from as many retailers around the world as possible to ensure that the final project outcome is truly representative. Note that CNLA staff, board and other members will not see your individual answers. We have engaged an outside contractor to conduct the research and prepare the reports. They will be the only ones to see the actual survey responses.

The objectives of the project are:

  • increase retail nurseries’ ability to sell more locally grown plants successfully by more effectively competing for consumers’ leisure / lifestyle dollars
  • enable growers to better understand their role in supporting their retail nursery customers in becoming more competitive in their marketing and merchandising
  • improve the viability of retail nurseries and growers

This is a very important project for our industry in Canada. Please try and completethe survey by September 30. Thank you–your input is valuable and appreciated!

Canadian Nursery Landscape Association /Association Canadienne des pépiniéristes et des paysagistes
E: victor@canadanursery.com / rebecca@canadanursery.com


From the Irish Association

In Ireland because we were ‘on the crest of a wave’ for so long, when the recession hit it really hit the whole country very hard. As for every negative there’s always a positive & it has made us realise that we should focus more on the customer’s needs, what they want & when they want it.

All across the retail sector, ‘value is the new in-word’ Bogoff (buy one get one for free). To maintain footfall, margins have had to be reduced to entice the price-conscious customer to come in. It’s all about footfall and translating them into sales. Once again the Garden Centres that are progressive are increasing their footfall by offering the now price-conscious customer, a wider, diverse selection of goods at prices that they can afford. A few examples; the larger Garden Centres are bringing in concessions that target all segments of the retail market, for example, jewellery for the young, chocolate for gifts, golf and clothing, thus covering a wider share of the market.

Leigh I noted that you appreciated the rain, but do you appreciate half as much as we do, having had the wettest Summer again, three in a row and this year the wettest since records began in 1866, but not withstanding this we are holding our own by working harder, buying better to reducing prices. A very positive trend to come out of this recession in Ireland is the overwhelming trend to grow your own. If you can eat it, smell it, or it looks good you can sell it.

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


Japan Garden Center Association

After the solar scrips on July 22, some places were hit by severe flood and the rainy season continued two weeks more than average in Japan. The weather this Summer was much cooler than usual year. Our Garden Center business started fall sales earlier than last year because of the cool temperature. However, vegetable became very expensive this fall because of the less sunshine, so consumers spend their money to food and living goods.

It was a very important and dramatic political election on Aug 30. Our politics and government systems will be changed this month. It will have affect to the industries from now on, so we look at the survey of it very carefully.

Though G.D.P of the second quarter grew up to 9% and it was getting better since 1st quarter of last year, Japan economy has been still severe depression. Ecology and economy products are growing well. These key products are very important. Gift sales and exterior goods sales are decreased. Green plants are down, too. Garden Centers try to have a gardening lecture (demonstration) to our customers as much as we can.
Our association had annual general meeting in July and we had 140 entries for competition of Japan flower decoration skill contest. Some works are awarded. They were evaluated in preparation for the timing and direction of the space.

Hibiya Park Gardening show 2009 10/24 – 11/1 Tokyo Hibiya Park.
They focus on Topiary gardening.

IFEX: International Flower Exhibition 11/11 – 13 Makuhari Messe.
It is the biggest flower exhibition in Asia. 870 companies will be exhibitors. They expect 34,000 people would visit. https://www.ifex.jp/english/

Best Regards,

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 still.


South Africa’s Reports

After a very long and hard winter, the beginning of Spring also brought with it a sigh of relief from nursery owners. The season kicked off with a bang and nurseries are overflowing with anxious gardeners ready to dust off the cobwebs of winter.
Even with the current state of the economy and contrary to what was believed, nurseries are busy and having a wonderful season. Experiencing a quieter Winter had its advantages. Suppliers had the opportunity to invest even more care in their products and thus the quality of the plants received for Spring is exceptional and the best in years.

‘The kitchen Garden’, currently the biggest growing trend for gardeners has everyone planting their own veggies, herbs and fruit trees. This was in part, an effect of the recession – people wanting to save money by growing their own sustainable goods – but also a new awareness of the environment.

The reduction of our carbon footprint and conserving the environment for generations to come has taken centre stage not only in South Africa but worldwide and nurseries in South Africa are doing their part in educating the public and making them more aware of living green.

Although we are a small industry compared to some, we are a thriving one and even in the midst of an economic recession we hold our own.

Christo Coetzer
GCA National Chairperson

Spring has burst upon us (certainly in Gauteng), and the one category that has run away with us is veggie seed packets. The GYO trend is vibrant and veggie seed sales are growing at well over 100%.

Cheers, Paul Vonk, Sakata


The Garden Centre Industry in South Africa

After a Winter with longer periods of continuous cold and bad weather the spring season finally arrived two weeks late around mid August. The majority of retailers are reporting the Winter season with flat to lower trade results. None the less we are positive that this 2009 season will be good.

Our stores in Gauteng have reported good sales in particularly plant material. Traditionally our market is around 60% plants and 40 % hard goods so we look forward to seeing the results at the end of the season. Herbs and Vegetables followed the trend from abroad with increased volumes reported from bedding plant and seed suppliers.

Instant colour sales have also shown growth in all regions of SA. Indigenous perennials are also popular this season, we are fortunate that many of these perennials also give a mass show of colour through the spring months.

This season SANA, our national association has embarked on a marketing campaign with Working for Water, a government initiative and Rand Water, the main supplier of water to Gauteng. The promotion consists of two parts; the “Plant me instead” side promoting non invasive plants and the second part of the promotion is “Become a water wise gardener” promoting water sensible alternatives.


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


Report from the Polish Association

26-28 August 2009
Garden centre owners and managers from 16 Garden Centres participated in a trade project supported by The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs. In the framework of this project, Polish purchasers of nursery products and ornamental trees were invited to the Netherlands where they could see developments in the Dutch nursery sector and visit horticultural companies. In the meantime they visited ‘PLANTARIUM 2009’, the international exhibition for the ornamental plant sector. During 3 day visit, August 26-28, there were also matchmaking sessions (1-1 talks) with Dutch producers/traders and business meetings. The Dutch programme has been very well received by our members.

28-30 August 2009
Our member Ms Izabela Kaszuba was one of the judges in the contest that was held during the Exhibition, ‘Green is Life’- the Plant Novelty competition. This is a real honour to our Association to be representative in such important committee for green sector.

The International Exhibition ‘Green is Life’ is the principal trade fair in Poland and in Central Eastern Europe for plants, garden technology and landscape architecture. It is the most important industry meeting forum for nurserymen, gardeners, suppliers of goods and services, sales staff, landscape architects and contractors. For sixteen years, it has been regularly organized at the end of August / beginning of September. Numerous exhibitors are the best evidence of the trade fair’s reputation, including key Polish and European companies.

The XVII International ,’Green is Life’ Exhibition took place in Warsaw on August 28-30 at the EXPO XXI Center. Its participants included leading ‘green industry’ exhibitors from 9 countries – Poland, Austria, Belgium, France, Holland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Italy.

The leitmotif of this year’s edition was WATER, inspired by the motto: ‘GARDEN ON THE WAVE’. Many exhibitors used water motives in arranging their displays. The subject of water, its role within gardens and public spaces – in aesthetic, mood, ecological and economic aspects – was also echoed in the program of associated events.

Magda Zakrzewska
Polskie Stowarzyszenie Centrow Ogrodniczych
e-mail: psco@psco.org.pl, biuro@psco.org.pl


News From Switzerland

Apart from the fact that Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi presented a motion to the United Nations that Switzerland should be dismembered and shared among its neighbouring countries, we are doing well. The whole industry is looking back on a fairly good season and there seems to be optimism for the Christmas season. After a discussion with some friends during our Summer holiday and after several hints in different business related newsletters it seems that keeping urban chickens may be a new trend.

Have for example a look at the following internet page: https://www.tarazod.com/filmsmadchicks.html. There is one UK Company that has built up an interesting network related with keeping urban chickens over the Internet: https://www.omlet.co.uk. Unfortunately they do not seem interested in retailing their products. I wonder if there is anybody out there in the Garden Centre world that has similar feelings and would be interested in sharing information about this potential market. Any hints are welcome: emh@meier-ag.ch.

I had a look at the slides of a recent Tom Peters presentation for The London Business Forum. To download the rest of Tom’s slides please visit the following internet site:https://www.tompeters.com/slides/uploaded/London_AM_final_090309.ppt

Best regards from Switzerland,
ERNST MEIER AG. Erwin Meier-Honegger
Email: emh@meier-ag.ch www.meier-ag.ch


From Down Under – Australia

Investing in the Future of Our Industry …
It is really great to be able to report a number of positive investments in our Australian industry that will see Independent Garden Centres continue to flourish and provide brilliant service for home gardeners. Some of this investment has been happening for a while but some is just happening and other investment is reaching completion. I am aware of a number of major projects but will just list a quick snapshot of a few at this stage. Rather than upset anyone, I state that they are not in order of importance.

Drovers Garden & Lifestyle Centre, Wanneroo WA. The complex includes a Fish Market, butcher, Garden Centre, bakery and fruit and vegetable shop. I haven’t seen it yet but Michael Cole from PGA has and enthused about it.

Rivers of Yarrambat, VIC. Rivers is actually quite amazing. You’ll find River’s Café & Providore offering gourmet breakfasts, lunches and regional wines; conference facilities; a Health & Wellbeing Centre featuring a health clinic and day spa; a hair salon and specialized gyms with a personal trainer. As well as all that you’ll find a great Garden Centre too. It’s amazing!www.riversofyarrambat.com

Virginia Nursery, SA. Apart from a huge range and quantity of plants, you find Virginia Fruit Supply, Virginia Pet Supplies & Aquatics and so much more. Indoor & Outdoor Plants, Water Features, Pots, Giftware, Garden Accessories. www.virginianursery.com.au

Eden Gardens & Garden Centres, NSW. The staff at Eden have been making changes. The gift area has been relocated and replaced with ‘Eden gro’. This is described as a ‘concept store’ and will be trialed for a period before they decide whether to expand the concept or not. Costs have not been spared on the display and fittings. ‘Eden gro’ is almost a boutique Garden Centre within a major centre. www.edengardens.com.au

Nielsen’s Native Nursery, QLD. Nielsen’s have had a big upgrade of their signage in the Garden Centre and it looks great. However, the standout is still Nielsen’s Marine Mates. They have invested considerable funds in setting up a magnificent aquatics centre and have recently invested in a new quarantine set up as well to help maximize importing and profit.www.nielsensnativenursery.net

Gill’s Landscape & Lifestyle Centre, VIC
Lance and Paul Roach, of Gill’s Nurseries fame, are developing this new centre in Bay Rd Sandringham. It sounds really innovative and exciting and I can’t wait for it to open. Opening is planned for December 2009 or early 2010. This will be the first development of this size in Victoria for many years. And there are many more established Garden Centres investing in the future of our industry. Are you making an investment in your future?

Interfirm Comparisons for July 2009
The financial year has started off well in most areas with weather conditions clearly having more impact than the economy. Average sales growth was just under 9% with both plants and other products showing positive figures.

Woolworths and Lowes Buy ‘Danks’
The other very interesting news from Australia is that Woolworths, in partnership with Lowes (USA) have bought John Danks & Son subject to ACCC approval. Danks, apart from being a major distributor to Garden Centres & hardware stores, owns the brands for Home Hardware, Thrifty Link and Plants Plus Garden Centres. It is envisaged that Woolworths will eventually set up some 150 ‘box stores’ and enter the home and garden industry. It appears that around 15 stores will be set up in the shorter term. At this stage, ‘Danks’ say it is full steam ahead as usual and member stores will benefit from the change of management.

Warm regards, Leigh Siebler

Garden Centres Association of Australia Inc.

E: leigh@gravity.net.au