E-News: December 2015

Vol. 7, Issue 4  |  December 2015


Message From Your President

John Zaplatynsky

December 6 – 9 the IGCA Board of Directors the country Administrators met in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada for the annual winter meeting.  The meetings were held in Niagara Falls as it will be the location for the IGCA Congress in September, 2017.  The attendees participated in  a “mini tour” of some of the sites the Congress will visit; met with local committee member and reviewed preliminary budgets and sponsorship plans.  Regular Board business was be conducted and Administrators exchanged information about what is happening in their respective countries.  In addition the Board and Administrators reviewed our three key objectives for 2016.  They are;

  1.  To ensure the Congress and Study tour continue to improve and meet the needs of the participants
  2.  To increase our country membership by adding two member countries within the next two years
  3.  To expand and develop the ability to share information and resources between countries and individual member garden centres.

In the next newsletter we will report more fully on our discussions.  In the meantime, please accept my personal best wishes for your business through the Holiday Season as well as good health and much happiness in 2016!

John Zaplatynsky
President IGCA, Canada GardenWorks Ltd.




Click below to jump to stories from this issue:



Czech Republic

Gastronomification of Retail




South Africa





Australian Report

By Leigh Siebler

2015 was a good year (July to June) for Australia and overall good for most garden centres. GCA ran the garden RELEAF promotion for the first time and we were quietly pleased but know there is much to be done now for the 2016 program. We did raise $70,000 for beyondblue.

Our link with beyondblue gives us the opportunity to promote the Health & Wellbeing benefits of gardens and plants. Through our link with beyondblue we have been able to have access to one of the presenters of Australia’s high rating lifestyle program, (Better Homes & Gardens, Johanna Griggs), and also beyondblue Chair Jeff Kennett. Jeff was Premier of Victoria some years ago and commands great access to media. In 2016 we have asked prominent garden media to be Ambassadors and now have one in each state of Australia.

We will be promoting the health benefits of Kale during garden RELEAF and have the endorsement of prominent nutrition Dr Joanna McMillan.

Plant sales are good over most of Australia but it appears that sales for what we call seedlings (green bedding plants) are flat. However, sales of seedlings in flower in pots, small or large, are still in a growth phase. Sales of potted herbs and vegetables are strong too.

Leigh Siebler
Garden Centres of Australia

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Canada Welcomes the IGCA Board and Administrators

By Julia Ricottone

The Canadian Nursery Landscape Association hosted 23 delegates at the IGCA Administrator’s meeting in Niagara Falls.  After successful meetings at the hotel, the group was taken to five garden centres that showcase the variety of stores that exist in Canada.  Travelling from Niagara Falls to Toronto, the group visited everything from family-run stores, to a small, but highly successful garden centre in the urban environment of Toronto.  The time of year showed off peak Christmas displays at all stores.  We dined overlooking Niagara Falls and saw the Christmas lights display along the walking trails.  In an unseasonably warm December there was no sign of snow, but it was nice that nobody needed to wear their toques (Canadian winter hats). Karl and Valerie Stensson, who many Congress attendees will know, hosted the group at their home for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres on the final evening.

Overall it was a fantastic three days.  CNLA would like to thank everyone who hosted a stop on the tour.  We are very excited to bring the IGCA Congress to Canada in 2017 and we are busy working on a fantastic program for you!  Here are a few photos from the December tour.  Many more were shared on the IGCA Facebook page during the week. 

 You could have this view from the main hotel during IGCA 2017


The group learned about consumer preferences and the Canadian Hardy Rose Breeding program at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre


Ideas for Christmas!


Christmas displays were in full force

Urns are very popular in Canada, and a big seller at garden centres
 A cupcake for every country!

Aside from planning for the 2017 Congress, the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association has been busy letting members know about our new national gift card program.  Gift cards can be purchased online and sent to a customer’s smartphone.  They are processed just like a credit card and are easy for any garden centre to accept. We hope these will be big sellers over the holidays, and in the spring for Mother’s Day.  The gift cards can only be redeemed at member garden centres, and are another benefit our members can have over mass merchants across the country. 

Julia Ricottone
Canadian Nursery Landscape Association

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Pre-Xmas from Czech

By Michal Ferenčík

Time is moving very fast and Christmas is here again. Our shops are changing into the theatre gallery to in order to attract our customers to come again for their Christmas shopping and also to invite new customer for our Garden centres. Areas where plants were are filled with decorations and the cut flower section is also bigger with the arrangements for pre-Christmas and Christmas tables and homes. 


Our Garden centres are not only competing with online shops, but also with one of the commodities that are quite a big part of our local market. I am talking about Christmas trees. We will see this year if the Czech customers are willing to pay for, and also want to invest in, the quality of Christmas trees sold at our Garden centres.  Garden centres will slowly lose this product through competition, which is using cheap Christmas trees as a product to attract customers to come to the big stores.   

Merry Christmas and all the best for the new Year 2016

Michal Ferenčík
Garden Centre Ferenčík

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Paris attacks 

By Christiane Weiller

Our capital, Paris, was struck on Friday the 13th of November by several coordinated terror attacks, killing 130 people. 

Beyond the appalling human cost, these terrible events, directly aimed at our way of life, deeply affected the country’s population and thus its retail. 

Many shops and department stores were closed on the week-end that followed the attacks. Those which chose to stay open had very few customers compared to the same moment in 2014, bringing a drop in revenue. 

The French minister for the Economy immediately called upon a meeting of the “Cellule de continuité économique” to monitor the impact of the terror attacks on retail, tourism and other businesses. This committee has been meeting every week since, to share figures and provide an answer for both security and economic issues. 

Consumer spending in garden centers went down about 20% in the Paris region, and also plunged in other parts of France, but is now starting to recover. Every week since the 13th of November we have been seeing improvement. 

Christmas time will be an important test for garden centers and other retailers. 

Christiane Weiller
Fédération Nationale des Métiers de la Jardinerie 

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Christmas Greetings from Germany

By Jutta Lenz

The weather in Germany is too warm for the season. We haven´t had any snow yet and only a couple days with freezing temperature. The mulled wine on the Christmas markets doesn´t taste very well when it is too warm ☺.

2015 will conclude with just over 1% growth in sales. Anxiety cause us the declining customer numbers, gratifying, however, is the increase in the average basket. We lose the indoor plants and the nursery customers more and more to the food trader.

We are very busy organizing our winter conference in Aachen (16.-19.1.2016). The topic of our meeting will be “Focus on Customer frequency.” Almost 250 people will take part and will discussing about how to get more customers into the garden centre.

In 2016 we want to start with a qualification measure – the VDG Academy – to train the employees in Garden centres over a longer period of approximately 5 years in different subjects and they will get a certificate as a VDG- certificated salesperson. Lots of our industry partner take part of it and offer training-modules. 

Olerum – VDG-Online Shop

Since October 2015 the social structure of Olerum has changed. The former 20 franchisees are now shareholders and further 12 have been added with different interests – at least 20,000 €. This gives us a solid financial base on which we can continue to work. Sales are rising steadily and we are on schedule.

Wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Jutta Lenz
Verband Deutscher Garten-Center e.V.  

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The Gastronomification of Retail

By Erwin Meier-Honegger

Here in Europe we are speaking of the “gastronomification” of retail. In the past, gastronomy occupied 5-10% of the retail space in a shopping outlets. Today the average seams to be around 15% in the UK between 20-25%.

But I wonder if huge Restaurants like in UK Garden-Centers with up to 600 seats can fulfill future customer expectation. Maybe Garden Centres should consider to focus on smaller units with more specific themes randomly distributed on their site.

I think that URBN strategy like described in an article by eater.com seams tempting for Garden-Centers too.



Horticultural Bone-rattling

Award-winning writer John Walker is doing some ‘horticultural bone-rattling’ in his latest column for the RHS magazine ‘The Garden’:

“As the natural world buckles, our green-fingered myopia thrives, and we toddle on, soothed by the equally myopic cries of marketing-types that ‘gardening is green!’. Oh, I wish.  ‘Growing plants is good for the environment!’ is true in essence, but the devil’s in the rootball. You only fail to spot the crushing irony of lauding a pollinator plant, grown using peat, heat and insect harming pesticides, if you choose to.  It is no longer tenable to treat the supply side of gardening like an unmentioned, embarrassing relative: we need to know all we can to be sure our shared passion for plants matches gardening’s ‘green’ billing. There is little sign that business wants this awkward relation uncovered: perhaps too many skeletons lurk in gardening’s shed.”

As you promote the environmental benefits of the plants you sell, make sure you are prepared for questions about how those plants they were grown and transported.  Consumers are becoming more environmentally-savvy and they are curious about where their products are coming from.  The buy local movement is growing around the world and green products must be “green” before they hit the shelf.

Erwin Meier-Honegger

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Top Seller in Japan

By Akihiro Ozaki

I got a new kind of plant today. Do you know about cyclamen? 

In Japan we have made it to the end of the big gift season. We will send foods, drinks or flowers each other. There are three popular gift plants that purchased:  cyclamen, cymbidium and poinsettia. I wanted to pick up cyclamen this time.

There are approximately 800 varieties cyclamen circulated in the market every year in Japan, which means that breeding is a very prosperous.  Most of the big garden centre will sell 400 or 500 varieties cyclamen every year. We are enjoying the aroma, color, shape, and magnitude of cyclamen during this time of the year. 


Akihiro Ozaki
Ozaki Flower Park 

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Update from South Africa

By Gerdie Olivier

Our Spring trading season was put under tremendous pressure by drought conditions in various regions of our country, with some regions being declared disaster areas.  Retail sales looked positive during August, but with weeks of no rain and water restrictions being implemented in some municipal zones, sales dropped considerably in the following months.

The Western Cape region, were fortunate in not being affected by these conditions to a large extent, and sales have been positive.

Through our marketing campaign, Life is a Garden, we have been spreading a positive message about water saving and responsible gardening.  Water Wise plants, rainwater harvesting and other tips were marketed to consumers via social and print media.  On Facebook, we have embarked on a hashtag campaign called #WaterWiseWednesday and have invited members to support this initiative to spread the message to consumers.  

At our Executive Council Meeting, Tanya Visser was elected as new President Elect and her term in office will commence in June 2016 at our Annual General Meeting.  Tanya is a well-known gardening personality in South Africa being editor of the popular ‘The Gardener’ Magazine and television personality on the Home Channel.  

The SANA Facebook page remains an important part of our communications strategy giving members daily updates on our activities and projects.  Our SANA website and EDM newsletters that is sent out regularly ensures that members remains up to date and informed.

A new initiative that was launched over the past few months was the establishment of mentorship workshops which were well attended by students participating in internships or graduate placement opportunities in the green industry. This initiative will be prioritized in 2016.   

With the year drawing to a close, all our annual projects have been completed and planning for 2016 has started.  The Garden Centre Competition is still in full swing with the evaluation round ending before the end of the year. Once this has been completed, there will be moderation round with final results being released in April 2016 at our Grading Awards ceremony.  

Our offices are closed between Christmas and New Year. We wish all our Association friends and fellow IGCA Members well over the holidays and look forward to a fantastic 2016 for the green industry.

Gerdie Olivier
South African Nursery Association

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News from IGCA Congress 2016 Switzerland

By Othmar Ziswiler

In eight months we will welcome you in Switzerland for the IGCA Congress 2016. The project team is working at full speed on the preparation for the Congress. The program is available and is packed with highlights. The 12 independent family-owned garden centres look forward to demonstrating their skills and show you how they entice the customers. You can look forward to the train ride through the middle of the Alps, and a boat trip on Lake Zurich and the dinner on a 600 year-old castle. Delegates will find varied meals besides the obligatory Swiss cheese and chocolate, the project team is developing a detailed menu plan. There’s a lot to good fortune to taste 🙂

Already over 120 registrations have been received. Of the three hotels on offer, Novotel is already well booked and soon it will be sold out. Book by 15 February 2016 and you will receive the early bird price.

Good News can we report from the pre-tour. 19 people have signed up and making it fully booked. Participants will travel from Milano over the Valtellina and Engadin to Zurich, passing through a fascinating mountain and lake scenery.

You can find more information about the IGCC Switzerland and the registration form on our website www.igcc2016.ch

Othmar Ziswiler


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News from the UK

By Iain Wylie

The Christmas selling season is in full swing after a mild autumn which saw good sales of plants and gardening products. 

The main activity for the GCA in November and early December is the annual Christmas competition. This year over one third of members entered their centres into the competition. The competition has two stages of judging; the first round is an area competition and then the winners of each area qualify for the second round – national judging, to determine the centres that have the best Christmas displays and commercial offering in the UK. Each entrant will fall into one of two categories depending upon the size of the centre, either the ‘Garden Centre’ category or ‘Destination Garden Centre’ category. There is a winner for each category in both the area and national judging. The previous national winners were also entered into the national judging for this year’s competition.

The judges saw some fantastic displays and all the entrants were of a high standard. A huge “congratulations” is in order for all the centres that entered and they deserve a huge amount of credit for the great effort they put into creating their displays and the way they retail seasonal items.

The area winners were:

Christmas Competition 2015

Destination Garden Centres Garden Centres
South Thames
Squires Badshot Lea Castle Gardens*
  Millbrook – Gravesend
Wales and West
Whitehall – Lacock Brimsmore Gardens
North Thames
Van Hage Great Amwell Frosts – Brampton
St Peters Pennells – Lincoln
North East
Langlands – Shiptonthorpe Langlands – Leeds
North West
Barton Grange Burleydam
Scotland & N. Ireland
  Glendoick GC
*Previous year’s winners

The winners of the national competition were:

Destination Garden Centre: Barton Grange

Garden Centre: Castle Gardens

Barton Grange

Barton Grange





Castle Gardens

Castle Gardens

Pennells Lincoln

Pennells Lincoln

Whitehall Lacock

Whitehall Lacock 

GCA Annual Conference   2016 

We are busy organising our annual conference which will be taking place from 24th to 27th January 2016 at The Grand Hotel Brighton. There is a packed programme planned with some great speakers already booked. We will have presentations showing the best innovations in UK garden centres from our team of inspectors and the results of their visits around the country. The speaker line-up is featured on our website www.gaca.org.uk On Monday evening we will be hold an informal “Pop Stars” themed evening with entertainment from a band plus a disco. Fancy dress is optional.

The conference is a very special one as 2016 sees the GCA celebrating its 50th anniversary. The annual dinner will be an extra special black tie event to mark this milestone. 

We would love to see our international colleagues at the conference and would like to invite everyone to our conference to celebrate with us. If you would like details about attending the conference and/or the dinner then you can find them on our website or by contacting me directly. Booking is available via the website but please don’t hesitate to contact us first if you would like to book. info@gca.org.uk 

It would be fantastic if you could join us!

On behalf of the UK GCA, I would like to wish everyone associated with the IGCA a ‘Happy Christmas and Prosperous 2016’.

Iain Wylie
The Garden Centre Association

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DIY in the United States

By Sherry Johnson

Do-it-yourself (DIY) projects are trending and gaining traction in the United States. That trend has been filling garden centers with new customers attracted to DIY projects under the careful tutelage of knowledgeable and friendly garden center staff. This is incredibly evident in the full and overflowing holiday workshops hosted by many U.S. garden centers this winter.

Now as Garden Centers take time in January and February to finalize plans for the upcoming busy season, many are finding unique ways to engage customers where customers already are—bars, farmers markets, local events, etc. 

One unique idea is hosting make-and-take events at local bars or restaurants. Attendees pay a fee and are guided through a DIY project, which they get to take home, all while having a social evening out with friends accompanied by food and drink.

As spring approaches, the industry in hopeful that engagement in DIY will continue to grow, bringing curious and inspired new customers through business’ doors and increasing sales.

Sherry Johnson

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