E-News: June 2016

Vol. 8, Issue 2  |  June 2016


Message From Your President

John Zaplatynsky

By now in the Northern Hemisphere, the peak of the garden centre season has passed and hopefully it has been a successful one for our independent garden centre members.  In the Southern Hemisphere, however, it is winter, but based on the Facebook postings I have seen from Australia, it does not look too bad!

As you reflect on the successes and opportunities from the season it is a great time to be thinking about the upcoming Zurich IGCA Congress and looking ahead to learning from each other and how we have worked to improve our businesses.  When I look around at our successful members, two themes seem to stand out – those who have excelled at making a visit to their garden centres a “real” experience, not just a shopping trip, and those who have raised the bar on higher standards of customer service (or guest experience as some refer to it).

From our Administrator’s meeting and tour of Switzerland 18 months ago, I know we will see some centres where the experience is terrific. Look at them carefully.  On the customer service side, those who have emulated the service levels demonstrated in the Apple retail stores, Starbucks, and the US-based department store, Nordstrom’s, know they have gained many repeat and loyal customers.

As our “big box” competitors become better merchants and make good use of technology we need to be nimble and continue to improve these two aspects that make our garden centres unique.

I look forward to seeing many of you in Zurich and hope you have a very enjoyable and relaxing summer until then!

John Zaplatynsky
President IGCA, Canada GardenWorks Ltd.

Click below to jump to stories from this issue:


Winter at the Garden Centre


Czech Republic







South Africa






Report from Australia 

By Leigh Siebler 

Australia is into winter now after a relatively mild autumn. We have had crazy weather on our East Coast recently but it seems that most garden centres are ok.

The recent Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show saw one GCA member have great success winning all four major awards. This is the first time ever this has happened, and Barry Teese from The Greenery Garden Centre enthused about their display designed by Vivid Design.

The national promotion run by GCA, garden RELEAF, saw around 100 garden centres and suppliers around Australia have a fun weekend for customers and staff. Those who really got behind the program benefitted fully. We employed a professional PR company and received lots of publicity for participants plus we were able to highlight the health and wellbeing benefits of plants and gardens. Thank you again to Boyd Douglas-Davies for helping us with this promotion.

As in 2015, we were delighted to partner with the charity beyondblue and help heighten the awareness of depression and suicide in our community. It is something that should not be ignored and swept under the counter. It needs to be discussed. The participants raised around $70,000 in donations for beyondblue.

Australia is a large country so it is difficult for GCA with a small budget to have national programs that work. However, we are encouraging each state to do more locally and that is working.

Some members are going to the Congress in Switzerland and we trust our friends that go to Congress will have a ball.

Leigh Siebler
Garden Centres Association of Australia

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Winter at the Garden Centre

by Karen Moad

Winter is always an interesting time in garden centres.  I have been amazed in my travels over the years how differently we all treat our businesses in the colder months of the year – with some of us changing entire departments, closing down completely or just accepting that it will just be quiet until the weather warms up again.

At Rivers, it has traditionally been a time in our centre when we have taken the opportunity to plan for the busy months ahead, leading into spring and Christmas. However, this time seems to be harder to find (which is both a good and bad thing!) as there is more happening within the centre and more of a demand to provide things for our customers year-round.

We are now driving a lot of groups into the centre for garden talks and events which include a lunch or morning tea as a part of the visit. We are also running kid’s workshops within the school holidays to increase visitor numbers.

On another note, we have just leased out our Activity Centre to become a full time yoga and pilates studio, adding strongly to our wellbeing section of the business. We are also working through plans for our café to be refurbished after 20 years in operation and finally are proud to say that we are also celebrating 35 years in business later in the month.


Karen Moad
Rivers of Yarrambat

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Getting the community excited about gardening

By Julia Ricottone

Canadian garden centres are always looking for ways to get involved with their community.  Many hold fundraisers, or host events for community groups at their stores.  Nationally, the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association supports a number of programs that can help garden centres get involved with their community and encourage more people to get gardening.  Here are just a few examples:

  • Pink Days in Bloom is a fun, upbeat way to get customers through your doors and a very fulfilling way to support the breast cancer community (family members, friends, neighbours, coworkers, and customers).  All members are encouraged to get involved in this unique fundraiser for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.  Events vary, from challenges between provincial associations, to how-to sessions and garden-themed contests and competitions.  

Garden Days is a three-day celebration that takes place over the Father’s Day weekend starting with National Garden Day, always the Friday before Father’s Day. The program’s objective is to draw attention to our garden culture, history and innovations and to underscore the importance and value of public and private gardens and gardening. To celebrate Garden Days, anyone can organize special activities and/or promotions at their garden, garden centre and in their community. The intent is simply to profile your celebration of gardens and gardening and your contribution to Canada’s garden experiences. Garden Days is one of the biggest promotions of our industry and gets lots of attention on social media.  Search #gardendays to find out how Canadians celebrated this year.  


You’re invited to Canada in 2017

We have started to book some exciting venues to complement the fantastic garden centres we will visit in 2017.  Mark your calendars for September 17-22, 2017 so you can join us at the IGCA Congress, based out of beautiful Niagara Falls, Ontario.  Our website is up and running, please take a look at www.igcacanada2017.ca, and like us on Facebook to see some updates and highlights of the tour.  The IGCA Board has come up with some new features of the IGCA Congress that we will be debuting in Canada, including the option to take part in an “interactive tour” with more formalized discussions and learning opportunities throughout the week.  

The 2017 Congress will be based in Niagara Falls, easily accessible from the Toronto and Buffalo airports. September is a time of year when garden centres are transitioning into autumn and Halloween themed merchandising, and as the weather starts to cool, we hope you will have a chance to see the leaves changing as we travel through the different microclimates of the region.



Julia Ricottone
Canadian Nursery Landscape Association

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Spring from Czech

By Michal Ferenčík


Spring this year is now looking to be a little bit better than the last year. The number of customers in our garden centres is slightly growing and together with that growth, the amount of money spent is increasing. Nowadays, the spring season is slowly ending with nice results.

Weather in our country during this part of the year, was again playing with the gardeners. On one hand there was almost no winter followed by several spring days with morning frost. On the other hand the spring was very polite to us gardeners which helped with the growth I mentioned before. 

The bigger problem we all faced today is that most of our work is not focused on the customer but instead concentrated on how to find, teach and be able to keep professional staff. In Czech unemployment went from 6.3% in February to 5.4% in May, whereas most other regions have less than 5%.  

Best regards from Czech.

Michal Ferenčík
Garden Centre Ferenčík

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Mission: Végétal

By Christiane Weiller

FNMJ is a founding member of Val’Hor the business association for ornamental trees, plants and cut flowers which gathers French garden centres along with nurseries, landscapers, florists, etc. 

Val’Hor’s first objective is to promote plant sales (especially French grown plants!). 

A new communication campaign was launched at the beginning of May. It was based on a character named “Gauthier” whose mission is to answer people’s requests concerning plants in their garden, on their balcony, for interior decoration purposes or even as clothing accessories. Gauthier gets help from various professionals: florists, garden centres, landscapers, nurseries… Each time the result is fabulous and the person involved is very pleased with their new plants. 

This minute-long show airs everyday on TV channels M6, W9 and téva at about 8 PM. It lasts throughout May and June and then again from September to December. We hope it will bring more customers to garden centres to rescue us from this very difficult spring: turn-over is down 7% compared to spring 2015.  


Christiane Weiller
Fédération Nationale des Métiers de la Jardinerie

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By Erwin Meier-Honegger

Partnering with other businesses is essential. But what businesses? We found out about a cooperation of hotels that have much in common with abundant gardeners: https://www.gartenhotelsschweiz.com.

So we have been able to work together as a preferred partner for this very individual and local hotel cooperation. Our customers receive discounts when visiting one of the Swiss-Garden-Hotels members. They just need to present our garden centre loyalty card when checking in at the hotel. On the other hand, the hotels are offering gift vouchers to their guests upon checkout to be redeemed at our garden centre. It is interesting to experience how the customer bases coincide between our garden centre and the guests. I can strongly recommend partnerships with suitable businesses in the hospitality industry.

Best regards from rainy Switzerland. 

Erwin Meier-Honegger


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Update from Germany

By Jutta Lenz

Seasonal Development in Germany
Sales performance was disappointing in March, but by the end of May, the overall result was slightly positive. Particularly pleasing were sales developed in the plants in the month of May.

Activities of the VDG
Our new VDG Garden Centre Academy will start in June. We will offer 11 seminars in 2016 on various topics and in the following years we are planning to offer about 20 seminars per year. In addition to the topics for merchandise information in a variety of segments, there are also seminars scheduled on issues such as operational handover, shoplifting, team building and complaint management. Depending on the subject the seminars address the topics from employee, manager or owner perspective.

Invitation to the Garden Centre Day for gafa/spoga in Cologne on September 4th 2016
In cooperation with Koelnmesse, the VDG invites Garden Centres from all over the world to a “Happy Hour” at the booth of the VDG in the passage 4-5, A28 / B29 at 4:30 pm. This industry event is to bring together garden centres and suppliers to exchange ideas while visiting the gafa. You are guaranteed to have a good time! We look forward to an active participation.

VDG – Summer Trip
50 participants experienced an exciting garden centre trip to southern Germany. Over two days, 10 very different garden centres were visited. The night was booked in the “Flower” Hotel Dehner, where Dehner invited the visitors group to a hearty gardener evening with music. The warm welcome in all visited garden centres and collegial exchange has inspired the participants.

The picture on the right features the group at Dehner’s Flower Hotel!

Hobby greenhouses – a new Trend
With the increasing trend to grow fruits, vegetables and herbs in your own garden, grows the demand of high quality greenhouses. Here we see two interest groups, in addition to the cultivation of vegetables, the habitat garden is enhanced by a greenhouse. The VDG took over the exclusive distribution of high ACD greenhouses in Germany.

Development Online Shop Olerum
After a further 32 participants – besides the VDG – became shareholders of the online stores last year, the company Olerum continues to develop well. The first quarter online also was not satisfactory, but by the end of May the turnover increased in total over the previous year by 14%.

Jutta Lenz
Verband Deutscher Garten-Center e.V.

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REI Garden Group Update

By Fergal Doyle

Over the course of the first half of 2016, the garden centre sector in Ireland has been performing well. According to the most recent statistics – Q1 2016, the sector grew 5.26% against Q1 2015, which performed strongly in comparison to the general retail average growth of 4.93%. This was mainly attributed to the strong month of March where sales grew 11% with a positive consumer sentiment.

This continues to be driven by destination style garden centres who have strong food offering, with the more traditional garden centres lagging behind. Costs continue to rise with the minimum wage increasing a further 50c in Ireland to €9.15 an hour. Increased marketing of garden related products from multinational supermarkets have also further increased competition in the marketplace. 

GroMór 2016


The REI Garden Group are working on promoting garden centres with our GroMór initiative. There have been over 21 events taking place so far across the country in our garden centres and with over 40 planned in total. There have been hundreds of people in attendance and there has been significant national and local press coverage to promote the campaign. This has helped to bring more footfall to garden centres and reinforce the expertise available in each centre. 


Just over 115,000 people attended Bord Bia’s Bloom festival in Phoenix Park, Dublin over the June bank holiday weekend.  This is a record attendance for Bloom, with glorious sunshine helping to attract huge crowds to the 70 acre site.  Aidan Cotter, Chief Executive of Bord Bia commented, “It is clear that Bloom has become an important fixture in Ireland’s summer calendar, with visitors enjoying the very best of Ireland’s food and horticulture industry.  Since our first Bloom event in 2007, the festival has doubled in size.  We’ve welcomed over 800,000 people to the show, showcased over 280 show gardens and hosted thousands of Irish food and drink producers.  Over the years, the show has evolved and all of us in Bord Bia are truly proud of our Bloom show and what it represents today.  It provides us with an invaluable platform to highlight the creativity and passion that characterizes our world-class horticulture and food industry.” 

Fergal Doyle
Arboretum; Chairperson REI Garden Group 

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A rainy, but positive spring in Italy

By Martina Schullian

Nobody is complaining much in Italy.  From the beginning of 2016 until June, garden centres have noticed that sales have increased on average from 3% to 5%.  This is nice news considering that the temperatures dropped suddenly in March and plant sales and the plants themselves suffered from this cold weather.  The area that has suffered in Italy until now are pet and garden accessories, mainly due to competition with the bigger companies with lower prices.  In addition to that, this rainy weather (it seems that it has lasted for so long) has not helped the sales of garden furniture.

Martina Schullian
Gärtnerei Schullian Floricultura

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Report from Japan

By Akihiro Ozaki

How would I describe our industry this spring? The majority of our garden centres did not have a good season, because this spring was often cold and had a lot of rain. Therefore, it seems that the rainy season has already come, which makes it more difficult to make sales.

But we have a good, easy-to-sell plant even in such a rainy season. It is an indoor green plant. The past few years in Japan, it is has increased to a wide variety in a lot of genres of the plant. Personal life has been diversifying and has changed into the world of design to deepen the impact. A lot of people are enjoying decorating using the indoor plants which have shaped a unique form in their room, office and shop. We have seen an increasing number of unique products that have been polishing further skill. Japan is more likely to increase sales by indoor green plant.



Akihiro Ozaki 
Ozaki Flower Park 

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Update from South Africa

By Gerdie Olivier

End of February to the middle of May is our autumn trade period and traditionally mini-season in South Africa.   Due to unpredictable weather and economic factors, trading has been quiet resulting in average statistics and a drop in sales in some areas compared to last year.   As we move into winter, sales slow down considerably until early August when spring arrives.   The start of the autumn season is celebrated by hosting our SANA Autumn Trade Fairs and our Key fair in Johannesburg is still the biggest green fair in South Africa.

Our GCA Competition 2016 has been completed and results recently announced.  The top awards – regional, departmental and top winners – were announced at our annual winter convention held in June. Garden Centre of the Year 2016 was won by Plant Paradise Garden Centre based in Pretoria; this is the 7th time that they have walked away with this prestigious award and the Jimie Malan Trophy.   As garden centres differ in size, we have 3 categories namely Large, Medium and Small.  The small category was won by Garden Pavilion Brandmullers, the medium category by the overall winner, Plant Paradise Garden Centre and the large category winner was Stodels Nurseries Bellville, based in Cape Town.

Our Annual General Meeting was also held during the Convention and the 28th SANA President, Tanya Visser, was inaugurated during this event.  We look forward to a productive and successful two years under her guidance.  A special word of thanks needs to go to outgoing President, Ryan Goodwin, for his leadership, vision and passion shown during his term as president.  

Gerdie Olivier
South African Nursery Association

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News from IGCA Congress 2016 Switzerland

By Othmar Ziswiler

Switzerland’s first pop-up store for urban gardening

In Switzerland, similar to probably the rest of the world, brick-and-mortar fashion retail has come under pressure, one of the results of which was a clothing store in a shopping centre at Wädenswil going out of business. Markus Raschle, who already operated a garden centre in said shopping centre, grasped the opportunity to occupy the vacant sales surface area until a new tenant is found. This is how Switzerland got its first pop-up store for urban gardening.

Having obtained approval at the beginning of May, the pop-up store opened on May 8th. The store’s premises are simple but colourful and generously furnished. The products are presented on second-hand pallets and offered for sale in combination with pallet frames and covers. As there is hardly any daylight in the store, the product range primarily includes trendy containers, raised beds, soil, fertilizer and accessories for cultivation of vegetables, herbs and berries on balconies and terraces. The choice of plants is limited to few popular buys as well as potted and bagged plants. While most of the items were already on offer in the garden centre, they are now presented much more effectively in the pop-up store, which makes them considerably easier to sell. It is fair to assume the pop-up store will close with a profit given that customer response has been very positive so far.

The study tour during the 2016 Congress in Switzerland will feature a visit to the Raschle garden centre. However, the pop-up store is likely to be occupied by a new tenant by then.

Congress preparations running at full steam

The 2016 IGCA Congress in Switzerland is going to open a good two months from now. Preparations for it are running at full steam. The programme has been drawn up meticulously; the Congress Handbook is almost ready for printing; all coach leaders have been briefed about their assignment. From mid-July, the Congress Handbook will be distributed electronically as a PDF file to all participants. In a nutshell: we’re ready for the Congress, and if the more than 200 participants don’t fail to bring with them fair weather, it will be a fantastic Congress without a shadow a doubt.

Few seats are available still before the maximum number of participants, i.e. 220, is reached. For all information on the Congress and the registration form, go to www.igcc2016.ch. The twelve family-run garden centres and our project team are looking forward to seeing you taking inspiration and ideas for your garden centres and enjoying the highlights of a visit to Switzerland. 

Othmar Ziswiler

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Event ideas from U.S. Garden Centres

By Sherry Johnson

Events can help you get the word out about your garden centre, bring in new customers, and give you a financial lift during slower times. Here are three creative ideas from U.S. Garden Centres:

  • Garden to Table—Feature a local chef demonstrating recipes made from what your customers can grow in their garden. Surround the attendees with lush plants that they can grow for food whether that be herbs, tomatoes, green beans—the sky’s the limit!
  • “Grow Your Own Beer Night”— Bring in a local craft brewer to talk about the different ways to use hops in home brewing/micro brewing. Include a talk on different varieties of hops and their respective uses.
  • Ladies Night—Choose a focus such as cooking or fashion. Showcase plants that connect to your focus and don’t be afraid to partner with other local businesses such as clothing boutiques, wineries or local restaurants. Include a guest speaker or offer fun entertainment such as a local band or a fashion show.

Sherry Johnson

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