State Of The Industry 2011: The State Of Garden Retail

State Of The Industry 2011: The State Of Garden Retail

Despite challenges like lack of consumer spending, unemployment rates, weather and increasing pressure from big box stores, the majority of independent retailers we heard from in this year’s State Of The Industry survey are optimistic that 2011 will come with increased sales and more opportunity to woo customers, especially new ones.

In the survey, 79 percent of respondents predicted an increase in sales over 2010 – particularly after seeing slight improvements in customer count and average ticket, and many seem genuinely excited about the possibilities for 2011.

“We have new, interactive areas in the greenhouse to really engage customers – particularly younger, first-time gardeners,” says Phyliss Williams, co-owner of K&W Greenery in Janesville, Wis. “We’re working with a local home builder showroom to run a year-long series of seminars for the first-time homeowner. Our green business can impact energy usage and property value, as well as lifestyle.”

Facing The Challenges

However, independent retailers are not without concerns for the upcoming year. A sampling from our survey showed increasing margins at the top of the to-do list for more than half of those surveyed.

“Again, the weather is our biggest concern,” says Jennifer Schamber of Greenscape Gardens in Manchester, Mo. “We’ve shifted our product mix over the last few years to help drive sales through the economic challenges, but of course it would be nice if customers had more confidence when it comes to their finances.”

Bank lending and securing lines of credit still seem to be an issue in pockets of the country, with anecdotal horror stories cropping up about banks pulling financing on a whim. And then there’s the vendor side, which is being pinched increasingly by banks looking for better performance after years of overstock, particularly on the live goods side.

Retailers are facing a continued dry spell in the housing market, which is effectively dampening sales of larger material and landscaping services. And then there’s the concern that as older customers downsize and eventually stop gardening, there won’t be a generation following behind to buy garden products.

More State Of The Industry Reporting

Click the links below to read more on these topics:

Top Categories & Strategies

Challenges & Opportunities

Legislation & Regulation

Vendor Outlook

Trends As Opportunities

In our survey, we asked retailers what they thought the top three trends were for 2011. Edibles continued to rank at the top of the list, showing garden centers will again hit home the message of home-grown and grow-your-own.

“I think vegetables and herbs will be strong this year, but organic and local are the keys that will keep it growing. That’s where the interest will be,” says Chris Sieff of Knupper Nursery & Landscape. In fact, through our Revolutionary 100 program, we have heard multiple strategies to keep capitalizing on the edibles trends, from farmer’s markets to seminars and festivals, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs and even partnerships with community colleges to teach canning and freezing classes.

Some retailers are finding success with larger vegetable plants already bearing fruit at retail, as well as larger finished plants for spring sales versus seeds.

Another trend that appears to be making some headway is getting children involved in gardening. There were products at many of the winter trade shows specifically designed to get kids interested in vegetables, herbs and flowers.

Retailers, too, had ideas for bringing kids into the garden center and hosting activities to get them excited about plants. One idea, from The Wreath Factory at Otter Creek in Wisconsin, involved having a bug hunt for kids where the staff hides plastic bugs and the kids bring them to the front for a prize. It’s a simple, yet effective and inexpensive way to get kids involved (and let parents shop a little longer).

The buy local movement is also one retailers identified as a growing trend of which they can take advantage.

Programs like the 3/50 Project (The350Project.net) and other regional and city-wide buy-local campaigns bring retailers more business from customers who may not be aware of them but want to support local independent stores.

Legislation As A Key Factor

It sure isn’t sexy, but Congress and national and regional regulatory agencies will have a major impact on small businesses this year. Craig Regelbrugge, who is the vice president of government relations and research at the American Nursery & Landscape Association, gave us the rundown on key legislation and regulation issues for 2011.

They include topics that have been a thorn in the side of seasonal businesses for a while, like immigration reform, as well as sudden changes in health care reform and its sidekick, the universally hated 1099 requirement (which at press time was on its way to being repealed – a move President Obama is expected to approve).

On health care, Regelbrugge expects the bill passed last year to be picked apart for possible repeal. “There will be oversight hearings on both health care and other administration-related initiatives, like the environment,” adds Regelbrugge. “Administration officials will be hauled up and made to defend themselves, but we won’t see a full-blown dismantling.”

On the immigration and labor front, he says there won’t be much movement legislatively, and organizations like ANLA will look for ways to “move narrow pieces of a solution.”

On the regulatory side, Regelbrugge says there are movements in the Department of Labor to clarify who is being called an “independent contractor” to ensure the classification is being used properly (which could have tax implications for businesses). This may result in more detailed self-evaluations at the time of hire and additional efforts in Human Resources to be able to verify such claims.

Crystal Ball Time

So what’s going to be the big story in 2011? Garden centers are going to have to get better at all the things they know differentiate themselves.

Technology can be a big advantage for retailers trying to reach existing and new customers. Retailers in our survey said they were keeping an eye on new advances like QR codes (for more on these see our Retailer Q&A with Dundee Nursery and our Vendor Q&A with John Henry) and social media as ways to keep the dialog going with customers.

Engaged and loyal customers are the endgame in a long race to the finish.

Leave a Reply

More From state of the industry...

May 22, 2015

AccuWeather Summer Forecast: Expect A Range Of Extremes

A continued drought in the West, higher moisture in the Southeast and above-normal temperatures in the North could have an effect on what your customers are buying.

Read More
EMV Card J Lombardi

May 22, 2015

Retailers Taking Steps To Deal With EMV As Deadline Looms

The Oct. 1 deadline looms for retailers to be ready to accept chip-enabled Europay MasterCard Visa credit cards. According to the National Retail Federation, the costs of the new technology, coupled with banks’ plans to stick with signatures instead of switching to more secure PINs, have many merchants hesitant to make the move.

Read More

May 21, 2015

How To Hold A Successful In-Store Promotional Event

A successful event attracts customers and motivates employees. While boosting your business, it builds your reputation and sets you apart from other garden centers.

Read More
Latest Stories

May 22, 2015

AccuWeather Summer Forecast: Expect A Range Of Extremes

A continued drought in the West, higher moisture in the Southeast and above-normal temperatures in the North could have an effect on what your customers are buying.

Read More
EMV Card J Lombardi

May 22, 2015

Retailers Taking Steps To Deal With EMV As Deadline Loo…

The Oct. 1 deadline looms for retailers to be ready to accept chip-enabled Europay MasterCard Visa credit cards. According to the National Retail Federation, the costs of the new technology, coupled with banks’ plans to stick with signatures instead of switching to more secure PINs, have many merchants hesitant to make the move.

Read More

May 21, 2015

How To Hold A Successful In-Store Promotional Event

A successful event attracts customers and motivates employees. While boosting your business, it builds your reputation and sets you apart from other garden centers.

Read More

May 19, 2015

Shemin Nursery And Landscape Supply Patriarch And WWI V…

Nearly 100 years after Sgt. William Shemin pulled wounded comrades to safety on a World War I battlefield, his heroism has finally earned him the nation’s highest service medal.

Read More

May 18, 2015

Mother’s Day Was Strong For Many Garden Centers This Ye…

Despite threats (or true blasts) of inclement weather in some areas, Mother’s Day weekend set records in several areas. Check out what retailers across the country are reporting in terms of traffic, weather and how they are seeking to improve efficiency.

Read More
Bob Warhurst

May 18, 2015

Merrifield Garden Center Co-Founder Robert Warhurst Pas…

Warhurst and his good friend Buddy Williams started Merrifield Garden Center in Northern Virginia in 1971, eventually growing it into one of the largest independent garden centers in the country.

Read More

May 18, 2015

Today’s Garden Center’s 2015 State Of The Industry Surv…

Input from garden center retailers about how your garden center is faring will be used to compare previous years’ health to our industry’s current performance.

Read More

May 15, 2015

How Millennials Are Shaping Shopping Trends

The National Retail Federation and others are looking at how millennial homebuyers and homeowners are influencing shopping trends, and how major retailers are adapting to meet this trend.

Read More
Moana nursery end cap

May 12, 2015

How Moana Nursery Thrives In The High Desert [Slideshow…

By focusing on the rewards of gardening in arid Reno, Nevada, Moana Nursery weathered one of the worst-hit areas in the country during the recession.

Read More
GrowIt Senetti Logo

May 11, 2015

Suntory And GrowIt! Garden Socially Partner On A New Se…

Three different contests will run from May through early August. Garden center retailers can upload their own photos or encourage their customers to enter and win.

Read More
Ingenico EMV

May 8, 2015

National Retail Federation Addresses Concerns About EMV…

In a short video, NRF senior vice president Mallory Duncan weighs in on the status of new EMV chips in credit cards, what retailers need to know and whether the new cards are truly as safe as intended.

Read More

May 8, 2015

Martha Stewart Tops List Of Keynote Speakers At This Su…

An interview between Martha Stewart and IGC Show founder Jeff Morey will kick off the IGC East show in Baltimore, with a full slate of engaging speakers to follow at both IGC events.

Read More
Summerfest overview

May 5, 2015

Fun Things You Can Do Before Or After The GCA Tour

There's a lot you can add to your GCA calendar. From Summerfest, a huge music festival (think performances from a wide range of bands, like the Rolling Stones, Jane's Addiction, Zac Brown Band and Phillip Phillips) to a more relaxed Wisconsin Cheesemakers' And Wine Train, there are dozens of festivals and activities happening in Milwaukee in late June.

Read More

May 5, 2015

How You Can Survive “Mobilegeddon”

Late last year, Google announced a change in the way websites will be ranked in search results on mobile phones. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, it will appear lower in search results.

Read More

May 4, 2015

Scotts-MiracleGro Partners With Meijer To Open New In-S…

As part of a pilot program, retailer Meijer has announced it is partnering with Marysville, Ohio-based Scotts-MiracleGro to open 27 garden centers in existing Meijer stores across the Midwest, including 11 in Michigan.

Read More

May 4, 2015

Six Ways To Boost Sales Over Mother’s Day Weekend

Whether it’s by extending hours, offering giveaways or holding events, there are a number of ways to boost sales over Mother’s Day weekend. Here’s what a few garden centers are doing.

Read More

April 28, 2015

Urban Garden Center Excels At Adapting To Its Community…

Located in New York City's Spanish Harlem, Urban Garden Center's customers need a store that reflects the needs of the neighborhood. This unusual garden retailers finds many ways to do just that.

Read More

April 24, 2015

New Web Site Helps Consumers Find Plants And Retailers …

Plant Select, a Colorado-based plant supplier that provides plants designed to thrive in high plains and intermountain regions, has launched a new website that allows visitors to search for plants and where to buy them.

Read More