I’ve been putting off writing this column for, oh, about two years. But it’s time.
The world around us is changing, and our industry – particularly our associations – cannot go on the way it has been. The first one to go was the Lawn & Garden Marketing & Distribution Association (LGMDA), a little-known but active association that catered to distributors and manufacturers in lawn and garden. Distributor consolidation, manufacturer discord and, of course, a recession contributed to its demise this May.
But the loss of LGMDA is just the tip of the iceberg. Every association in our industry is struggling to remain relevant. So I’ll just say the obvious – there is little need for two separate associations to represent the interest of garden center retailers today.
Before I go any further, I want to say that I intend no disrespect to anyone. Both the American Landscape & Nursery Association (ANLA) and Garden Centers of America (GCA) have done a wonderful job of engaging garden center retailers to try and provide them resources they need to be better and stronger businesses. Both organizations have their retailer members’ best interests at heart, and have worked tirelessly to coordinate tours and other events that benefit their members.
In a better economy, and a different time, they could live side by side. Those times now appear to be gone. Garden retailing is going to get tougher, not easier. Government regulations and intervention will become more of an impact on business, not less.
During these times, it’s vital to work together, not apart. To share ideas and promote ways for everyone to survive and thrive, not just GCA members or ANLA members. And not just retailers, either. The entire industry should be included in the dialog and community of sharing.
The pros for a unified alliance of garden center retailers far outweigh the cons. Think of the potential when an entire industry comes together. There has been discussion for years about a marketing and promotion program for horticulture, but it could never get off the ground because of a fragmented industry.
This alliance isn’t just for the retailers, either. It’s for the suppliers and members of the allied trade who for too long have split their resources and time between two organizations because they didn’t want to play favorites and wanted to be fair to all the retailers out there. Again, in a solid economy that could happen, but not anymore. Resources are too precious and time spread too thin to support and attend two or three retail tours, multiple events and committee meetings, along with all the other support requested by these well-meaning associations. How many people in years past have hopped off the ANLA Retail Roadshow – sometimes with only a half a day in between – to pick up the GCA Summer Tour wherever it was located?
How many times have ANLA and GCA duplicated efforts by visiting the same cities in different years? Are we doing ourselves a disservice by replicating efforts, ideas and initiatives? At what point do we say enough is enough?
I realize there are issues to be worked out between the boards of each association. I would just like to encourage those who are involved in these discussions to find an acceptable compromise on both sides and do what needs to be done to help the retailer membership in both organizations become better businesses. That means providing them all the resources needed to survive and thrive in an unknown future.
It’s what the associations are here to do, and I know everyone in those associations wants to accomplish that.
Everyone involved needs to come together as one to get it done. It’s time.