The Revolutionary 100

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Industry lists and rankings aren’t uncommon in trade publications. Everyone wants to know how the next guy is doing, and see how their own business measures up against the best.

Many of these rankings tend to focus on easily measured statistics – hard numbers like total revenues or acres in production. Those are valuable
metrics and great information for measuring the overall strength of an industry, particularly if the activities of its leaders tend to reflect what’s happening throughout its ranks.

The benchmark Today’s Garden Center chose for its rankings three years ago – “How revolutionary is your business?” – goes against that grain somewhat. In many ways, though, we believe it is a superior measurement tool compared to simply looking at the physical size or income of the “top” players in any industry.

How The Revolutionary 100 Are Selected

The qualifications for achieving Revolutionary 100 status are fairly stringent. Garden center owners or managers complete a 34-question online survey, covering just about every aspect of their businesses, including the operation’s employee training and incentive programs, customer service practices, industry activity, community stewardship, marketing activities and profitability. Points are awarded based on each response.

In the first two years of the program, we set a 50 percent and then 60 percent minimum score as a cut off to make the list. That left us a few retailers short of 100, so we filled in the remaining spots with garden centers we believed were obviously deserving, yet failed to complete the survey.

In 2008 that wasn’t necessary. With more garden centers deciding to test their mettle against other retailers by taking the survey for the first time – and many of our repeat respondents improving their scores over last year – we are pleased to announce that we had more than 100 U.S. garden centers score above that 60 percent cutoff.

The real leaders among independent garden centers may be some of the largest, of course. But the mom and pop operation down the road may be one of the most profitable businesses you’ll come across, and its owners probably have a pretty good story to tell about how they got to be that way.

Read through the lists on the next several pages and pay close attention to the stories of the Today’s Garden Center Revolutionary 100. You’ll find innovative ideas that help these retailers create a customer experience that sets them apart from their big box brethren. And more important, you’ll find that they do it in a way that helps make them profitable businesses.

Many of the garden centers on this year’s list have been there before, but a surprising number of retailers are appearing here for the first time. In fact, only one of this year’s Regional Winners, Watters Garden Center, received that honor in 2007. And one – Southeast Winner Flamingo Road Nursery – wasn’t even on the 2007 list of revolutionary retailers. That’s exciting, because we believe that one of the hallmarks of a revolutionary operation is that it consistently changes and improves. A long list of new names indicates to us that this Revolutionary spirit is alive and well in the industry.

Getting Better Every Year

Our team works hard to consistently improve the Revolutionary 100 program, as well. Last year, Regional Winners were named for the first time. This year, we are excited to announce that each of our Regional Winners, along with a few other progressive garden centers from the 2008 Revolutionary 100 list, have been invited to participate in a special roundtable event and awards ceremony in February. You’ll be reading more about the discussions that come out of this event later this year in Today’s Garden Center. And of course, one of our Regional Winners will be featured next month as the winner of the 2008 Revolutionary Retailer Award.

For now, however, turn the page and see what makes these 100 garden centers so special. You’ll find more than a few ideas you can adopt in your own operation. Maybe people will be reading about your garden center on this list in 2009. 

Revolutionary 100–Northeast Region

Revolutionary 100–Southeast Region

Revolutionary 100–Midwest Region

Revolutionary 100–Southwest Region

Revolutionary 100–West Region

Ann-Marie Vazzano was managing editor of American Fruit Grower magazine, a Meister publication.

Richard Jones is the group editor for Greenhouse Grower and Today's Garden Center magazines.

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