Number 6, June 2010
Ensure your booking for the Congress in Japan this year – book now.
This year Sakura season kept longer because of the cool spring in March and April. Low temperature and less sunshine meant that we had difficulty in selling vegetable seedling in this season. It affected the sales of the plastic pots and other garden exteriors too. From the end of April to May 5 in Japan we had long holiday “Golden Week”. During the sunny week and Mother’s Day, garden centers could do well. However, cool spring hit with huge damages too severe to recover their sales. It was good effect that we can sell roses longer in garden centers. Roses and vegetables are one of the famous categories, so their sales are very important for garden industry in Japan.
About the update on Japan congress; we have more than 170 registered on June 1. Thank you very much for your registration and promotion for Japan congress. If you haven’t registered yet, please do it as soon as possible, otherwise you will be on the waiting list. We are looking forward to seeing you in Japan soon. See www.igcacongress2010.com
Koichi Akatsuka, Japan Garden Center Association
IGCA President Sue Allen Reports
A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to visit the site of the World famous Chelsea Flower Show two days before it officially opened. I was helping my daughter Tammy plant up an exhibitor’s stand for a supplier of rather beautiful Bird Tables and Salad and Herb planters. It was (for once) a very hot and sunny day and everyone was feeling the pressure of having to complete the construction of gardens and exhibits in time. In spite of this it was great to see the enthusiasm, friendship and camaraderie among all those hot and bothered individuals involved in creating this gardening spectacular, and yet again it reminded me of what a privilege it is to work within this unique industry. Yes, even the guys from ‘Down-under’ building the Fleming’s Gold Medal winning garden were creating a stir, in their purple work boots and not much else!
It all served to remind me that we are so lucky Worldwide to be retailers in a sector that even if it is subject to ‘fashion’ will surely survive and flourish, no matter what the global economic climate, as people will always feel the need to grow and enjoy plants and gardens. AND, of course, we in IGCA get the chance every year during Congress to share our ideas on how to develop our businesses even more, and go home inspired and re-invigorated.
If those of you coming to Japan in October have not yet booked your flights, I would urge you to do so – our first day of Congress, 10th October, also sees the Japanese Grand Prix which is sure to affect flight availability.
Best Wishes, Sue Allen, The Millbrook Garden Company UK.
The German-Newsletter from Peter Botz
In Germany, there is a very positive development for outdoor products, especially biological produced fruit, vegetables and herbs profit by this trend.
Difficult to market are indoor plants. Dingers in Cologne started in their indoor plant department an interesting pilot project to optimize the market. See pictures at
The VDG organizes very successful seminars in which the different customer types (modern, easy living, classic style) are considered. Also the theme ‘regional flair’ and ‘differentiation against the DIY stores’ is very important.
The numbers of members of the association actually grows. We see good potential for the future to get more members of owner garden centres.
We started preparing the IGCC 2012 and it’s doing well. We will visit the best Garden centers in the region of Cologne, Bonn and the Ruhr-area, also the cultural program will be worth the visit!
An Australian Report from a number of People
Some random thoughts from Victoria.
Finally we have some welcome news in Victoria with a slight reduction in the watering restrictions for Metro areas in recent times. However, I can’t say that anyone is screaming from the rooftop about massive increases in sales, but at least confidence is returning slowly. I have been out and about in recent times, and it is great to see some significant improvements taking place, namely the progress at Gills, and The Pavilion at The Greenery Heidelberg – well done guys.
Obviously there is a fair bit of talk about another major player entering the Hardware/Garden market, in Australia, and like everyone else, we are looking at securing greenlife in the future. To me a new player just reinforces how important it is to get the basics right – buy right, merchandise well, smile at the customers, and thank them for their patronage.
Like you, I am looking forward to a strong Spring, with the hope of a real winter [certainly feels like it today], further rain, and plenty of Cordylines and Yuccas to be pulled out of the garden and replaced!
Roger Boyle, Plants Plus Business Manager & GCA Director
Vadoulis Garden Centre, South Australia
Trade in SA over the past few months has been all over the place. Let’s start with Christmas. December for most was down on last year with some between 5 to 15 % down. Sure looks like the government stimulus package had more effect than I would have given it credit as bigger ticket items seem to be the ones suffering the most. The other thing that has had a effect on trade in SA is Yes that perennial problem the weather; we had a wet spring which was nice but of course it does slow trade down and then when it looked like the moons were all aligning for us we had a two week heat wave in early November. 40 degrees for two weeks straight Yuck! This had a negative effect on sales and has seemed to spook people off gardening for the whole season. The summer weather was quite good, not too hot but warm throughout. Subsequently trade has been OK through the summer some months up and others down.
Autumn weather has been good although a bit dry. Sales have been good but not great , things are ticking over but no autumn rush as yet ( better hurry, it’s nearly winter).Having said that I have found trade getting stronger through the winter months and easing through the summer over the last few years, which makes sense. Strong sales have been in edibles, natives, screening plants, potted colour and pond plants. Again bigger ticket items have been down and outdoor furniture has been flat.
Year to date figures range from same as last year to up to 10% up and I think with all that is going on in the financial market this is a good result.
We had 30mm of rain last night (yes!) so looking forward to good winter sales.
Milton Vadoulis, GCA President
Rivers of Yarrambat, Victoria (Australia)
With a relatively kind summer, 2010 kicked off with very strong sales right across all divisions including garden, gifts, café & health. Furniture and garden accessories including water features and outdoor wall art showed terrific growth.
Its fair to say that the sporadic weather leading into autumn combined with a downturn of retail sales across a diverse number of industries nationally, has seen a softening in sales as a result. Water no longer seems to be the focus, but the effects of the GFC seemed to have finally rippled through. The cold crisp mornings with gorgeous days are definitely the highlight now, but this wont last for long with Winter upon us. We continue to see fabulous growth in ‘grow your own’ with veggies, herbs and citrus been outstanding.
Our café continues to feed customers within all areas of the business and whilst people are mindful of spending money, people continue to dine out with breakfast being our strongest growth category. It’s a way in which people can continue on being social without spending a lot of money.
Some welcome rain in the past week sets things up for the season ahead.
You never know what is around the corner, so having a diverse offer is definitely the key.
Karen Moad, GCA Director
Our Queensland director spoke with a number of garden centres to get feedback on current trading
It's a mixed bag from up here in Queensland. Generally - fluctuations between good days and then for many reasons quieter ones.
i.e. - "Jessica" - Trading just ceased the day she came home (Australia’s around the world yachting girl)
- Lions V Cats, I actually went. What a flogging, but Chris and I didn't mind in a corporate box. The Lions were embarrassing. (Aussie Rules)
- Broncos V Reds, all 3 in 1 weekend. (Rugby)
- 170, 000 Gateway Bridge Opening.
- 80,000 at Greek Festival.
What a challenge.
- Optimistic and looking forward to Spring
- New revamp finished, apparently Marie is very pleased
- Native plants very slow in sales
- Dropped off last few weeks
- Good opportunities out there.
- Coffee Shop going well.
Walsh’s Seed & Garden Centre: Lorraine
- Still not much rain. - On a par with last year.
- Everyone’s planting out for Carnival of Flowers.
- No doom or gloom.
- Lorraine retiring soon and restructuring the business.
Bay Plant Shack: Peter
- Inconsistent. - Trading flat.
- Colour picking up. - Fruit Trees strong.
ANZA Nursery: Joy
- Very positive.
- It's now spring in the North 16-27 Degrees.
- Strong trend Seedling, Herbs, Veges.
- Sales average for this time of year.
- Very good Mother’s Day.
- Conducting information lessons with customers which are producing strong sales in Bonsais.
Ashmore Garden Centre: Talking to Robert
- Very Positive.
- Had a great Summer, - Autumn as expected.
- Average across the board - slightly up on sales.
- Hinze dam is full 100%, - Customer count static.
- $ per customer is up, - Fruit and Veges strong.
- Small resurgence in cottage garden style plants.
- Garden Centre in area has closed down which has possibly increased sales.
The Springs Garden World: Talking to Ashley
- Sales up since last Christmas.
- Last 4 months Plants up 8% / Gifts up 15%.
- Across the board slightly up.
- Perennials selling well now they have a good supplier from south - now carrying a better range.
- Veges and Herbs solid.
- Sales of Deciduous trees just commencing.
- Country people back shopping.
- Now allowed to hand hose once a week.
- Restaurant brings customers in.
Nielsen's Native Nursery
We still firmly believe business is improving even though the figures sometimes don't show it.
- Coffee Shop never traded better
- Great Mothers Day
- Been having a few sales (not my usual thing) on Pots, Water Features and Pond Pumps - seemed to work ok
- Still lots of customers, just spending less
- Veges, Herbs, Mushrooms, Seed Potatoes ok
- Just this week a few orders from schools and small landscape projects
- Native sales strong. (funny Marie said quiet)
- Marine Mates solid sales, Fish Tank Sales just picking up again
- Marine Fish and Coral doing well.
Regards, Dennis Nielsen, Nielsen’s Native Nursery, GCA Director
From the Harbour City, NSW
The market continues to strengthen despite the labours of recent weather events which manifested as a week or two of heavy rains. This caused a drop in takings through the end of May and the beginning of June (especially for retailers along the coastal areas). It will, I believe, only cause a minor bump to the steady increase we have been experiencing during the later part of this financial year.
After experiencing a few tough years brought about by the drought and the effects of a global financial meltdown, it is good to see customers returning to their gardens. Early indications are showing an increase in home harvest and organic gardening. This should provide an excellent boost to early spring sales.
Brian Merrick, Flower Power Garden Centres, GCA Director
Garden Centres Canada update - June 2010
Garden Centres in Canada are currently in the middle of inspections - this is our second year at offering the Garden Centre Inspection program with Eve Tigwell (UK), and they continue to be a success with our members. We have 20 garden centres participating from all parts of Canada this year (as compared to 18 in 2009) and have 5 Canadians shadowing Eve this summer to learn more about the program. Logistically this is a difficult program to organize with the size of our country, but it has proven to be extremely beneficial to the members who participate so we are looking forward to continuing on with the program in future years.
On June 29th - July 5th we are offering our first National Plastic Recycling day. The event was promoted to all of our members and the general public, and plastic trays, pots and tags will be collected at participating locations including member garden centres and provincial association offices across the country. This event will result in the diversion of hundreds of metric pounds of previously non-recycled plastics from landfills and will demonstrate our sector's commitment to being a truly green industry. The diverted product will be used in production of blue boxes and other recyclable products ensuring Canadian product is made and the industry's footprint is reduced.
We are working with a University MBA team to develop a program for school aged children to promote the benefits of gardening, partnering up garden centres with their local schools & school boards. Wilfrid Laurier University will be conducting a feasibility study and providing Garden Centres Canada with a report and recommendations - results will be shared in a future e-bulletin.
Canadians are getting excited about heading to Japan for this year's IGCA Congress! We will have a large contingent participating from Canada and look forward to learning and picking up on new trends this Fall.
And more from Canada from IGCA Director John Zaplatynsky
Spring has sprung across Canada this past week, with the celebration of the May long weekend – a time to celebrate our colonial past (the Holiday is still called Queen Victoria’s birthday in some parts of Canada!), but more importantly, a time to get into the garden in every climate zone in our vast country. Even our ‘National’ newspaper – the Toronto Globe and Mail – celebrated with front page coverage on the trend of ‘grow your own’. This trend continues to build with many greenhouse growers offering a much wider selection of vegetables in all varieties – including small bedding plant packs of carrots, radishes, and peas. Who would have thought?
The Canadian economy has not been hit as hard as elsewhere and our housing market continues to be solid with interest rates on mortgages still very low despite recent increases. The dip in prices in most parts of the country earlier in 2009 has been erased as first time buyers have moved in to the lower price point range. The real estate market remains a big impact on the garden centre business with garden activity following close behind home purchase and/or renovation.
Outdoor living – an expanding category of products including outdoor furniture (particularly resin wicker), all-weather floor mats, outdoor lighting, and contemporary styled plant containers – is growing in popularity. More garden centres are expanding floor space and inventory levels in these categories to extend the sales season well into summer. On the plant side, several growers are expanding the line of ‘Proven Winner’ products which are being backed by more mass-market promotional programs to draw younger customers looking for ready-made solutions through plant packs – a selection of six four inch annuals or perennials that match a recipe for an instant planter.
Here’s to great summer sales!
All the best, John Zaplatynsky, GardenWorks, Canada,
Rachel Doyle reports from Ireland
Once again ‘Bloom’ our permanent garden festival is happening this coming weekend, the weather forecast is very good. It is likened to Chelsea; Bloom is now becoming an annual pilgrimage for all garden enthusiasts. This showcases the best of Irish home grown produce, both for the garden & the table.
Trends that we see emerging within the Irish Garden Centre Industry are:
- The demographics of our clientele have changed rapidly to an older customer base. The reason being that these customers are mortgage & debt free.
- We are now reaping the rewards of Mother Nature’s severity. Having experienced temperatures as low as minus 14 degrees, which had a dramatic impact on our customers, seeking new replacement plants, frequently larger plants then sold in previous years.
The new buzz word is “Staycation”; many of our customers do not have the funds for the holidays they enjoyed & are utilising their garden with the help of garden centres.
How things have changed – gone is the phrase “cash rich & time poor”, it now reads “cash poor & time rich”.
Green shoots are not alone growing in the garden but they are also evident in the Irish Economy. This has been highlighted by the phenomenal growth in start up businesses, showing true Irish Entrepreneurship.
Looking forward to meeting all of you in Japan.
Hello from the UK!
We've had Easter and two public holidays in May, one at the beginning and the other at the end, since I last wrote; I would have liked to have reported a record spring season but I think it will end up being rather average mainly because of the late start. Not all the data is in for May but sales of outdoor plants are about 5% down on the year; seeds and bulbs are faring better though and are 25% up on the month and up 6% YTD; the trend for grow your own is still strong. The good news is most members seem to be catching up after having suffered such bad weather at the start of the season and as ever, are optimistic that the year will end well.
The GCA's round of annual Inspections are nearly at an end and there could be new centres vying for the top spot of Garden Centre of the Year. Before we reveal the winner at the January conference, each of our area groups will be hosting an Area Awards presentation in July where overall winners of the region are announced plus awards of merit are given for outstanding departments within their centres. These are well attended, informal evenings enjoyed by staff members who get to network and see what is happening in their area.
The recovery of the UK economy is still very fragile and since the beginning of May we have a coalition government; these are interesting times as this is the first of such governments for 30 years and that one was not a success. We are now bracing ourselves for the budget at the end of June which without a doubt will increase the VAT rate and this will have a big impact on retail. I wish we had a stable economy like Canada!
Gillie Westwood, Chief Executive, UK GCA
The last word is from Australia too
I have been speaking with many suppliers and retailers in my role as editor of Greenworld Magazine and get mainly positive feelings for the future. However, it’s always the same story. Are you a glass half full or half empty type of person? Those who are having a go, making changes and are trying something different all the time are going along ok. Some are not seeing significant sales growth but have carefully adjusted costs and margins so profit is ok too. Business is undoubtedly challenging but your success lies in your hands.
Seedlings (called Bedding Plants in parts of the world) have always been a passion of mine and I am researching a story on seedlings currently. Clearly sales sufferd in Australia when the drought hit initially but they have bounced back for most centres. The secret here seems to have been not to cut stock levels back too hard when business drops away as it becomes self fulfilling. Less stock on the benches leads to reduced sales. Clearly there is a fine line there but I have seen garden centres cut their stock levels of seedlings (and other products too) much too hard and sales obviously drop.
If you are interested then you’ll be able to read the seedling’s story in late July on www.greenworldmag.com.au. You’ll also find a number of articles and slide shows there that may be of interest at any time.
Leigh Siebler, GCA Administrator, Australia
Garden Centres Association of Australia Inc.
The photos below were taken recently at Warran Glen Nursery in Victoria.