Number 13, June 2012
Do be sure to register for the IGCA Congress in Germany – August 26 – 31 2012.
Have a look at www.igcc2012.org for full information.
Greetings from IGCA President Nick Stodel
The IGCA board met in Australia in February with the country administrators from around the world to have a board meeting and allow the administrators to exchange ideas on best practices within associations. This meeting is a fantastic opportunity for administrators to understand the dynamics of the international industry, and I would encourage those that have not been to make the effort to go to Ireland in February next year. It was wonderful to be able to spend time with the Australian industry who were fantastic hosts. We will be visiting Australia for our Congress in 2013 and we all very much look forward to it.
Preparations by the German organising committee for the congress in August this year are well under way, with delegate numbers looking good. If you have not already registered, visit http://igcc2012.org/en/ to find out more about this exciting tour.
The IGCA now has a Facebook page, which has proved to be a fantastic platform to share ideas and link up with colleagues from around the world. Be sure to visit it to see pictures of German, Italian and Australian garden centres, and to share in the ideas we found while visiting them. (http://www.facebook.com/IGCAssociation)
I look forward to seeing you in Germany!!!!
Nick Stodel | Managing Director | Stodels Nurseries
From IGCA Vice President Rachel Doyle
Greetings from a wet & windy Ireland!
We have had a good February, dreadful March & an ok May. Plant sales are down due mainly to incredible inclement weather. Garden furniture & B.B.Q sales are also affected by both weather & the economy. I don't do problems without solutions so what we have been doing to bring customers in is events & workshops, lawn week, hanging basket week etc. Our mad hatters tea party was an incredible success.
Following on from my comments in the last report that garden centres without a food offering are struggling & this is more evident with the really bad weather we have had. These centres without a food offering are reporting downward figures of up to 50%. We see in our own business how crucial the food offering is to the footfall. Bloom our equivalent of Chelsea which is now in its 6th year was again a huge success. It is held in the Phoenix Park in Dublin (one of the largest enclosed parks in Europe). The quality of the gardens in all categories, floral marquees, plants on display & the food village was superb.
Looking forward to the weather improving & having an extended gardening season
Rebecca reports from Canada
As I write this report, we are right in the middle of our 4th year of garden centre inspections here in Canada – I had the pleasure of visiting Canadale Nurseries in St. Thomas, ON this week and shadowing our inspector, Eve Tigwell – this is a beautiful centre with a strong focus on quality plant material and excellent customer service. They have a fantastic inspiration area featuring a variety of concept garden displays which include plant lists and designs so the homeowner can recreate the look at their own property. (below - Canadale Nurseries display gardens)
One of our members in Nova Scotia, Robin Godfrey (many of you may know him from attending IGCA Congresses) is opening up a new and exciting venture at his garden centre, Atlantic Gardens. A new plaza featuring a Tim Horton's and a variety of other retail spaces, inspired by his visits to South Africa and New Zealand on IGCA Congresses, will be sure to drive traffic to his garden centre.
(below - Atlantic Gardens Square).
We are currently promoting our 3rd annual National Plastics Recycling Week and have over 50 garden centres taking part – members of the public can return their garden plastics to their centres from June 22 – July 1. O'Neill's Gardenland in Spaniards Bay, Newfoundland will be participating in the program for the second time - “Participating in The National Plastics Recycling Event has helped bring awareness to our customers and staff about the importance of good stewardship. The event encouraged our customers to return to our garden centre during the week which was great for increased sales.” says Garden Centres Canada Chair, Anthony O'Neill. The CNLA has put together an online tool-kit for participating garden retailers to use to help them run a successful event which includes free PDF Promotional Material templates branded with provincial association logo's, Press Release templates, and an FAQ for hosting a successful plastics recycling program. The CNLA will be sending out Press Releases leading up to the event to promote our participating member garden centres and our industry's environmental stewardship efforts. Last year over 40 garden centres in 6 provinces participated collecting 63,150 pounds of plastic.
From Erwin in Switzerland
April 2012 was difficult compared to 2011 for the whole industry in Switzerland. In our GC we have been -16%. May is about to be perfect and we are +17% compared to last year's figures. Overall we are +4% compared to 2011. So 2012 seems to b a ‘good”' year for us. As it is only the second year of business after our relocation these figures may not compare with the overall market in Switzerland.
After a severe winter we had to replace many plants and the assortment of woody plants in our Garden-Centre is to be very limited for the next few months. The impact of the last winter for our industry seems to be very negative.
Best regards from Switzerland.
ERNST MEIER AG, Erwin Meier-Honegger
More from Switzerland
Biodiversity has been an issue and is discussed intensively by the authorities for some time now and many articles have been published to the topic of neophytes. The Green branch has been criticized to be a distributor of these plants. Out of the popular garden plants Buddleja davidii and Prunus laurocerasus are especially deprecated.
Prunus laurocerasus is important to many Garden Centers to make a good turnover in the plant sector and is, despite all criticism, often asked for by customers. Therefore, at present, the plant can be hardly removed from the assortment. However, there are attempts to inform the customers better about dealing with such plants.
Furthermore the customer shall be able to decide what or what not, she or he wants to plant into their garden.
UK Report from the CEO
The stagnating job market, decelerating economy and rising food and fuel prices have curbed spending on all but necessities for many UK shoppers. Plus the adverse weather in the UK during April meant many people could not get into their gardens.
Since useful rainfall records began in 1727, April 2012 has been wetter only in 2000 and 1756. To compound the terrible weather in April we also had an earlier Easter than in 2011. The effect was that UK Garden Centres reported individual trading days being up to 50% down year on year. For the month of April we reported a 33% decline in sales year on year.
Into May we saw a decline in fuel prices and towards the end of May we saw the sun and 25 degree heat days. Despite April being a difficult month for most retailers, with customers preferring not to venture out in the rain, catering sales were up again and the year to date figures now stand at 6.22% up, which is a great result.
Unfortunately, the wettest April on record had a negative impact on sales in other areas. With footfall down 26% as compared to April last year, this was inevitable. Consumers' interests in outdoor products were washed away by constant downpours, with furniture and barbecues down 52% and outdoor plants down 48%.
With the arrival of warmer weather, we believe that garden centres will have a much more successful May and an extended season into late June could hopefully mean members can recoup most of their lost sales by the end of the season.
News from Holland
The first news is that much to my regret I will leave Tuinbranche Nederland at the 1st of June. Economic circumstances forced us to reduce the budget at about 30%. I have initiated a restructure last year including moving in the offices of another association (as per 1/1/2013) and a reduction in staff. As always the least productive and most costliest person has to leave, me.
Although brief I have enjoyed your company last year in Germany and the nice contact through the email. I wish my German colleagues lot's of good luck with their upcoming congress, So this is my last news.
In Holland we suffered from a very unpleasant cold and windy spring. Customers sat home at their fireplaces instead of gardening. This meant a turnover reduction of 10-20%. The weather is now picking up. Last year customers stopped buying things half of May whereas now they seem to start spending their money. In spite of the harsh conditions we were happy to announce earlier this week that we reached an agreement on a new social contract which runs from 1st of April 2011 until 1st of July 2012. The wages will rise as per 1st of November 2011 with 1.25%. We will be starting right away with the new negotiations. We expect them to be bitter and difficult.
Met een vriendelijke groet,
Hello from Germany
The New Year was again marked by extraordinary weather conditions. January was so warm, the trees and shrubs in the field were already growing. The severe frost in February caused major damage to it, which could be seen in part until very late. The demand was correspondingly large, the supply of good crops rather scarce. After a very good March, sales in April of double-digit negative numbers were coined. The month of May, however, brought back the balance. Garden furniture and large purchases are still behind in sales last year's figures. Also, for crop protection, the figures of the previous year can't be achieved. Pleasing, it looks for most in the grill (BBQ), here was last year's good results exceeded.
The introduction of the exclusive series of Petunia AlpeTunia by the VDG was successful. The gardeners had late-onset culture despite the spring pretty well under control. Due to the weather a little later than originally planned, could our garden centers sell the new series well? The theme of the very long growing, robust and rich flowering petunias are popular with consumers. The plants develop already in the window boxes very well, so that is expected to increase demand in the coming year.
The preparation of our congress is doing well. Actually we have 215 Registrations from 15 different countries.
Best Wishes, Jutta Lenz, Executive Assistant, German Garden-Center Association
Report from Poland
Let me start from the beginning of the year that for our Association is the time of intensive work. Traditionally on the last weekend of February there is held Gardenia - Garden Fair in Poznan. Year by year Trade enjoys a higher prestige, an increasing number of exhibitors and visitors. This is the last meeting of the branch owners of garden centers, manufacturers and producers before the burst of spring. For us this is an important event because we cooperate with the Event's Organizers from the very beginning. Our Association is involved in the organization of trainings available to visitors.
The day before Gardenia we organized also an extra meeting for PSCO members with dedicated training for them. On this occasion, there were also the very fruitful meeting for several people from our group that would work on the strategy of the Association. The meetings will continue, and certainly the activities in other Associations and contact with IGCA will be great inspiration for the group.
I regret that the intensive preparations for the fair interfered with my participation in this year's administrator's meeting in Australia!
At this time, our country has mastered the football excitement of UEFA Euro 2012. On the eve of the first matches, the movement in garden centers is a little weak.
I wish you all a wonderful and unforgettable Congress meeting in Germany!
Greetings from PSCO's office!
Gerdie reports from South Africa
Our GCA Competition 2012 Awards were announced at the annual SANA Convention in May and created a feeling of positivity and excitement amongst retailers as we move into Winter - our quiet trading period. This season allows members the opportunity to focus on maintenance tasks, improvements in preparation for Spring!
The current economic climate is still difficult, but members who have invested in their business during this time, have seen positive results. Focus has shifted from having a few core customers with large sales per customer to attracting more consumers with smaller sales per person - the end result being slow growth. Consumer habit also seems to be changing from taking long holidays to rather spending more time at home doing improvements.
End of February to middle May is our Autumn trade period and traditionally mini-season in South Africa. The Southern part of the country has seen bad weather over key times during our Autumn season, resulting in a drop of sales compared to last year. Despite the poor weather, the dams are the lowest that they have been in years, however with the rain season on the way, it is hoped that the dams will be filled up quickly.
Good business over the last few years has seen new garden centres opening in the region. (Click here to see pictures of one of them)
In the Northern parts of the country we have experienced an exceptionally warm Autumn that resulted in positive increase in sales for members in that region. Most members are reporting a double digit growth for the 3 months of autumn trade. Impulse colour and bedding plants as well as fruit gardens have driven this increase, but a department that is showing good growth is patio containers.
The French Report
« l'eau. Une ressource précieuse pour le jardin. » Water. In France, each time the sun shines in spring, bringing people to their gardens, the press starts talking about climate change and dryness and public authorities get scared about the lack of water thus forbidding its use in private gardens.
The French Garden Center Federation (FNMJ) has decided to change the angle to this story by publishing a book about water, what it is and how it should be used for gardening purposes. From drip irrigation to camel plants everything is explained on how gardening can be water efficient. We hope to raise awareness that a salad grown in a private garden requires less water than salad bought in a supermarket! We aim to change the authorities' perception of gardening and put an end to unlimited water restrictions.
Garden centers in France are ready to show they are not only plant specialists but also plant watering specialists!
Greetings from Italy
On 15 February 2012 is finally born AICG (Italian Association of Garden Centers) and we would like to thank IGCA because they gave impulse to this important event. For sure this is not an easy period for economy in Italy but we think that the birth of a new association is a good response and also is an important occasion for colleagues to exchange views.
January and February sales has not been positive due to raining weather, snow and low temperatures. March has been for sure an extremely positive month, thanks to an important anticipation of Spring. April instead has been negative due to cold and bad weather condition. On May and June the making up is started and the season of planting is extending because summer is delaying start, this situation is positive for garden centers in Italy. People still think to their garden and home instead to think to swimming pool and sea.
In this period sales are good for balcony plants, vegetables and pets. It is more difficult situation for garden furniture due to climate but also because people look for cheaper products. Decorative items selling is stable, the trend is towards “useful” items. We notice a growing of slips number, but also a reduction on its amount (average expense). For sure garden centers which are renewing keep their positions.
Silvano Girelli e Martina Schullian
Australian President Milton Reports from South Australia
Trade like everywhere is a little soft at the moment especially with the higher ticket items and the non essentials.
There is however some positives that I am seeing. Firstly edibles is still a very strong category it just seems to keep on keeping on with many customers wanting to explore and experiment with all sorts of different and old varieties. Outdoor furniture has been a category that has been hit hard but there is still some growth in that field. We are finding outdoor lounges to be strong as well as outdoor fire pits.
Indoor plants are showing good strong sales and Phalaenopsis orchids are still selling well. Cafes are another area showing good growth throughout the year.
Yes trade is not booming but there are some areas that are doing well. I'm also finding trade to be quiet but consistent.
And from our New GCA Director in Western Australia
The south-west of WA has had its 7th driest autumn on record. Rainfall totals in May 2012 were generally very much below average in the Perth metropolitan. As many gardeners in WA wait for autumn rains for planting, it is no surprise that sales were down at some centres.
We have seen other challenges to retail garden centres in the west: “Getting interesting stock is always a challenge over here in the west as we have the harshest quarantine restrictions in Australia if not the world."Bruce Wright, Miaflora Garden Centre.
“Internet sites like ‘Plants 4 Perth' and even Whistlepipe online are getting a lot of the attention that was given to the independents last year. I cannot compete with the prices that are on offer and I doubt anyone in a retail situation can.” Joanne Harris, Guildford Town Garden Centre. (PS Dawsons Garden World launched Dawsons Online in May, delivering plants to both metro and country)
On a positive note, all centre owners I have spoken with have been trading up on 2011 until the last two months. With fewer garden centres in the west than ever before (if you don't count Bunnings) gardeners still enjoy the sights, sounds and fragrance of a real nursery. Our challenge is to continue to be a pleasant destination to visit.
Queensland Wrap Up
Trading continues to be difficult in the Sunshine State over the autumn (Mar – May) period. Most garden centres report subdued trading with lower averages and less customers. Customers are looking but not buying and when they do buy it generally is the lower valued plants like seedlings, potted colour or multi-buy deals. Fierce pricing between the larger hardware boxes is also proving a challenge.
Having said this, some retailers are holding their own in terms of sales and till rings. These stores are trying a number of marketing methods to induce consumers to visit including series of sales with big savings, letter box drops, new plant area layouts and better merchandising, events marketing eg. Mothers day, garden talks and constantly talking with local consumers through traditional and social mediums.
There has been pleasing coverage in state newspapers on gardening, growing your own and other yard and garden activities, which keeps focus on our markets. Every bit helps.
With winter upon us now, so we will look forward to spring. Garden Centres need to be very adaptable and willing to keep trying different strategies, ideas, merchandising and promotions to keep the tills ticking. It is hard work but returns are achievable.
Fine weather and good economic news will be very welcome.
I was interested to se that McDonalds in Australia are taking advantage of the Queen's Jubilee Year and the Olympics in England with a special offer of ‘London Fish & Chips' using the Olympic logo. Is that ‘Cod & Chips'? Maybe we should all consider an Olympics promotion and support our athletes. I'm sure you will all have ideas on how to do that. Just a warning though, I know the IOC comes down heavy on unauthorized use of their logo so tread warily.
We are now in Winter and looking forward to an early start to Spring, hopefully in August. Garden Centres are mainly trading down on last year but not by as much as some other retailers.