Number 11, September 2011
Sue Reports Prior to Congress in Italy
The wind is howling and it hasn't stopped raining all day in the UK, so business in the garden centres has been dire today. BUT, am I down-hearted? No, as tomorrow I fly off to visit Pistoia Italy for the Congress Pre-Tour, where apparently it is warm and sunny. I will be seeing many old friends from around the world both there and at the main congress in Bolzano, and it will be heartening to be re-assured yet again that whatever problems we face at home, everyone else is experiencing the same for all the usual reasons – weather, economy, competition, etc. I can guarantee that we will at least go home refreshed and with a lot of new ideas on how to boost our business.
I cannot believe that my two years as President have come to an end. It has been a great privilege and wonderful experience and I am very confident in handing over to Nick Stodel from South Africa, as I know he will relish the job and bring a touch of ‘Youth' to the role. Thank you all for your friendship and support and I look forward to continued contact with you all for many years yet.
Sue Allen, The Millbrook Garden Company UK.
Nick updates us from South Africa
Finally, it's spring in South Africa! After what seemed a long winter the GCA looked forward to a quick uptake for spring which was not to happen. While the southern parts of the country that traditionally have a later start to the season because of winter rains had an increase in customer volumes, the north was slow. August has seen most independents in the northern part of the country trading down on 2010. The trend so far seems to still be on traditional lines and impulse colour with new introductions at higher price points that are not proving to be essentials in the spring shopping basket.
Predictably the weather had an influence on the north with rain and cold in the beginning of the month holding back trade. However the general mood of the retailers has improved and there is a positive outlook to the rest of season 2011. While the growers are currently taking strain with the economic situation the GCA are showing signs of recovery off the back of the past two years trading conditions.
The South African Nursery Association held its annual spring Trade Fair in August and this year the show was a huge success. With a record number of exhibitors and delegates it can now be slated as the biggest Green Industry trade fair in SA.
While standard stock lines still dominate supplier stands there were a number of exhibitors who used the opportunity to release new lines and new introductions. Visitors include Horticulture and Landscape students from the local universities and we also use the student members on the day to help run the show. Seen as the best show for marketing and networking in the industry the SANA show has become an event that cannot be missed.
Nick Stodel | Managing Director | Stodels Nurseries
Greetings from Garden Centres Canada
Canadian garden retailers rallied after a dismal spring. Many made impressive strides in recouping May losses in June and early July. With an eye to creative ways to attract customers, there has been a range of interesting happenings in our members' stores. CNLA has been working on ways to support them.
From our members:
• Minter Country Garden in Chilliwack, British Columbia cooperated with Proven Winners to host Pink Night, a benefit for breast cancer research.
• Pat's Plants in Bay Bulls, Newfoundland did the same with Pink Days, and it was a smash hit.
• Gary of Phoenix Perennials in Richmond, British Columbia took his video camera on a short walkabout to show fun summer plants to his Facebook fans. What a great way to showcase to-the-minute selection!
• Van Dongen's in Hornby, ON is working on adding tourist attractions to the garden centre including fishing and paddle-boating in their pond! They have recently stocked the pond with fish for sport-fishing. As a bonus, the efforts may qualify for additional highway signage, provided by the government.
• Canadale Nursery connects with gardeners by publishing their garden photos in the Canadale e-news, to inspire others.
• Atlantic Gardens in Nova Scotia aired some risqué commercials on local rock music stations to grab the attention of a new potential customer base.
• A number of young garden retailers were profiled in the Vancouver Sun Newspaper—a lovely piece showing the bright future of the horticulture industry!
At CNLA, we've been working on:
• National Plastics Recycling Event
About 40 stores across the country participated, diverting an estimated 100,000 lbs of plastic pots and trays from the landfill. Some shops reported that the event drove 16% more traffic to their nurseries.
• National Tree Day
September 21 was recently declared National Tree Day, and member landscapers and retailers will be getting in touch with their local schools to support tree plantings. Retailers will be looking for ways to celebrate through sales, seedling giveaways, and other community events.
• Inspection Program & Awards
Time to revamp – thanks to all the IGCA members who sent samples of their retail awards! We are in the process of refreshing these programs, and your examples were much appreciated.
• And other things…
A retail benchmarking pilot program, by group of university students, provided less than stellar results; we are reconsidering methods. Secret shopping is on our minds.
A brilliant idea:
• Lawn & Garden Retailer Magazine in the USA broadcasts HortTV Retail each month. The June 2011 episode had a great idea for helping novice gardeners be more successful!
Renata Triveri , Canadian Nursery Landscape Association
Hello from Rachel
In Ireland we had one of the coldest Julys on record but the summer was overall very dry.
Garden centres and retailers in general are struggling. Our economic situation seems to be beamed out over the world but we will overcome it. In Ireland we have the ability to export our way towards economic recovery. Some of the biggest areas for growth in the first five months of 2011 compared to 2010 were in medical and pharmaceutical products which increased by 14%, organic chemicals by 7% and dairy products which increased by 47%. These broad based sectors which are driven by both domestically based and foreign direct investor companies will continue to be in demand regardless of how the globe economy is performing.
Exports are playing an essential role in Ireland's recovery. Bord Bia are playing a pivotal role in the export of nursery stock, dairy and all food products. Our garden centre association is up and running with Ann McKenna whom some of you know is playing an important role in getting garden centres to join.
Retail Excellence Ireland, the biggest retail organization in Ireland with a very dynamic approach to retailing allowed the garden centres to join at a reduced fee, so we can avail of the high number of services and support that they provide.
A Strange New Season
In 2011 France witnessed, as in most of Europe, a very early beginning of the gardening season, which sadly did not extend over more than four month (Jan. – Apr.) With an average growth rate of 4.6%, the first semester increase in retail sales is nevertheless better than in 2010.
Our federation members' activity from January to June was quite satisfying as a whole, but the unusual weather conditions startled consumers into purchasing sooner than expected, before garden centers could complete their product categories.
Therefore, retail sales of the first trimester were boosted up 14.3% (with a high of 17.2% in February), but later on, April, May and June, the usual gardening months, were struck by the bad weather but also by the fact consumers had already been gardening nearly since the beginning of the year.
Garden centers have always depended very much on the weather conditions and the past few years have proved that our future might be very complicated with season beginnings and ends impossible to forecast.
News from the UK
As we've been told that bad news is unacceptable for September's IGCA e-News …… have you heard the one about…….??
(Editor's note – I told them that)
Seriously though, there is no escaping the weather which has been dreadful (the coldest summer since 1993) and has no doubt had an impact on sales and of course the sluggish and uncertain economy. Luckily our industry seems to be bucking the trend compared to the High Street stores. Currently overall sales are up by 1.5% YTD (based on data for August). Growth areas include outdoor plants which are up 4%; food halls/farm shops up by 7.5% and cafes up 6%. The other categories are either level or down, even gifts which have been a hugely successful category for many years are down slightly – a sign of the times perhaps. By the way, I have heard that level is the new up!
Here's something positive though; every year we run two competitions which give members excellent PR opportunities; the Ruxley Rose competition which is an award for outstanding outdoor plantareas judged in the autumn and the Christmas Display competition. These are judged at a regional level and the finalists go through to the national finals. This year we have asked for experienced volunteers from garden centres to judge areas away from their own, instead of using consultants. We feel it is a tremendous opportunity for the volunteers to visit garden centres they may not normally see, challenge their ideas, and give colleagues a wider experience and the chance to return with fresh eyes and ideas. The competition entrants will benefit from the feedback from their peers. Hopefully it will be a win win situation.
Thirty five Brits are on their way to the IGCA Congress in Italy; a wonderful introduction to the Sud Tyrol and Lake Garda regions and I know Martina and Sylvano will do us proud!
Wishing you all a good autumn/spring season.
During the rather dull summer months we were able to analyse the spring season. One can observe that the trend to urban gardening is unbroken. Especially refined vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers but also in smaller quantities herbs were sold good or even very good. We believe that the achievement has to do with a successful public relations campaign. Different magazines and newspapers printed articles about snack vegetables. This sort of free advertising had a positive impact especially on young urban people who would normally not have an affinity to gardening. Expectations are high that this trend will remain strong and we will endeavor to win the media for our interests.
Report from Tuinbranche Nederland
Unfortunately it is not all good news: Here we go..
Holland had a very good season's start. With lovely spring weather, garden retailers saw their turnover grow with a big plus. During May however a crisp drop in turnover had to be noted. This drop could not be recovered during the rest ofthe season. It seems that in Holland the internet is becoming a significant sales channel. Retail centres are reacting on this by starting to experiment with the social media. Another development was the fast start for the Sales season for garden Furniture.
Kind regards to “down under” from “up here”
Met een vriendelijke groet,
Rard Metz, Directeur,
E-News from Germany
We are just back from the successful fair spoga+gafa in Cologne. Our booth was dominated by our new plant “Alpetunia” - we get this plant three years exclusive for our garden-centre members!
Characteristic for this plant is the long hanging, opulent flowering, very strong and in brilliant colour.
We really promoted this flower!
In May we finished our garden-centre standard inspections. Thirty five garden-centres were proofed this year. Since last year we no longer had just the top three placings but awarded certificates in the categories gold, silver and bronze. This has the background, that idea should be less competition than the internal improvements in the foreground. We will announce them on our winter conference in January 2012 in Dortmund.
After a good start in the spring, sales were down sharply in June due to bad weather.
Actually the weather in Germany is really bad again - lots of rain and coldness. Hope we get a nice and warm fall for better sales figures!
Best Wishes, Jutta Lenz, German Garden-Center Association
Best wishes from Japan
In Japan, we had hot summer this year too. In this summer, climbing plants such as bitter melon or big flower plants such as hibiscus were sold very much. We had to save electricity, so the leaves which covered walls and windows shaded sunshine, and then we survived Japan's hot summer.
We will have long holiday ‘Silver Week' from Sep 17 to 25. Japanese seed company tries to propose new bulbous begonias which bloom from late September to the middle of December. It is still hot during the ‘Silver Week' in Japan, so we think these begonias will be new variety of plants in this season.
We're looking forward to in Italy.
Kengo Satomi, Akatsuka Garden Co., Ltd.
September in the US has brought most of the country back to school for the year. From college to pre-school August is usually a time in the garden center where drawing customers is often a challenge. The fall is frequently a good boost with fall bulb planting programs, many fall festivals, pumpkin sales, fall décor and of course plenty of mums!
These past couples of weeks have been atrocious for extreme weather. Hurricane Irene brought loads of rain up the east coast with the northeast experiencing floods. Miles of debris is the result in many areas. Short term this will have some negative effects. Long term there is likely to be some serious landscape projects after the basements are rebuilt. (Including GCA's President Dave Williams' own basement being flooded.) The state of Texas has experienced hundreds of acres of forest fires. Over 500 homes have been lost. Again – short term impact is negative yet long term there will have to be quite a bit of re-planting from trees to other plant material. Economically the US is wavering still with some optimism when there isn't talk of another recession.
Shanan Molnar, Garden Centers of America®
Australian President Milton Reports
What a difference the season makes. We have just come out of a cold, wet winter that makes sales slow but normal and as spring is breaking we are seeing customers flocking back to garden centres. The stand-out sales over winter were fruit trees and edibles. As much as we all complain about winter sales I feel if we have a traditional cold, wet winter we seem to come out of it hitting the straps when the weather fines up.
One very positive thing we are seeing is good strong sales in most departments especially plants. There is good demand for seedlings flower and vegetable, shrubs, ground covers and perennials. Garden hardware, pots and cafe are all recording good numbers. Where other industries and retailers are going through tough times it seems people are happy to spend time and money in our centres and for that I'm very grateful. Dare I say it but it does seem that we might be in a recession-proof industry.
Keep it coming? Have a good spring.
Milton Vadoulis, Vadoulis Garden Centre SA.
Rivers of Yarrambat, Victoria AUSTRALIA
It's nice to have turned the corner with an unexpected flush of beautiful spring weather in August. Victoria has just broken weather records to experience 5 consecutive days over 20 degrees (68 fahrenheit) since weather records started in 1855.
This weather has ignited strong green-life sales early with plenty of enthusiastic gardeners keen to start preparing for planting up their vegetable gardens. Consequently compost is on everyone's shopping list and anything with colour is walking out the door.
Decorator has been a growth category for both the garden and gift shop. With the growing trend of home renovator TV shows, there has been a considerable early shift to decorative pieces for the garden with garden art, pots and water features selling well. Home décor in the gift shop includes indoor furniture, mirrors, vases and decorative pieces.
The café and function and events centre is now gearing up for the silly season, so all in all trading is looking good. Fingers crossed that the weather is kind and the transition to spring is a good one!
From not so sunny Queensland
Sorry, not much chance I can write 100-150 words of positive, good news about spring in Queensland. Some are saying trade is OK but in reality very few retailers are up on spring 2010 (which was not a good one anyway). Whilst trade is certainly better than the winter months, the trend away from plants seems to continue.
It is now into spring and the spring rush has not commenced which is not a good indicator for the season. Homewares and cafes are doing well and there is a little sign of life again in the home landscape market. Consumers are sticking to the basics in gardening and are avoiding value added lines, so it is seedlings and potting mix only.
In terms of plants – potted colour remains strong and small exotic shrubs up to 1.5m are the only plant categories which are performing well in Queensland. Natives, vegies, trees, and grasses are all under performing.
Sorry – best I can do – still very gloomy in Qld
And the last word from me!
Yes, it has been a very tough six or more months in Australian garden centres but there is a positive feeling in Victoria at least. The ‘Garden Party' promotion being run by Nursery & Garden Industry Victoria, with input from GCA, is proving to be a winner. The industry is motivated and positive. We had some TV support with a live cross for the weather report from Bay Road Nursery and other activity at the Landscape Expo and Trade Day. We are working hard for more Public Relations support.
Garden Centres Association of Australia Inc.
PO Box 1056 Hartwell VIC 3124
T: 03 9889 5453 F: 03 9889 5281
M: 0409 889 779