August 15, 2010
Tony DiGiovanni CHT
LO Executive Director

Members are constantly asking me about how the industry is doing.  A couple of weeks ago we sent out a survey to find out. Here is a summary of the results for the garden centre sector.
Overall the garden centre sector is having a good year, but is sensitive to the changing consumer climate. The consumer is becoming more knowledgeable and cautious. The mood is upbeat for the future.  

Next month I will summarize the surveys for the other sectors of our membership. There is still time to contribute if you have not already taken the survey.

Garden centre

Are your sales up or down this year?
  • 62.5% up
  • 37.5% down
If your sales are up, what percentage are they up?
  • 80% up 5% to 15%
  • 20% up 16%  to 25%
If your sales are down what percentage are they down?
  • 82% down 0 to 15%
  • 17% down more than 26%  
Was your average sale up or down this spring?
  • 61% up
  • 39% down
If your average sale was up, what percentage was it up?
  • 73% reported that average sale was up 0 to 5%
  • 15% reported that average sale was up 15%
  • 11% reported that average sale was up between 16 and 20%   

Sales numbers

If your average sale was down, what percentage was it down?
  • 75% reported that the average sale was down from 0 to 10%
  • 14% reported that the average sale was down 16 to 25%
  •  8% reported that the average sale was down more than 26%
Was your customer count up or down this spring?
  • 59% reported that customer counts were up this spring
  • 41% saw fewer people
If your customer count was up, what percentage was it up?
  • 52% experienced customer counts up from 1 to 5%
  • 48% experienced customer counts up from 6 to 10%   
If your customer count was down, what percentage was it down?
  • 46% reported customer counts down from 1 to 5%
  • 39% reported customer counts down from 6 to 15%
  • 15% reported customer counts down from 16 to 20%   
Were big ticket items more popular or less popular this spring?
  • 30% reported that they were more popular
  • 70% reported that they were less popular
Note:  Clearly consumers are more cautious with their spending this year. However, according to this survey, many are still spending significant resources on smaller-ticket garden centre items.  

Best Department

Which department performed the best this spring?
  • 41% reported strong growth in annuals
  • 30% reported strong growth in perennials
  • 11% reported strong growth in deciduous shrubs
  • 7% reported strong growth in evergreen trees
  • 3% reported strong growth in giftware
Which department performed the worst this spring?
  • 23% disappointed with deciduous tree sales
  • 19% disappointed with deciduous shrub sales  
  • 12% disappointed with annual sales
  • 12 % disappointed with evergreen shrub sales
  • 7% disappointed with water gardening supply sales
  • 7% disappointed with pest control sales
  • 7% disappointed with native tree sales
  • 4% disappointed with perennial sales
  • 3% disappointed with outdoor furniture sales
  • 3% disappointed with book sales
  • 3% disappointed with fertilizer sales  
Have you sold more or fewer plants this spring?
  • 50% more
  • 50% fewer
Were there more or less bargain shoppers this past spring?
  • 68% more
  • 32% fewer
Has your profit margin gone up or down this past spring?
  • 39% up
  • 61% down

New Economy

What have you done to deal with the new economy? Note: Excellent comments below provide proactive advice on how to improve your
  • Cost cutting, increased marketing, new and better specials, more training
  • Started big discount sales earlier in the season, as early as May
  • Advertise more — differentiate our product line, extensive training of staff, higher quality staff hired, service and knowledge was our focus
  • Started marketing to the 20 - 28 year-old homeowners through different media (Facebook and Twitter)
  • Installed P.O.S. system — able to track margins better, and better inventory tracking
  • Improve customer service
  • More diverse marketing, i.e. radio/Internet
  • More in-house presentations/workshops
  • Changed presentation of plants and how they can be used in more applicable ways
  • Better displays, cut hours, raise prices
  • Have more sales to clear stock out, so don’t have to maintain for too long
  • I have less large ticket items for sale and more lower ticket items. Our sale started earlier. I seem to be catering to more bargain conscious consumers.
  • Advertise in local papers, sales
  • Scaled down inventory, less sales, reduced labour
  • Shorter hours, less staff, less inventory
  • Less bedding flats (1204s), more four-inch and up annuals, more mixed flower pots 12” and up, more vegetable plants of all sizes; actually raised returns per square foot, but because we changed container sizes at same time, customers don’t compare to last year’s prices
  • Pray
  • More promotions and more events
  • Improved selection of large trees and focused on 12” and larger hanging baskets
  • Advertise excellent sales, provide great customer service — the box stores cannot match
  • More website optimization
  • Tried to correct my ordering and concentrate on the customers who are still coming in
What is your forecast for the next one to two years?
  • 94% feel that the next two years will be either stable or will improve
  • 6% predict a decline in growth

Tony DiGiovanni may be reached at