Find more current information about Garden Center magazine's Top 100 List, including the 2016 independent garden centers and the 2017 form, here: www.gardencentermag.com/page/top-100-igcs-america/
The United States retail garden-center market contains roughly 16,000 independently operated companies, according to a 2010 report by Research and Markets, the world’s largest market research source. The combined annual revenue for the lot of them is—again roughly—$30 billion.
Consumers are more likely to purchase products described as “natural” or “eco-friendly,” according to findings presented at Garden Writers Association’s Annual Webinar (www.gardenwriters.org) held March 24. The session, sponsored by Scotts Miracle-Gro, offered an overview of results from a survey conducted by market-research company Ipsos-Reid.
Among non-users of “natural” products, satisfaction with “conventional” products (especially with regard to indoor-insect control), and cost are the top barriers for using naturals.
|When the 2011 OFA Short Course convenes July 9-12 in Columbus, Ohio, veteran show-goers will notice a heightened focus on the retail scene, particularly via the show’s Garden Center Live! exhibit area. This month, in an exclusive interview with Garden Center magazine, Alicia Wells, OFA’s manager of communications and membership, talks about how catering to garden center operators is both science and art these days.
GC: What are the bigger challenges facing someone trying to craft educational programs for today’s retailers?
AW: Most industry professionals are plant geeks—I certainly am and most of the growers and retailers are, too. So it’s tough to get a bunch of plant geeks to focus on topics like finances, marketing and customer service—which they often aren’t as interested in. On our end we work with speakers to focus on relevancy and real-world business solutions. It’s all about breaking information down into pieces, showing retailers how it benefits them, and providing a resource for information if they have questions.
Garden Center Live! has been a huge success due to this concept. It’s a dynamic setting that invites and encourages interaction. The Merchandising Concept Displays are built by workshop attendees who combine marketing and merchandising into money-making displays. The Marketing Lab offers hands-on mini sessions on signage and graphic design, and easy access to speakers and other expert advice on a variety of topics. The other great part of Garden Center Live! is the free tip sheets that offer advice on merchandising and marketing topics. The tip sheets are quick take-home pieces that retailers can revisit when needed or can pass on to staff that were unable to attend the OFA Short Course. Take a look at last year’s tip sheet library at www.ofa.org/gcl.
GC: Garden Center Live! has evolved dramatically over the years. Please talk a little about how the idea came about initially and how it has grown.
AW: The concept started several years ago at an OFA Garden Center Committee meeting. When you get creative, passionate retailers in a room, it’s amazing—the ideas start flowing and the laughter, well, it’s an experience! As a result of that meeting we took the merchandising contest idea and ran with it. The very first year, the merchandising contest alone generated significant buzz. Then last year we kicked it up a notch by adding the Merchandising Concepts displays and interactive room and branded the area under the Garden Center Live! headline.
As for this year, there’s some new excitement with the addition of the Marketing Lab and additional opportunities for garden centers to get face-to-face with the experts and get answers to their marketing and merchandising questions. The themes for the Merchandising Concepts Displays and the Merchandising Contest are all new. The themes for the contest are a secret, and I’m not spilling the beans!
GC: What advice would you offer a first-time Short Course retail attendee to make sure he/she gets the most out of the show?
AW: That’s a tough question! The trade show is 7 acres, so it takes time to walk it; there are 30-plus sessions just for retailers, there’s Garden Center Live!, trade show interactives, an idea exchange, buses to the OSU Annuals & Mixed Containers trial, and many networking opportunities. Because there’s so much to do the most important thing a first timer should do is to plan to be at the event for at least two days.
I would recommend first timers attend at least Sunday and Monday and attend at least one of the three “Mix N’ Mingle” sessions. These sessions are a perfect way for first-timers to meet new people and learn more about what’s happening in the industry. The Merchandising Contest, marketing lab and Merchandising Concepts will feature mini-sessions and Q & A time with marketing gurus all day during the entire OFA Short Course.
GC: And what tips do you have for veteran retail attendees?
AW: The “industry warriors,” as we’ve dubbed them in one of the “Mix N’ Mingle” sessions, will enjoy the new Happy Hour spin and relocation of the opening reception on Sunday night.
This year we’re introducing a new type of session called “Trade Show Interactive.” The goal is to help retailers find vendors, products and other solutions on the trade show floor that they often don’t know exists. For example, fairy gardens and train gardens have been a growing retail trend, but retailers often struggle with finding vendors with appropriate products. This year retailers interested in these products can participate in “Trade Show Interactive: Miniatures & Fairy Gardens” to discover numerous different vendors who offer products and swap ideas with retailers who are currently selling these types of products.
In Garden Center Live! the big change for 2011 is the addition of a hands-on Marketing Lab. The Marketing Lab will focus on signage, social media, QR codes, and the “go local” trend.
|1. Patriotic flags and garden accents
Red Carpet Studios
Here’s a line of patriotic accessories that will help you paint your town red, white AND blue—and perhaps extend summer sales through Independence Day. These flags, chimes and home/garden items can anchor displays in the plant yard and reinforce how proud you and your customers are of this great country.
2. GST Rainmaker’s Watering
The innovative GST Rainmaker Watering Shepherd’s Pole connects to a sprinkler system or exterior faucet to water hanging plants every day, whether the owner is at home or on vacation. (Your Gen X customers are going to love that benefit!) Retail display and promotional material are provided with a purchase of 10 or more units. www.gst-rainmaker.com
3. American Décor sign line
The popular American Décor line is made entirely in the USA and features 96 new clever messages. Each sign can be purchased individually or as part of an assortment of 12. The signs measure 5½ inches x 12 inches x ¾ inches. The smiles they bring measure … oh, let’s just say “sizably.” www.ohiowholesale.com
4. Growums children’s garden kits
Preferred Commerce Inc.
The Growums program was created to give children a life-changing experience, teaching them that they can grow their own food and help the environment, while also helping them learn the importance of healthy eating. The kits teach gardening knowledge and show youngsters the skills it takes to become a successful gardener—no matter what their age. www.growums.com
|Though it has been a multi-year process, initiatives to remove phosphorous from fertilizers sold at retail are just now making headlines. Phosphorous has long been cited as an element causing algae blooms and “dead zones” in bodies of water. Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin have enacted or are planning restrictions on use of lawn fertilizer containing phosphorus.
For almost five years manufacturers have been working behind the scenes to reduce or eliminate phosphorous in fertilizers. In March, Scotts Miracle-Gro, the world’s largest marketer of branded consumer lawn and garden products, made headlines by announcing it will remove all phosphorus from its lawn-maintenance fertilizers sold in the U.S. by the end of next year. The company will also focus on creating more “efficient and optimized” ways to use nitrogen in its lawn fertilizers.
Eliminating phosphorous was part of a process that started in 2006, said Richard Shank, chief environmental officer for ScottsMiracle-Gro (www.scotts.com).
“We began reaching out to a number of groups and organizations—including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation—about the nutrient pollution they detected,” he said. “At the same time, we were working in our R&D facilities across the country coming up with better active ingredients and better ways to protect the environment. We were getting into research on how much phosphorous a lawn really needs—how it gets tied up into soil and pulled out when it’s needed.”
The company’s findings showed that most established lawns have enough phosphorous, and the element is essentially “recycled” when cuttings are left on the lawn to break down naturally. Scotts Miracle-Gro will continue to provide phosphorous in its starter fertilizers, since it’s a crucial component in establishing a lawn. The company’s organic products will also still have phosphorous derived from natural sources (like manure).
Consumers should notice no change in the efficacy of SMG products. Shank said SMG will be “taking consumer education to the next level” in the coming months to make sure this message is effectively communicated. Meanwhile, he anticipates that more companies will be dropping the “P” in many of its formulations.
“Many of our competitors are being forced to do it due to legislation,” he said “I would hope they would see the environmental benefits of it and move in that direction.”
Lebanon Seaboard, maker of Preen and GreenView-branded products, is another company that has been evaluating its use of phosphorous. The company recently introduced GreenView products with GreenSmart—an enhanced efficiency fertilizer formulation, that is also phosphate-free. Products also feature reduced nitrogen levels without compromising efficacy.
Bill Kelso, executive director of retail sales and marketing, said the GreenSmart (www.greensmart.com) initiative was prompted, in part, by a memorandum of understanding many fertilizer manufacturers signed with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
“We were driven by the same concern about the environment. But we were also seeing consumer trends toward healthy, wholesome products,” Kelso said.
He noted that fertilization has two major components: (1) nutrients—where the industry mostly concentrated R&D for 50 years—and (2) the soil ecosystem itself.
“When you put a fertilizer down, it’s not in the form the plant needs to be taken up,” Kelso said. “The bacteria and fungi in the soil change it. So there’s this whole biochemical environment that we think is interesting.”
It was an avenue Lebanon Seaboard figured was worth exploring: to provide the correct nutrients and the right bionutrients. In an effort to tackle “both sides of the equation,” according to Kelso, the company worked with major universities to hone the formulation that eventually was incorporated into the GreenSmart program.
Now the company is turning its attention to spreading the message about phosphate-free products.
“I think education is going to be necessary to a large degree for consumers,” Kelso said. “Retailers and manufacturers have to effectively communicate that a well-maintained lawn has enough phosphorous.”