Though the droughts in the West and South were more intense than what the Northeast experienced in 2016, the West and South are used to drier conditions. For the Northeast, the drought was a challenge, as 83% of respondents said that weather was the biggest external factor to impact their selling season. The Northeast tends to diversify more than their Western and Southern counterparts, perhaps because of the seasonality of their businesses. They had higher than average percentages of companies that had apparel departments, farmers markets, gift shops and services like custom container creation. The hottest trends reported were organic/sustainable gardening and succulents/cacti.
The data on the following pages was collected by Readex Research via an online survey from Sept. 7 to Sept. 19, 2016. The survey was closed for tabulation with 433 responses. To best represent the audience of interest, the results in this report were based on the 340 respondents who indicated they own/operate/manage an independent garden center. The margin of error for percentages based on 340 usable responses is ± 5.0 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. That is, 95% of the time we can be confident that percentages in the actual population would not vary by more than this in either direction.
*Not all percentages will add up to 100% due to rounding and non-responses. Not all answer options are listed here.
When we conducted our State of the Industry reports in 2013, 2014 and 2015, independent garden center retailers reported very similar conditions over the three-year studies. After a devastating recession in 2008, retailers started to bounce back in 2012, and they continued to indicate they had stronger sales year to year.
The most profitable categories, for the most part, stayed the same, with annuals, perennials, edibles and trees and shrubs leading green goods sales, and the hottest trends being edibles/grow your own, container gardening, miniature/fairy gardening, organic/sustainable gardening and native plants two years in a row.
This year, we decided to look at the numbers differently to bring more context to our annual report. Garden center retailing is a seasonal business, and weather is often the biggest external factor affecting sales. Economy also comes into play, and those two can vary greatly depending on where you are in the U.S. or Canada. For 2016, we’ve divided our results into regions — Northeast, South, Midwest, West and Canada — and examined how retailers in different locations responded to questions.
First, you’ll find the overall results, as we have done in the past, with notes about statistically interesting differences among the regions. Then, we divide all of the results to see what the State of the Industry is for the Northeast, South, Midwest, West and Canada, and how weather, trends, the economy and more impacted their spring seasons in 2016. Though the focus is on regional differences, we also looked at the data and compared garden center responses by age of business and sales volume, and note some interesting findings throughout the study.
The Garden Center Group kicked off The Fall Event in Houston, Texas, on Sept. 26, which marked the 16th event for the group. The event included a tour of five independent garden centers in the area, all with their own individual niches. Check out our highlights from the tour. — Michelle Simakis
Visit our facebook page to see the full photo gallery from the tour: bit.ly/2dMHXNp
Each year, we survey retailers from across the U.S. and Canada to assess the overall health of the industry. During the past three years, results from our annual State of the Industry Report have revealed that after the challenges and turmoil of the Great Recession, for the most part, retailers are rebounding and sales are steady. There hasn’t been much year-to-year change in sales and trends in our reports from 2013 to 2015. But as we all know, in any given year, independent garden centers can experience different levels of spring, summer and fall sales success depending on the local economy and weather because conditions across the country vary. Spring can start at any time between from February and May. Local tastes and trends differ.
That’s why this year, we decided to look at survey results from the State of the Industry Report a little differently. Starting on page 14, our report begins with the overall findings from the study like we’ve done in years past, but we also divide our survey results by region in the U.S. (and country), to examine how the West, Midwest, South, Northeast and Canada answered questions similarly or differently. Some findings were interesting but not surprising, like the fact that indoor gardening is bigger in areas with shorter warm seasons, like Canada, or that colder regions reported a higher percentage of departments like apparel and gift stores to combat the seasonality of garden retail. We’re also aware of the popularity of cacti and succulents, but we were surprised to find out that these plants were such a dominant category across the U.S. Despite differentiation, plants are king in all regions, but which plants are most popular does depend on where you are in the country.
As part of our State of the Industry issue, we also sought the advice of industry experts like Leslie Halleck (page 50), Sid Raisch (page 88) and Ellen May (page 86), who weigh in on the health and future of the independent garden center industry.
During our conversation, May said that what makes independent garden center retailers so great is their individuality, and I think we can all agree on that. Unlike big boxes like Home Depot and Lowe’s, which are homogenized and look and feel the same no matter where you live, IGCs are wonderfully diverse, partly because they cater to their local communities. We hope to respect that independent, unique and local spirit in our 2016 State of the Industry Report by presenting our results regionally, so that you can discover both what makes independent garden centers different, and what they all share.