Spring 2014 ‘record-breaking’ for some garden centers
The start of 2014 was rough for many businesses in the Midwest and Northeast, especially independent garden centers, to say the least.
Jere Stauffer, COO of Stauffers of Kissel Hill Home & Garden, says February, March and April were the worst months on record since 2007, when the Pennsylvania company first added its eighth location.
Like many garden centers in the region, Stauffers’ staff worked tirelessly to protect the plants from frost and the chilly temperatures that plagued much of April.
But when May hit, things turned around, and they had record-breaking sales. Weekends have been consistently sunny, encouraging gardeners to shop and work in their yards.
“Last year, the months of May, June and July were really soft as both economics and weather played havoc,” Stauffer says. “We’re feeling a lot more confident that the end of this season has a lot more to offer.”
Growers are reporting the same trend as well. Danny Gouge, marketing manager at Willoway Nurseries in Ohio says the season was slow at first, but they exceeded their goals for May.
“I think that we will have a good year if the weather and traffic keeps going through the month of June. So far June weather has been great and consumers are still out gardening,” Gouge says.
Doug Akerley, COO of Hicks Nurseries in Westbury, N.Y., says he went into May “really concerned,” but the month exceeded expectations.
“The staff had done a great job and buyers had done a great job [getting the store ready]. But people were not ready to plant,” Akerley says. “We were behind where we wanted to be in May, but then we had successive weeks that were record weeks where we experienced volume every day, seven days a week, that was far more than what we had experienced in the past.”
Dottie Warner, garden center manager at Frazee Gardens in Brownsburg, Ind., shared a similar sentiment:
“Since spring arrived, it has been crazy. People are so ready for winter to be over.”
The long, bone-chilling winter that delayed the season for many garden centers had the opposite effect for Flamingo Road Nursery & Farmers Market in Davie, Fla. Manager Erik Dietl-Friedli says that March wasn’t as unbearably hot as it normally is in the South, so their season was extended and sales have been consistently strong.
“When it hits 90 degrees in March, the gardening bug goes out for a lot of people,” Dietl-Friedli says. “This year we didn’t hit a day in the 90s until [early June], and our rainy season didn’t hit until this past week as well, so we’ve been blessed with beautiful weather.”
So far, this has been a record-breaking year.
“We opened this location in 2005, and then we had a really big hurricane that fall, which translated into tremendous sales in 2006 because everybody had to replace their yard. This year has been better than that year,” he says.
Weather aside, Flamingo also implemented some new merchandising strategies that have boosted sales. For example, Dietl-Friedli says they moved all of the perennials that pollinators love to a section called “Butterfly Garden.”
“Our sales in that category year to date are up a little more than 50 percent,” he says. “We grabbed that whole niche, and we ran with it.”
They also expanded other specialty garden items, like orchids and houseplants, to make shopping easier for customers and differentiate themselves from the big box stores, a handful of which are less than a mile away from Flamingo Road Nursery.
The traditional items like perennials, woody plant material and annuals are selling well this year for Hicks Nurseries, says Akerley. Just like Flamingo, after Hurricane Sandy hit in October 2012, everyone came back to the garden center in 2013 to replace and replant their destroyed yards.
“We are up against stiff numbers compared to last year, but this year we are still seeing some response to yard renovations from hurricane damage,” he says.
Dietl-Friedli says many garden center owners he’s talked to during the past few months have also said that 2014 has been an incredibly strong, hopeful year. But drought problems have painted a very different picture for some areas in the West, says Jacquie Williams-Courtright, owner of Alden Lane Nursery in Livermore, Calif.
“Our season has been tempered by a severe drought. Customers are being mandated to curtail outside irrigation by 50 percent and to water only twice a week,” says Williams-Courtright. “We’re doing a lot of water-wise education and are grateful that our operation is diversified with gift, statuary and dry goods.
“We hope to market to neighboring communities that have more water, key on products that are not water dependent and ramp up our festival activities.”
— Garden Center Editor Karen Varga contributed to this article.
The Berry Family of Nurseries to close Oregon location, lay off 100
Texas-based grower The Berry Family of Nurseries announced June 30 that it will shut down its Cornelius, Ore., location and lay off 100 people “on or about” Sept. 30, according to an article on The Oregonian.
“Chief executive Randy Roush has not returned a message regarding the layoffs left by The Oregonian at the company’s Irving, Texas, headquarters. It isn’t clear whether any of the nursery’s other branches — in Oklahoma, Michigan, Tennessee, North Carolina and Florida — are affected,” the newspaper reported.
To get the full story, visit The Oregonian’s website at http://bit.ly/1jhxPJy
America In Bloom deadlines approaching
Showcase your city and the people who make it great by entering any of these three contests:
Community Champion Award - Nominations due July 31
This honor recognizes an individual who exemplifies community leadership through actions that reflect the mission of America in Bloom. The award recipient, who must be from a city that has participated or is currently participating in the program, will have demonstrated a vision and selfless commitment to moving the community forward.
Photo Contest - Submissions due August 5
How does your town measure up against America’s prettiest? AIB, with cooperating sponsorship from Home & Garden Showplace and Monrovia Nursery, encourages and recognizes beautification efforts through a new annual photography contest. Cities and towns across the United States will be evaluated on their overall beauty as demonstrated by a submitted portfolio of up to 18 photos. Entrants are invited to submit any photographs from their city.
YouTube Video Award - Submissions due August 27
Record your community’s involvement with America in Bloom. Any past or present AIB participant is eligible for the $1,500 cash award for the Best YouTube video. The length should be between 2 to 3 minutes, and the video must be placed on YouTube.