Hurdle after hurdle

Departments - Editor’s Note

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November 5, 2021

Portrait by Amber Smith

It’s been quite a marathon for garden centers over the past year and a half. Well actually, it’s been more like hurdle after hurdle. Following a year of temporary shutdowns and stay-at-home orders, COVID safety precautions and general uncertainty, retail garden centers are facing the new challenges of supply chain issues, increased demand, staffing shortages and new, inexperienced customers.

But with those challenges have come exciting opportunities to grow the market and inspire new customers to become lifelong gardeners. From new signage to better communication to all kinds of educational resources, garden centers really stepped up to the plate to help this new demographic find success with their plants — both indoors and out.

Since so much has changed over the past two years, you’ll find some new questions in this year’s State of the Industry Report. In fact, it had so many questions that we couldn’t fit them all in here, so be sure to check out our digital edition at gardencentermag.com/magazine for the full report. You won’t want to miss the stats on staffing and wages, so I’ll give a sneak peek here:

Last year, only 15% of independent garden centers were paying $15 an hour or more, while this year, more than a quarter are offering a starting wage that high. The impact of increasing minimum wages is also a bigger factor in why garden centers are having trouble hiring, rising a full 10 percentage points this year over last. However, the lack of available or qualified employees continues to be the biggest hindrance in hiring, which is one thing that hasn’t changed in the past few years.

However, even combining the increased cost of materials, shipping AND labor, garden centers are coming out on top. Projected profits are up over last year and despite the fact that spring sales skyrocketed last year, three-quarters of IGCs reported an increase in spring sales again this year. Those spring sales increases are smaller than last year, but considering the COVID sales boom, it speaks volumes to the industry’s success with new gardeners.

Kate Spirgen kspirgen@gie.net

Thank you so much to all of you who took the time to participate in the 2021 survey. In such uncertain times, your input is more valuable than ever. We hope the insights from this report help you manage whatever hurdles 2022 throws at you.