Syngenta announced today its intention to divest its premium Flowers seeds business from its Lawn and Garden operating unit. Divestment would enable the new entity to play a leading role in the consolidation of the home gardening market, which is taking place in response to changes in the distribution and retail channels driven by shifts in consumer preferences.
The AmericanHort Board of Directors today announced that Michael V. Geary, CAE tendered his resignation as president and CEO. Geary is leaving to serve as CEO of the Society for Marketing Professional Services, a Washington, DC-based organization dedicated to creating business opportunities in the architecture, engineering, and construction industries. He will remain on staff through September 30 and will assist with the transition process.
Before the hustle and bustle of IGC Show 2015 kicked off at Navy Pier in Chicago, a more mobile industry event took visitors on a circuit of several prominent Illinois garden centers on Monday, Aug. 18.
The IGC Chicago 2015 Garden Center Tour took attendees of the trade show to visit five garden centers with long-standing roots in the greater Chicago area as well as the renowned Klehm Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. Each stop on the tour highlighted the business’ niche departments, and the dozens of IGC owners, buyers and managers shared their insights into what practices could work for their own businesses.
With layouts and retail specializations as varied as the personalities that own them, each garden center on the tour had a different form of inspiration for visitors.
Rock Valley Garden Center - Rockford, Ill.
Rock Valley Garden Center offered aquaponic products and educational materials, a niche category that set it apart from other stops on the IGC Show tour.
- Founded: 1967
- Total retail space: 130,680 square feet
- Indoor sales: 25,000 square feet
- Outdoor sales space: 87,120 square feet
- Retail greenhouse: 15,000 square feet
To visitors of Rock Valley Garden Center, a focus on wildlife feeding was plain to see. The business reports sales of 10 tons of birdseed a week and attributes 37 percent of its sales to the category. A wide variety of bird, bat and squirrel feeders round out Rock Valley’s inventory.
Rock Valley also carried a focus on hydroponic and aquaponics equipment, as well as several vertical growing systems. Aquaponic technology, unique to Rock Valley on the tour, allows customers to raise plant and fish life together in a symbiotic growing method. Educational signage related to these growing techniques enhances customer experience.
Storage containers of birdseed, which customers can browse through during business hours, are locked and sealed at night; some noted that could help cut down on theft. The storage sheds lined the entire property and also served as a display for garden statuary and other items.
Heather Lewis, buyer for Bobtail Nursery in Ponoka, Alberta in Canada noticed an effective example of shelf-mounted drip watering systems. Lewis said the displays showed customers how to use the drip feeders “so they get an example, like a showpiece. I think you have to show people what you can do with it.”
Gensler Gardens – Loves Park, Ill.
- Founded: 1981 (Loves Park location opened in 2007)
- Total retail space: 51,000 square feet
- Indoor sales: 14,000 square feet
- Outdoor sales: 20,000 square feet
- Retail greenhouse: 17,000 square feet
Including more than 550 varieties of perennials and 450 varieties of annuals, the plant product at Gensler Gardens is 100 percent home-grown. These green goods also make up roughly 60 percent of the sales at Gensler Gardens.
Gensler Gardens sees strong sales from hanging baskets of calibrachoas, petunias, coleus varieties and more, and this year they grew more than 23,000.
Co-owner Scott Gensler said the business employs a full-time staff of between five and 12, with family members forming the backbone of the workforce. However, color-coded containers and other merchandising techniques help employees ring out sales with better efficiency. This gives customers swift service despite the relatively small staff.
Gensler Gardens also works closely with more than 70 local organizations, churches and schools to organize fundraisers, which simultaneously provide Gensler Gardens with good exposure while contributing to a good cause.
“I think every business should find something they want to support,” Gensler said.
Village Green – Rockford, Ill.
Village Green garden center has more than 100 furniture arrangements displayed as they would look in the patio or home to inspire customers.
- Founded: 1965
- Store opened: 1980
- Total retail space: 348,480 square feet
- Indoor sales: 48,000 square feet
- Outdoor sales: 50,000 square feet
- Growing greenhouse: 10,000 square feet
Village Green garden center showcases about 100 arrangements of casual furniture for both the patio and living room near the main front entrance of the business. Displays were arranged as examples of layouts customers could try at their own home and fire pit displays and grills completed the image. Village Green is also a well-known dealer of Weber and Big Green Egg grills.
Village Green recently started selling pre-made fairy gardens, and despite the DIY-focused trend, they are selling well as gift items.
Fairy gardens and terrariums were also prominently showcased near the front of the store, and manager Michelle Branstiter said the premade miniature gardens are selling well. There are many examples to give customers inspiration for their own gardens.
“I just liked the layout and design,” said Todd Bobbett, co-owner of Beaver Bark Gift & Garden Center in Richland, Wash. “It was well-built in that location. I was very impressed.”
Klehm Arboretum & Botanical Garden – Rockford, Ill.
The alphabet garden at Klehm Arboretum and Botanical Garden was something many garden center retailers said they wanted to try at their own stores.
- Founded as Rockford Nursery in 1910
- Established in current form in 1998
- 155 acres
Offering a visual change of pace from the tour of retail spaces and product displays, the Klehm Arboretum & Botanical Garden gave tour participants a chance to freely wander through nature trails and gardens, where more than 500 species of wooded and blooming plants were on display.
An alphabet garden with letters corresponding with plants, like ‘b’ for begonia and ‘e’ for Echinacea, stopped tour attendees in their tracks, and many said they wanted to take that idea to their own garden center.
Gensler Gardens – Davis Junction, Ill.
- Founded: 1994
- Total retail space: 44,000 square feet
- Indoor sales: 9,000 square feet
- Outdoor sales: 12,000 square feet
- Retail greenhouse: 23,000 square feet
- Growing space: 52,000 square feet
The second location for Gensler Gardens comprises a great deal of the business’ growing power, with a growing greenhouse of 52,000 square feet.
Gensler Gardens in Davis Junction also features a mix of garden décor, statuary, tools, pottery and birding equipment. A gift shop rounds out the store inventory and appeals to niche markets with specialty apparel and accessories.
Pepper Creek – Rockford, Ill.
- Founded: 1994
- Total retail space: 65,340 square feet
- Indoor sales: 6,000 square feet
- Outdoor sales: 32,670 square feet
- Retail greenhouse: 25,000 square feet
Known for the freshness and variety of its green goods, Pepper Creek grows 95 percent of the perennials and annuals it sells. Pepper Creek also makes 95 percent of the autumn arrangements it sells.
Gifts and décor like Milkhouse Creamery candles, Baggallini totes, socks and jewelry also form a strong portion of Pepper Creek’s business.
Final thoughts from attendees
Several guests on the IGC Show tour walked away with ideas to take back to their own garden centers, from varieties to attempt growing to retail arrangements to try out.
“I could change some displays in my retail area,” said Michelle Grigsby, manager of Plant Land in Kalispell, Mont. “I need to go back and make it so people are drawn from point to point.”
“It’s great to see what everyone else is doing,” added Bob Balding, owner of Plant Land.
Factual store information such as "Year Founded" and "Square Footage" courtesy of IGC Show.