Time to rethink your garden center business?

As we approach spring you can feel the excitement as garden centers across the country come back to life. Unlike here in California many nurseries close down for winter, and only re-open with the arrival of spring. We all need to get the cash flow going again as we try and navigate the new world that we find ourselves in. While many look forward to the "recession" ending and things getting back to normal I wonder what normal will be like? Here in California we are no where near out of the woods economically. As I drive through the foothills and Sacramento the number of commercial spaces available is astounding. Many strip malls are only half rented. "For lease" signs dot the region. Commercial landscaping is still dead, while residential landscaping is on life-support. Despite the government cheer leading that tells us of an "unexpected" drop in un-employment or "un-expected" surge in stocks, we know different. People are starting to realize that the government doesn't have a clue what's going on. It's up to us to get the news, spread the news, and adjust where necessary.

For garden centers in nor Cal my suggestion would be to continue to ride the wave of self-reliance that is starting to sweep the nation. People want fresh food that is safe to eat. Where does one find that anymore? Grow it your-self. Want tasty-tax free beer and wine to drink? Make it yourself. How about storing you own food for winter consumption? Do your own canning and freezing. More and more it is becoming hip to be self-reliant. This is not the survivalist view of self-reliance, though we can learn much from them. This is more about a self-sustaining lifestyle.

Garden centers are perfectly poised to become the self-reliance centers for every neighborhood. People are starting to see the relationship between smaller, locally owned businesses, and the health of their communities. If people are going to invest time and money into growing their own they need a local expert to go to when they need help. Time for those of us in the business to look at what we do in a whole new light.

What if you had to tear down your present garden center and start over? What would you do different? Don't use the assumption  that things will be like they we're before the recession. They won't. Fundamental shifts are taking place that will change the way we do things from now on. More and more we need to show people how to accomplish their goals. Demonstration gardens, workshops, seminars, on subjects that may not be just about gardening. How about beer and wine making classes? Canning classes? Bee keeping workshops? Cooking classes? Solar energy workshops? Hydro-ponics? Aquaponics?  Waste water treatment for rural areas? Wind power? etc. Imagine a new type of resource for the community. A new type of business. A new way of doing business. Maybe this is the year to re-invent how you approach what you do. Selling bulbs, roses, and landscape shrubs just doesn't cut it here anymore.

Why the Whole Earth Catalog? I loved that thing. Just going through it and imagining all the possibilities was a long term project. The idea behind the catalog is still viable, it's just moved online, and we are all authors now. Let's start a new chapter...