The times they are a changing

I came across this little bit of discouraging news from the Pittsburg Post-Gazette. In an article entitled “Bloom is fading for the gardening industry” the paper paints a gloomy picture for the garden industry. According to the paper “Sales at garden and lawn retailers totaled $34.07 billion last year, down nearly 15 percent from 2002's peak of $39.6 billion, according to the National Gardening Association.” The paper cites the aging population with “Arthritic 50-somethings throwing down their trowels”. Time crunched consumers are also listed as a reason for the decline. The article goes on to paint an even bleaker view of the Generation X and Y. "We've probably lost the X and Y generation, but we're going after their kids, which is why we do school gardening programs and all kinds of things for children", says Bruce Butterfield, research director for the National Gardening Association.

Betty Cantalini, owner of Gardenalia, a Shadyside garden supply store says, "We in the garden industry are at a crossroads, people are still gardening, but they're cutting way back on the size of their gardens and the quantities of plants they buy.”

This is all stuff we have heard before. The garden center business is changing so quickly it’s hard to keep up. What I found interesting was the last part of the article. The silver lining is for specialty retailers that “target gardeners who want and need a lot of bells and whistles in their gardens.” The paper continues “North Hills Water Gardens, which caters to consumers who love running water in all forms, from ponds to fountains, hasn't been hit by any downturn. If anything, its business is booming, said Tom Buchser, its owner.”"We find that a lot of people say these kinds of gardens provide them with a great way to relax," he said.

We touched on the subject here. We need to fine tune what it is that we are about. I think it will become harder and harder for a garden center to be a one stop shop for all you gardening needs. Instead we will be the one stop shop for all your native plants, water plants, ornamental grasses, succulents, etc. The nursery that has the largest and best collection of whatever their specialty is will win. It may have a series of collections or specialties but trying to have everything for the gardener is the realm of the home stores and they own that turf. Specialties can also include service, personality, information and other non s.k.u. items, but you will have to be the best at whatever you claim for your specialty. If its service it will have to be the best service in your market area to gain attention.

I read optimistic reports on gardening too, but I would have to say that this is the closest to what is the feeling in my industry. Things are scary out there in garden center world. I am hopeful though as it seems to me that when things are getting weird opportunities arise. It will take courage to seize them as we all are entering unknown territory.