Spring business

upnortdareh(Zone 4)February 17, 2009

So does anybody have a crystal ball to perdict what this season is going to like in the greenhouse business?


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thosedarnsqurls(Up-State NY 5)

Hi upnortdareh.

Sure wish I did! I've heard that many are reducing opening inventory by 30% or there 'bouts. Many have closed shop around here already, (NY & VT area)

Most I talk to seem to think going heaving on FOOD plants is the way to go, (ie) Berry Canes & Vines, Herb and Veggie plants, Fruit Trees, etc. I know I saw a big trend heading in that direction already last season.

I sell rare & unusual perennials for the most part. I'm thinking I may have to switch my direction a bit,...at least for a year or two. Gotta admit. I am more than a little aprehensive about this coming year's sales/income.

Can't wait to hear what others think on the subject.


    Bookmark   February 17, 2009 at 10:20PM
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It'll be down, all right. The only question is how much.

More edible plants are a good idea. I actually think specialty nurseries will take less of a hit because their customer base is more likely to make budgeting for plants a priority, compared to shoppers at conventional nurseries/garden centers. I may be wrong.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 1:19PM
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    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 3:46PM
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I've always been down, getting by and being more of an asset than a user.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2009 at 1:37AM
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Humm, i am wondering too. I think its good to try to position yourself, but I am also concerned about over estimating the economic impact on this industry. For example, where I live, the ski areas have had a record year. Who would have thought? IDK i think maybe I am watching too much news and that i just need to go with my gut feelings.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2009 at 9:21AM
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thosedarnsqurls(Up-State NY 5)

Well, drtygrl (Love the username)

A very wise woman (Peggy), said to me, not too long ago....

"Going to the Movies was the recreation/escape from reality of the Depression, Maybe Gardening will be the escape of the 2009 recession/depression, whatever they've decided to call it today."

I sure hope Peggy is right. I LIKE being the crazy Plant Lady. Don't wanna turn into the crazy Veggie Lady!

    Bookmark   February 23, 2009 at 7:17PM
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It's all about the "poo rolls downhill" economic theory. There are those who have just so much money, even in these times, depressions don't influence them. Those who don't....... but still spend like they do, lol. And those who are tightening the belts with their discretionary incomes, but are just moving down to a lower catagory and one in which they expect to get some return they can see (like changing a hobby from skiing to gardening, or traveling to Europe to spending a weekend at a ski lodge).

I'll be beefing up my vegetable garden offerings, but not because somebody is looking for a less expensive hobby. I'm expanding it, because another class of people yet..... are having hard times making their food dollars stretch and may be planting them. I'm guessing those people would be typical box store customers, you should make your product more enticing than the boxes, and not necessary by direct price competition. What I have found is that buying food crops from boxes is an expensive proposition, because boxes like to sell the plants BY THE EACH, and that's a really expensive way to purchase vegetable plants for a serious garden. So, I'll be producing them in flats with shorter shelf lives.

Hobbies and avocations go in and out of style, and I think there is a good possibility nurseries and greenhouses can cash in on the green movement and the economic times to their advantage, at least enough to survive.....if they watch their product mixes and emphasis wisely.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2009 at 1:45PM
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We are all going to miss the thing that really drives a big portion of the green industry (green as in plants, not environmentalism). That is home sales and the equity that bleeds off of those sales.
People supplementing with vegetable gardens or hobby gardening are not going to make up for that. Even if there were to be no more layoffs, it is not going to be like it has been for the last 10 years.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2009 at 6:41PM
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Nope, it isn't. The chips are going to fall where they may and it's going to affect every sector of the green industry. I have been phasing out of the nursery end of mine for several years now because the bucks just aren't there with landscapers like they used to be. I've dropped several lines and services since I am, as of this year, easing into semi-retirment.

The bulk of my growing now is contractual, and pre-sold orders. As a wholesaler, and re-wholesaler, I've seen my clients tightening belts for two years and if they don't sell........I don't. I've kept in the black by trimming shrink to almost nil and what I used to blow off as no-big-deal with screwed up orders and overstocks on poor sellers is a major deal now because the profit margins are a lot tighter. Customers can be fickle, but two decades of good service to them is paying off now in a humble way. I feel really sorry for newbies breaking into the game.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 1:59AM
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Well, just found out today I am probably losing one of my biggest customers next season...I am trying to salvage some of their business but i am not sure. Its going to be interesting this spring.

I actually thought last year was going to be a lot worse than it turned out to be; I had one of my best seasons. I was expecting a lot of belt tightening but it didn't happen. I do live in an area that is less effected (affected - which is it??) than some.

I know it is talking about a different aspect than the thread started out on, but in terms of landscaping companies, there are SOOO many out there right now. Seems like each week there are 4-5 new ones popping up. So maybe a downturn is what it takes to clean out some of the guys who are clueless about running a business. Leaving behind the ones who have what it takes.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 9:25PM
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thosedarnsqurls(Up-State NY 5)

(I'm so glad I found this forum. You guys have so much great information and experiences.)

I'm sorry to hear of your loss so early in the season drtygrl.
But I think you may be right about the cream rising to the top. This will be the case in many areas of our business, I'm sure. The sellers of plants/veggies/garden centers/ maintanence and "Landscapers" all included.
Those with the best prices for the most competant service should survive, while the less adequate will fall by the wayside. Customer will be getting better value and we will all be kept on our toes.

I sure hope you all keep us updated as the season progresses.
It will be fun to all laugh together at the economists predictions of gloom & doom!

    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 3:37PM
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It's really weird in my local community. I'm doing the best I can by offering the best plants at low prices. The locals pass me by but people from 50 miles or more away are driving to me and buying.
I am a plant master just getting by.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 12:24AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

A big field-grown conifer producer back East got through the Great Depression by switching to small potted cacti. After things perked up they went back to their field operations.

The best manure is money, I fully expect landscape installation activity to fall off markedly except for maybe that generated by some of the well off. In this I'm including homeowners buying shrubs and perennials for their yards. Already last year a local roadside produce and plants stand operator saw tree and shrub sales diminish 75%, with only annual transplants remaining steady. This at a place where low prices and a bargain image are usual.

Of course, the people with more money to spend would have been going to fancier places. Except that a multimillion dollar big fancy garden center in the area didn't reserve stock well in advance for this coming season, in anticipation of the normal annual scramble to be ready for the spring demand not happening this time.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2009 at 9:33PM
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HerbLady49(Z6 PA)

I closed my nursery back in 2006, but if I were starting again this spring, I would grow plenty of vegetable and herb starts. Offer workshops on victory style vegetable gardening. Who knows, you might have somewone want you to install one. Have someone give workshops on canning your own food. I can tell you by experience that people love workshops. Depending on where you live I would sell directions for making a small chicken coop, or sell ready made ones. Have order forms for ordering chicks for eggs, and bring in chicks every few weeks. Carry all supplies for raising them. You won't make money on the chicks, but you'll do well on the supplies. Keep workshops up all season and do plenty of free local advertising. You might even want to invite local farmers to set up a farmers market at your site. Get known as an educator of self reliance. Burpee Seeds says their business is up by 25% because of people buying vegetable seeds. We're entering a new era.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 12:51PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

I was window shopping at a big independent garden center yesterday with a fair number of other visitors buzzing around and while looking at "dry goods" near the checkout was reminded (I used to work in garden centers) of how many people there normally are who consume garden goods but have absolutely no idea what they are dealing with. While I was looking at seeds etc. there was a nearly continuance procession of people looking for guidance and accommodation, including what sounded like an attempt to return a plant bought last year.

So it's easy to see how seminars could get a good response. Always so many people trying to garden who apparently haven't done anything like it before. Is it due primarily to first-time home ownership? It's an interesting phenomenon. And one the industry can be thankful for.

The alternative is so many inexperienced people staying that way.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 1:09PM
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From purely a consumer's point of view - I've never been to a gardening related seminar yet that I didn't come away without information or "something" I couldn't use. And I haven't been to one that wasn't standing room only...

...tips on container gardening with an inexpensively run off list of easy annuals and a good stock of nice containers and plants from the list.

... companion plants with similar light and water requirements. Creating garden vignettes within the larger garden. Use of repetition for cohesion. Mixing textures. How to make borders, how to do trench edging. The right tree in the right place. Installing a koi pond. Deer resistant plants and shrubs. Cutting garden and flower arranging. Fall bulb planting. How to compost. Pruning and rejuvenating shrubs and the right tools for the job.

I know I'm not alone in loving this stuff and haven't given any ideas that haven't already been considered. But just surfing around these forums, you get a sense of what people are interested in and the kinds of information they want and need.

I happened to be at Wal-mart yesterday - people were ten deep at the seed racks. This has been a cold and harsh winter here; folks are starved for the onset of the gardening season which is still ages away. Garden centers and nurseries don't open until the last week of April - and we're not saturated with them, so it's a mad dash to stockpile the fresh stock until things can safely be put out around Memorial Day. And the buying goes on all season. But I'm not in a position to know if steady volumes of modest purchases come close to making up for a reduction in what might normally be a smaller number higher buck design install services, etc. even in normal times.

My gardening budget is determined by both what I want and what I need and I have every intention of spending. I like buying local and am perfectly content with the nursery people doing the work and I just get to buy what I want and plant it - I accept the fact that prices might be higher, or there might be fewer plants per market pack.

Despite the economy, I hope your worst fears don't bear themselves out.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 3:48PM
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I only sell daylilies ... I had my best year yet last year, and orders so far this year have been good ... not as good as last year, but that's because I didn't participate in an on-line auction as much this year as last.

I do plan on putting a "farm stand" by the road, since my nurery is mostly open by appointment only. (I work a full time career at a bank) So I will be interested to see how the farm stand does. I plan on selling daylilies I no longer want to grow, and other perennials that multiply like crazy in my gardens.

Daylily addicts are daylily addicts! We (I'm one too) are compelled to keep adding to our collections! :>)

    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 1:07PM
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Walmart sells squash and cucumber plants 2 months too early for 2.75. 5 inch Tomatoes are 3.50. 90% of the plants had sold. The rest were dried out and frosted.
Their plants have a high death rate. Lot's of waste there.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 12:39AM
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Walmart doesn't care. From what I have heard from their employees is that IF something dies, they just return the empty pot at the end of year and get full credit.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2009 at 5:00PM
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Walmart doesn't buy bedding plants. A plant grower delivers, sets up, and tends the plants. They get paid by what's rung up at the register. Plants are whore's. Only 12% of what is grown survives.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2009 at 12:10AM
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I'm loving the spring rush, maybe I made enough this year to pay the bills.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2009 at 11:49PM
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I think the specialty growers that appeal to the general public but also to the avid hobbyist will do OK. More often than not they are in fields where the plants become more valuable as time goes on.... like orchids, palms, japanese maples and bonsai. All can be addictive hobbies which means that those folks will always budget monthly expenditures for their hobby.

Most of the commercial growers I know have started laying off workers earlier than normal and hunkering down ... looking forward to surviving until 2010 gets here. the traditional summer slump might see some further employment cuts. Could be the worst lay offs for the last ten years or so.
Some Mom and Pops have gone out of business... it is sad to see the folks turn up waiting on you at Lowes of Home Depot... working for the very firm that put you out of business.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2009 at 9:53PM
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