What's your year been like so far?

njtea(NJ Z6)June 8, 2005

We think we are down about 5% from last year here in NJ. I hear it's the same with small tradespeople also - a definite slowdown.

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Pretty crappy here on the west coast AFA retail nursery biz is concerned. A weird warm and dry winter (California got all our rain and then some), followed by dire predictions of impending drought, followed by very chilly and wet spring (forget the drought), now fading into a similar early summer. The weather has just been against us and sales regionally are down alot. Wholesalers are reporting the same phenomenon and some pretty good deals can be had (also a rather startling amount of "crop failures"), if one has the cash flow and room for any additional inventory. Lots of unseasonal retail sales going on just to move product.

OTOH, consulting and design activity is still cooking, so not all bad if one is diversified :-)

    Bookmark   June 8, 2005 at 10:09PM
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Yep, sales down here as well. Not terribly concerned, because somehow, miraculously, I kept costs down this year also. Profit margin should be about same.

Weather phenomenon was a big part of it. Third cold and wet spring in a row. The plants love it, but the gardeners don't. Then pow to the nineties. Lots of new "little" operations opening up and enough of them to sap the retail trade. They usually fade come the first of June and the bigger boys still are cranking, but there is just so much market to saturate.

Lots of plant dumping here as well, with ridiculous prices. Same old nurseries who usually grow five times more than they can sell. They haven't figured it out that there is a principle called the law of diminishing returns and how to find that point on their graphs. If they did, it'd be a win/win for all the growers concerned.

It's been the year for marketing early.....i.e. early order committments. It saved my sweet bippy. Have seen decreased orders from all my accounts. The economy and lack of disposible income. Good year for niching out and high end sales.

I suspect part of it is the mental mindsets box store vending has created. It's like the swimsuits they put out in February. The plants come out in April, a full month before last frost, and early June (should be one of the busiest months for floriculture) they are having clearance sales so they can get their fall mums out in July. Enough people have been exposed to this mentality they think it's "too late" to plant a flower four weeks after it's safe from frost. Pity. See my post about wanting to spit if one more person asks me if May 15 is too late to plant.


Could be a worse season, I suppose. At least I went in the black early. It's time for many growers to be looking at their business plans, however.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2005 at 10:48PM
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deeproots(8b South Ga)

from a growers point of view:
seems like my individual customers all were hurt. Alot more Lowes/Walmart in south Ga than there used to be. Annoyed me because I have twice as many customers ordering half as much :-)
same sales, more phone calls and windshield time.

Seems the retails nurseries I sold to this year were all complaining, blaming weather, economics, fuel prices etc whereas the re-wholesalers and landscape supply depot type places were cranking with the usual spring ferver.
Last two years I've lost alot of customers due to them closing up shop... 3-4 year point really shakes alot of them loose.

and for those of you wanting to start a retail nursery... quality quality quality. When you decide to price cut and loose the high end plants, you are competing with the walmart/lowes/homedepot types and you will not outlast them.

guess we'll see how this fall goes.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2005 at 11:48PM
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lorraine644(Z5 Ont Canada)

Our Sales have increased nearly double this year. But 2 of my nearest competitors have folded (due to ill health). I did not get all of their business, just enough to overwelm me. We should be sold out by June 19 if not sooner.

We had a lot of preorders which had us nearly 1/3 sold by Mother's Day. We had decreased our plantings of bedding plants except for Petunia & Marigolds, and increased our pots of P.W. etc. Increased our Baskets & Containers plantings. And at the moment the containers are the only thing in excess We planted additional baskets after Mothers' Day and are nearly sold out of them.

Our expenses were kept in line, because we ordered our oil, hard goods & soil last fall, at last years prices.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2005 at 7:47AM
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Hap_E(z9 Berkeley CA)

It has been an odd spring... weather has been part of it, hot and sunny and then cool and wet. It has never settled down and felt like spring.

It is actually raining! Second day in a row. In June! (For those of you not from Northern California... it is weird, an occasional shower after early May, is very rare, but to be socked in with a constant drizzling rain this late in the year is freakish). I had to cover all the Lithops and other Mesemb's (or Aizoaceae now days...) that were out for the summer. Two days of cool rain this time of year and they would all either swell up and burst, or just turn to mush. If they weren't so popular I wouldn't bother growing them....

I have seen waves of interested "just looking" browsers with actual buyers being rarer than expected. However due to increased traffic, Sales have been near plan, so I am doing OK. I just wish sales per customer would go up. However the last few weeks I have seen returning browsers that are now starting to buy, so maybe things are just running late this year due to the odd weather.

Another oddity this month is my June Sale "draw" plants are not moving any faster than before they got marked down, so that experiment has not proven useful, at least yet. Being a Cacti, Succulent and Xeriscape plant nursery my sales peak in September and October, when everyone is tired of wasting water to try and keep their yards green....

But last weekend was my best ever, so I am not complaining.

Most of the time I think retail is just too prone to chance to really know what is going through customers minds, regardless of all the data I track. I mean did having Berkeley's Open Artist Studios last weekend really help drive my business? (I am in the "Artist's Loft neighborhood") Yes, I saw more people coming through, about thirty percent more that the previous weekend. But that thirty percent was not buying. Actual sales per customer were down for both days, but like I said it was the best weekend I have ever had. So maybe it did help, but the big sales that drove the day were repeat customers that were coming back and opening up their wallets. Or in this case pulling out plastic. All my sales last weekend except one, was creditcards. Usually it is fifty-fifty.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2005 at 11:01AM
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One word: Busy.

If it weren't for homework, I would be devoting much more time into landscaping. As it stands, I'm trying to fit in as much as possible without sacrificing academic performance. Darn you exams!


    Bookmark   June 9, 2005 at 9:04PM
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Could have been lots better. Weather hasn't been cooperative. You never make up for all those lost sales in April and May. No matter how well you plan, order, grow, merchandise, etc., it's so dependant on the weather. I thought I was way up in my dept. this year. Until I remembered we switched some categories around and I wasn't comparing apples to apples. Once I straightened that out, and recalculated, I was shocked how far down I was. I'm glad the product I grew has moved well. I'm real selective in what I grow, and order most product in.

Based on past experience, we will sell more than usual in June because spring was so bad. It will never begin to match the sales figures possible if every weekend in May and June had been gorgeous.

But, hey, I'm already browsing catalogs and getting ready to begin ordering for next year. Maybe we'll have a glorious spring!

    Bookmark   June 11, 2005 at 11:58PM
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AgastacheMan(z7 CA)

Busy now, but for a central Cali grower, the rain provided no breaks until May, so production was behind. Yet, with that obstacle, we are busy enough. Hopefully, next year we get enough rain, but not all at once.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2005 at 12:39PM
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vouts(France Z8)

Although considerably up on last year, in our second full year in business, this spring has been tough going with unfavourable weather and a very downbeat economic climate. I have lots more customers but not many have placed big orders.

I agree with DeepRoots comments - for small independents quality is the only way to go. Pricecutting spells death for everybody except the box shifters.

Calliope, I'm relieved that its not only the French. I had convinced myself that 50% of the public thinks its too early to plant and the other 50% thinks its too late!

Our end of season open day last weekend went well, with our takehome message to plant your perrenials at the beginning of autumn working very well.

Lets see if the weather gods shine on us in september and october.


    Bookmark   June 14, 2005 at 4:48AM
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