Monday, June 2, 2014

Garden centers

     Free daily tips, information and advice for people in small business
     from someone who has been there, done that in several small businesses.

     Garden centers in temperate areas of the country keep their doors open and the plants moving out all year. But those in the colder regions must adjust to seasonal changes.

     People in small business are nimble. They react quickly to changing conditions and adjust their businesses accordingly.

     The market for seedlings, plants and flowers explodes with the first warmth of spring in most of the United States. People are tired of winter's blast, and they are anxious to get their hands dirty with potting soil.

     Garden centers suddenly come alive with flats of petunias, hanging baskets crammed with flowers, basil and parsley, tomatoes and eggplant. Customers tend to swarm in these places for a few weeks--and then it's over.

     Business owners cope with this in many ways. 

     Example: One grower I know began as a roadside stand selling plants and produce grown on the farm. Quickly, Estella realized that certain types of veggie plants sold out first. The following year, she concentrated on raising many different heirloom tomato and pepper plants. She knew she was right when all these sold out. She built a greenhouse, and these days, Estella starts her seedlings in February, throws open the doors in April, and closes down in June. She sells thousands of plants. She distributes some to retailers at wholesale prices, but she sells mostly over the Internet, shipping to repeat individual customers. Plants left over grow on to maturity, and she sells fresh tomatoes and peppers all summer to locals.

     What started off as a small fly-by-night roadside garden center became a large operation.

     Example: Bill had a small garden center for several years. He offered a wide variety of shrubs and fruit trees, perennials and hanging baskets, springtime flats of annuals, herbs and veggie transplants. Business was good in the spring, slowed down during summer, and died beneath the snows of winter. He decided to offer landscape design services to clients. It took several seasons, but today Bill is busy all year. He still offers the full range of plant materials in spring. But winters are spent lining up clients for garden designs to be completed during the coming year. He now sells the plants needed for his designs, installs small fish ponds, fencing, mulching, landscape maintenance, brick and concrete works, and just about anything else a client might want.

     Turning a garden center into a landscape design firm takes patience and expertise. If Bill did not have design talents, he could have partnered with a landscape designer who didn't have a garden center. 

     Example: As he was growing up, Don played around in his grandmother's garden. She had set aside a large area for her bonsai plants. When Don inherited the place, he transformed that extensive bonsai collection into a business. He sells direct to the consumer--both near and far over the Internet. To increase local interest, he holds demonstrations and talks that attract the public's attention. He brings in master gardeners for special sessions, and he offers classes to people interested in learning bonsai techniques. In addition to bonsai plants, he sells a complete line of tools of the trade, books, instructions, and other downloadable materials.

     The ingenuity of people in small business, along with persistence, gets them where they want to go. With garden centers, the possibilities are many. 

     Questions? I retired when I turned 75. You can email me at with your questions. Put BLOG in the subject line so I don't delete. Quick answers from my 40+ years experience founding and growing small businesses. Your privacy is always respected.   

No comments:

Post a Comment