Staying Strong in Tough Times

January 05, 2009
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As we ease into 2009, it’s safe to say the tough economy is one issue that’s going to stick around for much of the coming year. It is hard to go more than a day without hearing or reading about the implications of the worsening financial system.
As we ease into 2009, it’s safe to say the tough economy is one issue that’s going to stick around for much of the coming year. It is hard to go more than a day without hearing or reading about the implications of the worsening financial system.

When we went to press, talk was not about if there would be economic bailouts but how big and to which industries, as our recession worries came home to roost.

On the retail side of things, shoppers are facing uncertain times and consumer confidence continues to slide. People are now beginning to think twice before they pull out that credit or debit card and are no longer swiping with abandon.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Something you need to keep in mind is that with big economic changes, also come new opportunities. A recent survey by Angus Reid reveals that Canadians will focus on their homes in the coming year – the very place where your products play an essential role. As people forgo activities such as dining out and going to the movies, the survey reports that homeowners and renters will spend more time than ever in their homes and are looking for affordable ways to spruce it up both inside and out. Two-thirds of Canadians plan to jumpstart a home renovation project in the next 12 months and nine out of 10 view their home as a more secure investment than the stock market. HGTV also reports that its fall schedule has seen a 14 per cent increase in audience as viewers tune in for inspiration and practical ideas. People are looking for advice and you can be the one to deliver this.

Think of how you can position your products as home improvement solutions. Plants can add life to a tired, old living space and create positive energy during what will be a difficult time for many families. The housing industry has become a buyer’s market and a newly landscaped backyard or a plant rental service will help move that property off the selling block. Consider renting plants out for dinner parties and gatherings to give people an affordable way to decorate and entertain family and friends. Gardening can also act as the perfect leisure activity that works to relieve stress and helps create an area to escape to. With 42 per cent of Canadians opting to take a “staycation” (a.k.a. a stay-at-home vacation) this year, more people are looking to relax in a soothing backyard or patio filled with beautiful flowers.

Now is also a great time to take a long hard look at your business and how you run it. Where can you make cuts? Can you handle operating with fewer staff members this year? Another option is to start offering your customers a new service – like carryout assistance, a personal shopper or a plant-sitting service  – to keep those employees in motion. How can you adjust your inventory to keep it balanced and moving? Get rid of products that aren’t selling and work with your suppliers to see what changes you can make.

As garden centre retailers, you offer your customers affordable products that they can enjoy throughout the year. If you can get people to keep spending during the tough economic times and reorganize your business practices to become more efficient and lean, it will only be to your benefit when the economy recovers.

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