A Promising Spring Ahead

May 01, 2009
Written by
The last weeks of winter can be a gloomy time as Mother Nature teases us with the possibility of a spring thaw and slams us back into reality with a late-March snowstorm. Tack on the never-ending talk of the dreary economy and it’s safe to say everyone is in need of a little optimism.

Consider yourself lucky because the garden centre industry is one that can afford to look ahead to sunny days. Not only do you offer a product that has the power to brighten both a backyard and someone’s day; but this year there are many areas where garden centres can expand and grow in the face of tough times.

Farmers’ markets have become big business, thanks in part to the buy local and eco-friendly movements. A February report by Farmers’ Market Canada (FMC) reveals that across North America, farmers’ markets play a key role in selling agricultural products and have a purchasing power of 28 million shopper-visits, with an average of $32 for every visit. That’s a lot of apples when you consider the small price tags of the products sold in a farmers’ market.

In a press release, FMC chair Robert Chorney explains the appeal of these markets: “Consumers have expressed a clear desire to return to healthier, fresher, locally produced products. They have a strong belief in the integrity of shopping within their community.” These are all qualities that can be applied to your garden centre. Jump on board the farmers’ market wagon and get involved with your local community market, set up your own stand or create a weekend market with other local vendors in your parking lot. It’s a great way to build trust with your customers who want to buy local and get shoppers out to your garden centre week after week.

In our last issue, we discussed how more Canadians are forgoing vacations and spending more time at home this year. Now the federal government has given them even more reason to focus on their dwellings. The new Home Renovation Tax Credit – a one-year, temporary 15 per cent income tax credit on eligible home renovation projects – will entice consumers to shell out for new projects in the kitchen, bathroom, basement and even the outdoors. Home- and cottage-owners will be able to use the credit on a new home addition, deck or retaining wall. They can also apply it to laying new sod or landscaping that new deck. Take advantage of the credit by making sure your customers know that there’s no better finishing touch on a revamped backyard than a new garden plot, hanging basket or a collection of bright, blooming container gardens. Consider teaming up with a local contractor to offer a combined deal or create your own package around this new tax credit. Let your customers know how you can help them both save money and spend more time enjoying their backyard.

For more ideas on how you can capitalize and grow this year, check our Michael Lascelle’s article, “Thriving in the Green Revolution” and flip to Brian Minter’s story on “Growing Sales in Tough Economic Times.”

The most important thing you can do at your garden centre is to keep a bright outlook both on your business and in your business. Let your customers know that in the face of all the economic doom and gloom, everything’s come up flowers (you’re not limited to only roses, of course) at your garden centre this year.

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