“… AND THE SURVEY SAYS …”

January 28, 2008
Written by Myron Love
Our annual mini survey of retail growers across Canada found most were happy with the past spring season.

For many of the retail growers we surveyed, this past spring featured strong sales.

“You couldn’t ask for a nicer spring,” says Kelvin Vanderveen of Vanderveens’ Greenhouses Ltd. They’re situated in Carman in southern Manitoba. “Sales were strong throughout May and into June.”

Jan Pedersen, president of Shelmerdine Garden Centre in Winnipeg, reports that spring sales were up 20 per cent overall.

Priscilla Mah, of Central Botanical Centre in Saskatoon, says May long weekend sales were extremely good.   

It’s a sentiment echoed by Jim Hole, of Hole’s Greenhouses in St. Albert, Alberta. He reports that sales were up 10 per cent in May, and June was good as well. “We had a couple of all-time record days,” he says. “There’s a lot of optimism in Alberta.”   

At Grumpy’s Greenhouse and Gardens, in Pincher Creek, Alberta, Debbie Everts reports that business was excellent in the spring. “We had good weather up until early June.”   

John Zaplatynsky, president of GardenWorks, which has 10 stores throughout British Columbia, says the season started off quite slowly on the west coast. Two of the three days of the Victoria Day weekend, however, were good. He notes that there was a lot of pent-up demand.   

According to our mini survey, the only other area of Western Canada where sales weren’t strong was in the western region of Saskatchewan.

Cathy Paggett, of K.P. Gardens in Unity, says sales weren’t too bad on two of the three days of the Victoria Day weekend, but adds that the Saturday was rainy. “Last year’s sales were fairly good,” she says. “This year, sales were definitely better than they were in 2004.”   

In Nova Scotia, Karen Brown of Pine View Farm Inc. in Bridgewater, says they had good weather for a change in May. Sales were up that month, she reports, but cold and wet weather in early June put a damper on sales.   

On Cape Breton, Carol Dixon, of The Greenhouse Co-op Ltd., says the weather was good and sales were also strong. “Our business hinges on the weather.”

In Québec, Michelle Senecal of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, reports that while sales were better than in 2005, overall they are just a little above average. “We had only two sunny weekends in May,” he says. “The rain slowed sales.” The forecast for June was for sunnier weather, “which will be good for the growers.”   

Jean Windover, of Windover Nurseries in Petrolia in southwestern Ontario, is quite happy with sales this spring. “Our nursery stock sold very well.”

Leanda Pykerman, of Pykerman’s Nursery in Kenora, reports that somewhat better weather resulted in better sales over the May long weekend. “Saturday and Sunday were a little cooler, so things weren’t so great,” she notes, “but we were busier on the Monday.”   

The only part of the country where sales are down seems to be the Greater Toronto area. Karl Stensson, vice-president of Sheridan Nurseries, with 11 stores in the Greater Toronto region, reports his stores were doing well up until the long weekend, but that rainy and cold weather over the weekend really set back sales.   

“Before the long weekend, we were a couple of percentage points ahead of last year,” he says. “Since then, we have been playing catch-up. It took us a long time to catch up to where we should have been.”   

Stensson reports that consumers this spring were buying larger plants, such as 4" annuals and 5" geraniums.

That observation is shared by many of the other growers surveyed. 
 
Jean Windover says that she has found a niche in 12" baskets. “They’re more expensive,” she says, “but people are buying them.”   

Marcel Senecal reports that 4" pots, along with most hanging baskets, were quite popular among consumers in Québec. 

Priscilla Mah, in Saskatoon, notes that potato vine and bacopa hanging plants were most popular in her area.  

Jim Hole points out that his customers were buying larger, fancier containers and pots. “People seem to be looking for something more artistic-looking for their yards,” he says. “They want planters that will make a statement.”   

On the west coast, perennials continue to be strong sellers, notes John Zaplatynsky. “The newer introductions are particularly popular,” he says.  “We are also getting improved varieties with better flowering and better foliage.”

Myron Love is a freelance writer and photographer in Winnipeg.

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