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Start the season with new industry insights

March 15, 2012  By Brandi Cowen

Mar. 15, 2012, Simcoe, ON — The results of the 2012 Canadian Garden Centre & Nursery Reader Survey are in!

We asked you to help us help the industry learn a little more about itself, and that’s exactly what you did. From Feb. 12 through Mar. 14, garden centre and nursery operators and managers from coast to coast answered questions about all aspects of their operations, from staffing and pay scales to sales and marketing. We’ve sorted through all that data to bring you a snapshot of the industry so sit back, relax, and read on to see how your business measures up.

The majority of respondents are sole owners (69 per cent) or co-owners (25 per cent) of an independently owned garden centre. Very few are part of a larger chain of garden centres (four per cent) or a retail grocery or hardware chain (three per cent).


More than six in ten respondents (64 per cent) are members of a provincial horticulture association and the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association (CNLA) or Garden Centres Canada.

Fifty-seven per cent of our respondents work more than 50 hours per week from March through October. Fortunately these hard working owners and managers have some help tending to their businesses. The average operation employs six full-time permanent staff and five permanent part-time staff, in addition to nine seasonal full-time and 11 seasonal part-time workers.

More than half of the owners and managers surveyed (57 per cent) report that either a staff member or they themselves have formal training in retail, retail management or marketing.

Despite a host of challenges including the weather (mentioned by 97 per cent of respondents), a tough economy (89 per cent), competition from big box stores (83 per cent) and a changing customer base (80 per cent), two-thirds of respondents reported an increase in their customer count last year. The average retail sale per customer totaled $89.37 in 2011. That’s up from 2010, when the average transaction fell in the $41 to $60 price range.

More respondents reported total 2011 retail sales falling into the $250,001 to $500,000 range than in any other bracket. Annuals (26 per cent), nursery stock such as trees, shrubs and evergreens (24 per cent) and perennials (14 per cent) accounted for the greatest percentage of total retail sales last year. Patio and furniture items (0.4 per cent), sod (0.6 per cent), bulbs and seed packs (1.4 per cent) and houseplants (1.4 per cent) made the smallest contributions to overall retail sales.

Last year, 10 per cent of total retail sales were spent on advertising, including newspaper, radio, TV, flyers, billboards, websites, direct mail and catalogues.
Garden centre and nursery owners and managers are optimistic heading into the 2012 season. More than 80 per cent of respondents anticipate an increase in sales this year. Here’s what respondents are projecting in terms of sales this year:

  • Eight per cent expect to see increases above 20 per cent
  • 31 per cent anticipate that their operation will post gains in the 10 to 20 per cent range
  • 44 per cent expect a one to nine per cent increase over last year
  • 15 per cent believe sales to hold steady
  • Less than one per cent each expect sales to decrease between 10 and 20 per cent, or by more than 20 per cent

Thank you to everyone who participated in the annual Canadian Garden Centre & Nursery Reader Survey. Be sure to check out our June issue for the full results from this year’s survey.

The 2012 Canadian Garden Centre & Nursery Reader Survey ran in conjunction with the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association and Garden Centres Canada.

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