Spring Has Sprung – (And the Garden Center Tents are Rising Around the Town!)

Springvale Nurseries 25th AnniversaryI have been terribly behind in my blog posting.  It takes a certain motivation to write and I certainly hope I have it now or you are going to be very bored!

So here are some issues I hope you will find interesting and hopefully share your comments on.

A couple years ago, we nearly lost our business from insufficient sales.  Last year was somewhat better and here it is, 2012 and our 25th anniversary.   We are happy to have made it this far and also, frustrated by how difficult it has been to make a nursery business work in this region and our current economic environment.   Perhaps the shipyard deal will make it better!

A couple weeks ago I met with one of our supplier representatives.  He told me that in the past couple of years he has lost over 40 small garden center clients who have either closed, or actually gone bankrupt!   We know of several once strong and vibrant garden center businesses who have met this fate.  Understand that many of these small businesses, if not most, were also once our wholesale clients.  This has impacted our business as well.

Some would find fault with our course of business and the fact that we are not perfect, have a few weeds, etc.  Yup, you are right!  It takes money to feed the babies and pull the weeds!

But the truth remains, our company and many like us have contributed immensely to the building of our local economy.  When a local business like Pineview Farms in Bridgewater or Green Village in Fredericton goes under is it because they have been poor managers?  I don’t think so!

They have fallen victim to the incursion of the “Monster Stores” into our lives.  Don’t get me wrong, everybody deserves to get the best prices, quality and service.

So let’s look at these individually.

1.     Price:  The chain stores do not add the margin needed by an independent garden center to survive.  This is simply because the tent city garden centre’s only purpose is to attract customers to their store vs. their competition.  The term “Loss Leader’ has been bandied about.  The typical scenario in the chain store garden center loads up with a huge inventory of imported stock and sells it barely above cost during the early part of the season.  At the end of their “market killing“ season usually late June, early July they then start the blowout sale.  This is where stock that wasn’t hardy here in the first place and hasn’t been cared for during the past 6 – 8 weeks is blown out at well below cost until they can dismantle and fold their tents for another year.

2.    Quality:  Much of the imported stock is of uncertain origin or “provenance”.  This is because the suppliers of this stock largely are not growers, they are brokers and they buy whatever they can wherever they can at the cheapest possible price (often from nurseries that have been forced to liquidate).  Do not get me wrong, some of this stock is of good quality, at least when it arrives!  But generally it is not cared for because the minimum wage staff hired to run these stores know little or nothing about how to look after the plants and they become crowded, over-watered or dried out.  Locally grown stock on the other hand costs a bit more because it is grown in a less hospitable environment (IE; The Maritimes, vs. Florida, California , Oregon, etc.))   It is grown by people who have invested their lives in being growers and know how to grow and care for plants that will survive in maritime conditions.  These plants are later flushing in the spring because they respond to our weather, as they should.

3.    Service:  I can’t say never, but I do think seldom can you find the knowledge, experience and care for both the plants and the clients in the chain store situation.  At our business and at most other local nurseries, many of their staff have worked with them for 20 or more years.  And they care about the companies that employee them, they care about their customers and they know and care about their products.  And most of these local garden centers are open all season through the peaks and valleys until the snow flies, many months after the chain stores have sucked the cream out of the market, and folded their tents!

It is a regional and local tragedy when good quality local businesses are forced out by the giants.   If you want to build a garden that will survive through thick and thin, backed by people who care, then shop at your local garden centre.  We want you to shop at Springvale of course!  But also, every community in the region has one or more good local growers who pay local wages, buy local goods and services and support their local charities and their communities.

Just buy your plants locally!  It matters!   Help keep another local garden center in business.

We have a short enough season, but over the past 25 years we have paid out over $10,000,000 in local wages and salaries.  Our staff members have brought up families, sent their kids to college, built homes and….supported all the local businesses around them.

If this sounds like a rant, so be it!  We know we have done our part to support our community for 25 years.

Paul H Grimm.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Janice Brooks on May 23, 2012 at 7:57 am

    I applaud you for what you have done with your business. I did not feel this was a rant, but actual fact. Jodi DeLong has been great at getting her followers and friends to “Like” facebook pages this year and I love to get the info from the various local nurseries. I have not even looked at the “tent stores” this year, as a result of this. We have purchased things at various local nurseries and I must say it feels good to know I am supporting local people. Hope all goes well this year, and I will be back time and time again, I am sure.

    Thank you.


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