Saturday, 12 May 2012 03:00

Why Some Retailers are Doing Poorly

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I wanted to write this last year at this time but did not have the guts.  Now that I am seeing it again, it is time to say something.

Some retail nurseries need to take a hard look at themselves as they are the cause of their own failure.

Last year in April-May I did a 3 week Texas sales trip covering from Laredo, through San Antonio, Hill Country, Austin and Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.  Last year most every retail nursery had a great spring with records in March and many had record April sales until the drought slowed things down a bunch.  Three nurseries stood out in all my visits (approximately 120 nurseries visited) because they had very poor springs. It was so contrary to what everyone around them was experiencing.  All blamed the poor economy, government interference and a host of other things.

As I write this, I am again doing a similar 3 week trip and already have visited over 80 nurseries.  Again, in spite of last year's horrendous drought and current dought fears, retail sales have been very good with most being within 10-20% of last year's record sales.  Two nurseries stand out as having had very poor spring sales.  I expect tomorrow I will see the third if the owner has not changed anything from last year.

The poorly performing nurseries stand out because all three have no reason for a customer to come in to the nursery.  There are no blooming flowers out front and no edibles (fruit trees, grapes, berries, vegetables, etc) available to sell.  They are stocked with green foundation shrubs and perennials and pottery.

Nurseries sell products that make you feel good.  We cater to a person's aesthetics and emotions.  We are the suppliers of art for the landscape and delicious, sweet flavors for the taste buds.  Edibles have been one of the hot spots in retail nursery sales for 4-5 years now.  If you don't have displays of attractive color and edibles you have missed the boat.

Here is another observation from my Texas travels.  The population seems to be expanding at a rapid rate into the Hill Country to the west of San Antonio and Austin.  On the surface, this seems odd.  The winters are colder, the ground is a lot of rock and very difficult to landscape.  On the other sides of these cities it would be a lot easier to build homes and plant gardens or landscapes.  So why is the population shifting to the Hill Country?  I am guessing it is the beauty of the wildflowers in the spring.  It is incomparable and one of the reasons I love doing this sales trip at this time of year.

If a homeowner is willing to move to the rocks to see spring wildflowers, I suggest nurseries make sure their display of spring blooms is just as outstanding so customers come through your doors.

Ron Ludekens 5-12-2012