February 2007
Beating the Holiday Blues By Catherine Evans, Managing Editor

The holidays are always a time of year that many garden center retailers seem to dread. During one of your most creative seasons, the complaints I hear are that you put a lot of work into decorating, and no one comes in to buy anything. I also hear complaints that holiday décor isn’t selling, cut trees are doing even worse — all shoppers want are discounts, and no one wants quality any more. My answer to this is, “Welcome to the retail world!” Not to be cruel, but you are not the only ones with these types of feelings.

For the 2006 holiday season, the National Retail Federation (NRF) forecasted holiday sales would only increase about 5 percent for November and December. However, despite the NRF’s report that sales only increased a modest 4.4 percent, I know that garden centers did not have as horrible a year as some thought. I did hear cut tree sales were a little down, but overall, people were not terribly disappointed.

“How does she know?” you ask. Because Lawn & Garden Retailer just completed its annual Christmas review survey (see results on page CR 7), and retailers told us that this past year was not so bad.

The Midwest, Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and several other regions experienced warmer holiday seasons than normal, which helped bring people out to shop without having to worry about snow, ice or cold (a huge plus). However, not everyone had a banner year. One of the largest complaints I heard from consumers is they didn’t have time to put up a tree or decorate their homes. So where does that leave you?

Check page CR 14 to see what some garden centers did for holiday season promotions compared to those in the spring season. You can also turn to page CR 12 to learn all about the 2006 Garden Centers of America Holiday Tour and see what some garden centers in the Chicago area did to draw customers into their stores.

The holiday season has a lot to offer, and as you will read on page CR 10, new and fresh ideas are not easy to come by, but they do exist. I know it is hard to imagine each new holiday season will be great, especially with places like Home Depot now offering holiday decorations. You need to remember you are the design experts. Customers don’t walk into the big box stores, look at a beautifully decorated tree and say, “I want to take this whole thing home right now.” It is the creativity of you and your employees that can make this type of purchase happen.

You might consider the holiday season to be a big headache, especially when smiling children walk into your winter wonderland and all you can think is, “Boy, I hope they don’t break anything.” But isn’t it really a nice sight to see, especially when mom walks out with a cart full of holiday décor?

Catherine Evans, Managing Editor

Catherine Evans is the Managing Editor of Lawn & Garden Retailer. She can be reached at [email protected] or (847) 391-1050.


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