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No time to attend a training program in person? Ian is a widely published author in retail industry trade magazines. Peruse a sampling of his published articles on critical topics for retailers, or visit his blog, “Bits & Bobs” to read what he’s thinking about today.


National Gardening Survey 2016: What’s Not To Like?

The results of the 2016 National Gardening Survey are in and it suggests a bold, exciting future for garden retail. Ian breaks it down for you in this month’s issue of Green Profit magazine. Download a PDF to read the whole article.


National Gardening Survey Highlights Need For Change In Retail Industry

When I first saw last year’s National Gardening Survey (NGS) results from the 2013 gardening year, I was wary of the massive jump (18 percent) in total DIY garden spending and 21 percent rise in spending per household. That did not reflect what we were hearing from our clients out in the retail trenches.Download a PDF to read the whole article.


2013 Had The Biggest Increase In Garden Spending This Century

While I know better than to make any major pronouncements based on one year’s data, the 2013 National Gardening Survey (NGS) reporting the biggest annual rise in retail sales (up $5.4 billion or 18 percent) this century to $34.9 billion is a fact that many in the industry will savor. Download a PDF to read the whole article.


National Gardening Survey

Food gardening earns more than flowers

Most readers will be familiar with a couple of statistics from the National Gardening Association’s research, such as the annual household spend per year on “gardening” or the total size of the market each year. Download a PDF to read the whole article.


Upwards & Onwards!

The importance of adjusting, adapting, assessing and learning from the past

A retailer (not a client) who called me recently was not a happy camper. After four years of declining sales, a disappearing bottom line, rising costs of doing business and one promising season after another fizzling out, he was disconsolate to say the least. Read more

What a Year!

Exasperation, confirmation and innovation

Another year is almost in the bag, four in a row of flat (is this the new “up?”) or very low growth in overall sales. There are signs of consumers twitching a little more at least in fall gardening activity such as mums, kale and so on, while some retailers have seen an uptick in fall bulbs for the first time in several years. Download a PDF to read the whole article.

Money matters

How successful operators have realigned their businesses after four years of economic downturn

The 40-something lady was still there, after 25 or so minutes of looking at the gorgeous 2-gallon perennials in full flower. Picking them up, looking at labels, then price tags (mostly $19.99 or $22.99), she was returning them to the bench and moving on a few feet. Download a PDF to read the whole article.

We’re not throwing in the trowel yet

This year’s national gardening survey shows a “bare bones” reality in consumer spending

In the August 2011 edition of Garden Center magazine, I wrote an article entitled “A Glass Half Full” about the data I had unearthed analyzing the 2011 National Gardening Survey (NGS). I got more calls, emails and feedback about that article than any previous article in 19 years of writing for this magazine. Download a PDF to read the whole article.

Slash and earn

Even full-margin garden centers can use pricing to drive traffic

If this year is anything like the last, garden retailers will be competing with anyone and everyone to get the public’s attention. As the scramble for people’s business continues, big box and national brands seem to be willing to try any rebate, coupon or incentive to tempt consumers to step into their stores or to visit their websites. In marketing terms this is called “driving traffic.” Read more

Reflections from across the pond

Retailers in the U.K. are dealing with some of the same challenges you face. Are there lessons you can learn from them?

Having led tours of England’s best garden centers for 16 years we took a break in 2008. But we popped over there again last fall to see how the garden business was coping with the recession and changing demographics. Read more

You snooze, you lose

Turn summer from restful to zestful (& successful, to boot)

Ah, summer is here, thank goodness. It’s hot. Customers have gone to the beach or mountains. The phone is not ringing every minute. You can relax, catch your breath after a crazy spring, kick back a little, go home early, recharge the batteries for a busy fall. Read more

The Retail Dance

The correct customer welcome can be worth thousands of dollars over the coming years

Spring is here. The sap is on the rise. Acacia, cherries, crocus or pussy willow (choose your Zone) are flowering, and the birds are singing. All this reminds me of something I observed last spring. Read more

2011 in Review

The year that pricing caught up with garden centers

This year will be the third in a row to show declining sales volumes for most garden centers. Again we saw a drop in both average-sale per customer and customer count. Someone somewhere is telling us something. Read more

A Glass Half Full

National Gardening Survey shows retailers have work to do

Many of you have heard about or have seen statistics from The National Gardening Survey. Every year the market research report from The National Gardening Association tells us of America’s gardening activities, spending trends and attitudes. It is one of the basic tools for manufacturers, growers and marketers for decisions on business strategies, and every year I have gleaned details to help clients decide on what to sell and how to sell it. Read more

Seeding Prosperity

In a tough economy, smart retailers do more than survive. They thrive.

Strip centers, restaurants and furniture stores going out of business proves that recent growth depended on maximum employment, maximum spending and minimal saving. As demog- rapher Kip Creel said, “Americans have spent five years using their home equity like an ATM.” Download a PDF to read the whole article.