Spring 2010 brings mixed results for horticulture sales


A strange spring and the economy seem to have produced a mixed bag of sales results for nursery and landscape businesses, according to Jeff Miller, executive director of the Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association.
Sales got off to a good start in March and April as spring came early to the Mid-Atlantic and then slowed in May, Miller quoted his members as reporting.
Jim Monroe, owner of Greenbrier Nursery with stores in Beckley, W. Va., and Roanoke, Va., said they have had an “okay” spring.  The different months have seen different sales patterns due to weather, he indicated.  March was cold and winter-like, making early sales slow.  The second half of April with its great weather  brought excellent sales. The wet weekends of May made for below average sales and June’s unusual heat has curbed consumer interest in gardening.
David T. Goodson of Goodson and Associates in Wake Forest N.C., an independent sales rep working for several nurseries, said nursery sales have been a little better than he expected, especially in retail.
He had been in Boone, N.C. during the third weekend in June and reported sales of bedding plants were brisk there where it was a little cooler than other places in the Mid-Atlantic. He said these sales can be expected to drop off as the summer gets hotter.
Miller speculated, in a telephone interview, that the early buying resulted from a pent-up demand that came from the bad weather of winter which kept people indoors so much and the early arrival of spring.  He said this may have jump started sales.
Goodson agreed that cabin fever may have been a contributing factor.
“The winter weather was so bad people just wanted to get out and plant something,” he said while traveling in West Virginia.  His business takes him throughout the Mid-Atlantic and into the North East. He noted not everyone had the same kind of winter but said it was brutal in some places. 
“Expectations were not real good in the spring,” Goodson said.  “I don’t think sales are that great but they are okay.”
Goodson characterized retail as “the shining star” of the horticulture industry this spring.  He said other segments have not done as well.
“Spring coming so quickly caused trees to leaf out early,” Miller noted.  “It’s the first spring I can remember that we have not had a big frost.”
Miller said he understands that landscape contractors are still doing their work, but have scaled back.
Goodson explained that some people may have planned landscape plantings for last fall or winter but waited to see if they would have the money. Some have now made the decision to plant, he continued. 
He said the cut back in new home building and a slowdown in commercial landscaping have also been factors in the lack of spring work for folks growing larger trees and landscape plants.
Miller predicted that it will be a while before folks know just what the spring sales have done and why.