What Will Spring Bring?
We surveyed nearly 200 growers in February about their expectations and preparations for spring. Here's what they had to say.
March 30, 2010
How will your greenhouse operation fare this spring? Only time will tell, but two factors in particular were weighing on the minds of growers leading into spring: the weather and the economy.
In fact, 93 percent of the growers we surveyed listed the weather (66 percent) or the economy (27 percent) as the most important factor to their success this spring. Competition, energy costs and other factors are important, growers say, but spring success regularly comes down to rain or shine.
"The past three springs we have not had very good weather and this has been a major factor in our performance, along with the economic situation and our traditional internal organization and marketing methods," says a Southeastern grower-retailer. "Our economic outlook has improved, we're due for a good spring weather wise and we are changing our approach to marketing to deal with the changes in communication and media."
The weather and the economy were the two most important factors to grower success a year ago, as well, but one difference between the last two springs, according to a Northwestern wholesale grower, is the number of companies in operation.
"The industry had too many poorly managed operations and 2009 was a shakeout year," he says. "The industry is much better off because many companies closed their doors and quit."
Less competition, then, means higher sales expectations for many growers. Compared to a year ago, growers are more optimistic about sales. Sixty-five percent of growers expect sales increases this spring - a year ago just 56 percent expected increases - while only 12 percent of growers expect sales decreases this year. A year ago - before many poorly managed operations were weeded out - 26 percent of growers expected decreases.
"Although the economy is going to continue to be troubled for some time, not everyone is directly affected," says a Southwestern grower-retailer. "There are plenty of opportunities to grow. Last year, we got better at doing more with less, and this year we have the opportunity to increase sales and stay lean. I expect as good a year as we can keep up with."
Still, growers were having a few issues leading into spring. We asked growers if it's been more or less difficult securing or continuing lines of credit for 2010 than it was a year ago, and 38 percent say it's been more difficult. Twenty-eight percent of growers say securing or continuing lines of credit has been less difficult this year, and one-third of growers indicated they aren't using lines of credit this year.
Additionally, growers say cuttings and seed have been slightly more difficult to obtain than they were at this time last year. Thirty-six percent of growers report having more difficulty obtaining cuttings and seed than they did a year ago. Plugs and liners, however, aren't any more difficult to obtain this year than they were in 2009, according to growers. Specifically, growers report annuals are giving them the most trouble.
In The Greenhouse
Another difference between 2009 and 2010 is the number of growers changing the number of crops and varieties they grow for spring. In 2009, 75 percent of growers indicated they were changing the number of crops and varieties grown from the year before. This year, 85 percent report changing the number.
One change the majority of growers aren't making is the number of industry events they plan to attend. Last year, nearly 30 percent of growers said they planned to attend fewer events than the year before. The majority of growers (48 percent) say they plan to attend the same number of events in 2010 as they did the year before, and the percentages of those planning to attend fewer (26 percent) and those planning to attend more (26 percent) are the same.
But while growers will be hitting the road as often as usual, many are hoping consumers stay home - to garden
"We had the coldest and snowiest weather this winter we've had in the last 20 years - over 70 inches of snow," says a Virginia grower-retailer. "Customers are itching to garden, even with the snow on the ground."