Bedding Plant Survey 2006

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Every year we send our bedding plant survey to a random sampling of 1,000 growers across the country. This year we had less than a 3 percent response rate, which was a little disappointing, but those of you who did respond provided some great insight. 

About Our Survey 

Respondents: 28
Average Size: 317,458 square feet
Largest: 1,300,000 square feet
Smallest: 4,500 square feet
States Represented: (18) AL, CA, CT, HI, IL, KY, MA, MD, MI, MN, NH, NM, NY, OH, OK, PA, TN, VA
Sales: Wholesale 18%, Retail 32%, Both 50%
Response Rate: 2.8% (1,000 surveys, 28 responses)

The spring season was varied for our respondents, some rating it a 2, and others giving it a perfect 10. The positive, though, is that no one’s spring was too abominable (or if it was, you weren’t in the mood to fill out our survey). Seven of the respondents had average springs, 17 had above average springs, and only 4 gave their springs a rating of 4 or lower. 

The Ratings

When asked to rate this spring, one grower in New Mexico described it as the “best year ever,” while a Connecticut grower said, “It was the worst season I ever had. Weather was poor and the rising cost of gas caused consumers to spend less than normal.” A Michigan wholesaler who rated the season a 3 summed it up this way: “(We) had many challenges that were very costly to our company with crop quality and vendor reliability.” A New York wholesaler/retailer suffered from the negative effects of an area economic slowdown that meant “less money for frills” for a lot of customers.

A Sampling Of Weather According To Respondents

New York: 
April–cold
May–wet and cold
June–very wet
Virginia: April–excellent
May–excellent
June–excellent
New Hampshire:
April–great
May–poor, rain 28 days
June–OK
Tennessee: April–good
May–wet and cool
June–hot and dry
Minnesota: 
Lousy through Mother’s Day, after that great
California:
April–cool and nice
May–cool and nice
June–pretty warm and humid
Ohio:
Excellent weather. Best spring weather in recent memory. Moderate temperatures and not a lot of rain
Oklahoma: 
April–fine, cool
May–wonderful
June–not bad
Illinois: 
April–very sunny and warm
Early May–rain, cool, slow sales
Mid-May -June 15th–perfect

Competition also was steep for some of our respondents. One Michigan retailer rated the spring a 4.5 because of an “oversaturated market — greenhouses selling extremely cheap product,” making it “too hard to compete.” An Ohio-based wholesaler/retailer, whose spring was a 7, said the biggest factor in determining that rating was increased competition that made it “hard to get good margins.”

It’s no surprise that energy was another factor that determined the ratings. Although one Illinois wholesaler said sales were a 9, the spring as a whole was rated a 7 because of having to recoup energy costs from the 2005/2006 winter. “Even with increases of pricing and a new energy surcharge, it couldn’t keep up with expenses,” wrote the grower. A Pennsylvania grower reported, “Good sales, but fuel prices caused us to cut back.”

On the whole, the weather seemed to cooperate with most of our respondents, especially in April. Growers in Virginia and Kentucky

reported great weather in April, May and June, but the northeast experienced a cold and rainy April and May. Overall, May was the worst month for our respondents, with 12 of them saying the weather was poor.

Winners and Losers

When asked which plants exceeded expectations this year, several growers said none did. Hands down, though, Wave petunias (one of the few brands named by growers) top the list as the variety that most exceeded expectations. As far as sales volume goes, geraniums and petunias tied for the No. 1 spot, with three growers specifying Wave Petunias as their top seller. Impatiens came in at a close third, along with combination planters and mixed hanging baskets.

As in years past, the love/hate relationship with geraniums prevailed. They took the No. 1 spot for plants that did less than expected sales-wise. Impatiens join the dichotomy, too, taking the No. 2 spot for doing less than expected, while still maintaining a high score in the best sellers category.

Top Crops

The 2006 best sellers by volume:
Geraniums 18%
Petunias 18%
Impatiens 14%
Combo Planters/Baskets 14%
Begonias 7%
Veggies 7%
Other 22%


 

Supply Chain

Breakdown of where our respondents are supplying:
Independent Garden Centers 50%
Own Retail 75%
Local/Regional Chain 7%
National Chain 11%


 

Crops That Flopped

These crops did less than growers expected sales-wise:
Geraniums 22%
Impatiens 11%
Vinca 7%
Other 60%

One Connecticut grower’s response to what did less than expected in sales this year was “everything.” We’re glad only one respondent felt that way. In general, it seemed to be a decent year.  

What’s In Store

So what do our survey respondents have in the works for next year? Some of them won’t change a thing, while others will completely revamp. A Michigan wholesaler plans to aim for “less variety overall for big boxes and larger blocks of colors and varieties.” The OFA Short Course inspired a Kentucky retailer and a Maryland wholesaler/retailer to change to some new varieties they saw there, and the New York grower who suffered from an area economic slowdown will have “less of everything!” An Illinois grower said several factors will determine next year’s plan, including Ball Seed Trials, the Michigan Growers Tour, Local growers’ trials and feedback from customers. 

 A couple of our more elusive respondents chose to keep their plans on the down low, most likely so they wouldn’t lose their edge to competition. One grower from Oklahoma circled both “yes” and “no” on the survey when asked if he/she will add or remove varieties from next year’s crop mix. “No telling,” wrote the respondent. A response from an Ohio grower read, “It’s a secret.”

Only next year’s bedding plant survey will tell. Thanks to all who participated.

Ann-Marie Vazzano was managing editor of American Fruit Grower magazine, a Meister publication.

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