February 25, 2009

Home Depot Loses $54 Million

The Home Depot Inc. reported a fiscal fourth-quarter loss of $54 million on Tuesday, due in part to its plan to close its four home improvement brands. The company lost 3 cents per share during the fourth quarter, compared to a profit of $671 million (40 cents per share) during the same period last year. “We expect the home improvement market in 2009 will remain just as challenging as 2008, but we will continue to invest in our associates and stores to set a strong foundation for the long-term health of our company,” chairman and chief executive Frank Blake said. For the year, Home Depot’s profits dropped 49 percent to $2.26 billion ($1.34 per share), down from $4.4 billion ($2.37 per share). Full-year revenue dropped 8 percent to $71.29 billion. Read more here.

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February 24, 2009

Opportunity Awaits As Housing Prices Hit Rock Bottom

The bad news: The S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index plunged a record 18.2 percent during the fourth quarter of 2008. The good news: Your products can play a role in reversing the downturn. Stuart Hoffman, chief economist for PNC Financial Services Group, says home prices probably won’t increase for another few years. Nothing adds value to the exterior of a home like a standout landscape, though, and a few beautiful plants can be the difference between a pair of homes for sale on the same block. Just think: An investment of a few hundred dollars on spring plants has the potential to translate into a few thousand dollars on the housing market for thousands of frustrated people with homes for sale. Perhaps that’s an angle we, as an industry, should be focusing on this spring.   To read the full Business Week article, click here.

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February 23, 2009

Ravin’ Traven: Officially Organic & Beaming About Spring

Lloyd Traven, owner of Peace Tree Farm in Kintnersville, Pa., is ranting again and sharing his optimism on spring. His operation, meanwhile, is now USDA certified organic for vegetables and herbs. An Excerpt From His Feb. 23 Rant: Wow, this will definitely be a winter to remember. There were incredible, historic events aplenty. Where do you start? How about Bristol Palin’s boyfriend getting tossed out of his apprenticeship, and Bristol working toward her GED? The Octo-Mom and the Un-Reality Show? At least Madonna and Angelina buy their babies instead of use the last money California had in the state treasury. Are these Wall Street bonus babies? Another baseball player taking steroids–I’m shocked. Shocked I tell you! What’s next, a Bollywood movie wins the Oscar? No way that will ever happen! There are just too many choices for things to go ballistic over, so I’m going to go way out of character. […]

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February 20, 2009

Recession Grows Interest In Seeds, Gardening

Vegetable seed sales are up and, according to a recent USA Today article, they’re squeezing flowers for space in U.S. gardens. “As the economy goes down, food gardening goes up,” says Bruce Butterfield, director of the National Gardening Association, which projects the number of homes growing vegetables will jump more than 40 percent this year. “We haven’t seen this kind of spike in 30 years.” According to the article, vegetable seed sales at Park Seed are up 20 percent this year. Ferry-More Seed also reports an increase in vegetable seed sales, but John Hamrick, vice president of sales and marketing, says the company has switched its inventory mix from half veggie seeds, half flower seeds to 60 percent veggies, 40 percent flowers. To read the full USA Today article, click here.

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February 19, 2009

New Study Shows Impact Of Floral Industry On The Economy

The U.S. fruit, vegetable and mass-market floral industry contributes more than $550 billion annually to the nation’s economy according to a study from Battelle. The economic impact study of the industry was commissioned by Produce Marketing Association (PMA). “Our industry has substantial economic and employment impact in the United States, contributing significantly to the economies of every state and congressional district in the country,” said PMA President and CEO Bryan Silbermann. The study determined the U.S. fresh produce and mass-market floral industry–everything from local growers to national grocery chains–accounts for more than $275 billion in direct economic output, and a total economic impact of more than $554 billion when its “ripple” effects–including suppliers’ businesses and worker spending–are added. Every dollar of production value ultimately generates $16.75 of total economic value. According to Kathy Means, PMA vice president for government relations and public affairs, the study pegs the industry’s total impact […]

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February 10, 2009

The New-Look SNA Green Industry Trade Show

The Southern Nursery Association’s (SNA) Green Industry Trade Show kicks off tomorrow in Atlanta, marking the first time the show takes place in the winter after more than 100 years of summer get-togethers. The show will also take place at a smaller venue, the Cobb Galleria Centre. Attendance had been down in recent years, but the SNA is banking on success with a winter show in part because orders are no longer being placed months in advance like past years. Instead, growers are finalizing orders last minute to prepare for their spring inventory demands. “Buying habits are changing,” says Buddy Martin, owner of Martins Nursery in Semmes, Ala. “Orders are being placed just prior to when inventory is needed and not as far in advance. I believe the winter show is a good move and will reenergize the show and its exhibitors.” In addition to finalizing last-minute orders, attendees at […]

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January 26, 2009

Home Depot Cuts 7,000 Jobs, Freezes Salaries

The Home Depot announced Monday it will cut 7,000 jobs and freeze officer salaries due to the current economic climate. The company said the job cuts are “to better align the company’s cost structure with the current economic environment.” Last January Home Depot cut 500 jobs, and in May it closed 15 stores, eliminating 1,300 positions. Three-hundred positions were eliminated in 2006 from the company’s Atlanta headquarters. In addition to slashing jobs, a salary freeze has been implemented for all of Home Depot’s officers. The company also is closing its EXPO business, which “has not performed well financially and is not expected to anytime soon,” according to the company. Home Depot will shutter 34 EXPO Design Center stores, five YardBIRDS stores, two Design Center stores and seven HD locations over the next two months, eliminating 5,000 workers. The company believes the changes will result in a boost of $305 million […]

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January 23, 2009

Our Industry At The Inauguration

Jonathan Bardzik, director of marketing for the American Nursery & Landscape Association, was among the million or so people to witness President Barack Obama’s inauguration in person. TrueLeaf Technologies CEO Jim Reardon, pictured  with fiancé Patty Windmueller, was among those in attendance, too. They both recapped their experiences with us and shared a few photos. Bardzik On The Inauguration“President Obama’s inauguration was an incredible event to witness. The crowds were like nothing I had ever seen in Washington, D.C. before with people densely thronging through the streets near the Capitol that had been closed off to traffic. Yet, there was such an air of civility and calm. People were gladly offering directions, picking up dropped gloves and chasing after to return them to their owners, and greeting each other warmly. “Great respect was shown, not only for the incoming president, but for the event and the other leaders present. While […]

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January 19, 2009

How Are Things Looking For Spring?

This month, we checked in with several leading plug and liner growers to see how orders are coming in and what the trends are leading into the spring season. Allen Pyle at C. Raker & Sons in Litchfield, Mich., says efforts to improve efficiencies and reduce waste are paying off while helping the company prepare for a season of later orders: “We’ve seen a trend in later booking each year for at least the last 3-5 years, and it’s worse for 2009,” Pyle says. “We know we’ve lost some orders to lower-cost suppliers, with growers looking to save on expenses where they can. (Of course, cheaper up front isn’t always cheaper in the long run, if the quality isn’t what the grower expects.) “We frequently see growers come back the year after they try a cheap supplier. We often see the same thing with growers who try doing their own […]

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January 16, 2009

Meeting Market Needs

As a barometer to see how the spring season was shaping up, I checked in with six leading young plant growers in three regions of the country who specialize in plugs, liners, annuals and perennials. Although the trend toward orders being placed later has gotten progressively worse the last five years, this year has been significantly worse, they say. On average, growers are booking about 20 percent less than last year and the busiest shipping weeks have moved from nine and 10 to 10, 11 and 12. While numbers may be down, plug and liner growers are seeing gains with certain customers and new customers but not enough to offset the overall reduction in orders. Many growers have opted to sow seed and stick cuttings instead of buying plugs and liners. Some are purchasing larger sizes for quick turns later. Others switched to lower-cost suppliers. Some orders had to be […]

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January 13, 2009

View: A Positive Outlook On 2009

Al Zylstra, a TrueLeaf Technologies national sales manager based in California, can see the light at the end of the tunnel. He believes the economy is on the upswing and that growers and garden center retailers should be prepared to pounce on the opportunities ahead. And The Economic Reality Is?   Recession. Depression. Economic adjustment. Financial meltdown. Conflagration of Wall Street and financial industry greed. Housing market bubble bursting. Deleveraging. Or, whatever it is you want to call it! How much longer will it last? What can growers expect this spring? I’m going to go out on a limb and hereby prognosticate that we will soon see that we’ve already hit the bottom of the trough, and that we have already been bumping along the bottom for a few weeks or so. After another month or so, we will begin the slow, initially jerky but none-the-less steady rise back to […]

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January 6, 2009

Storms Setting Some Oregon Growers Back

The state of Oregon endured one of its worst winter storms in years late last month, resulting in hundreds, if not thousands, of damaged greenhouses that could not withstand the weight of snow and ice that built up on their roofs. The Oregon Association of Nurseries (OAN) estimates millions of dollars of damages. OAN asked its members to complete an online survey about damage to their businesses, and it learned 160 growers in 12 Oregon counties reported that the cost of damage to structures and crops ranges from $18 to $31 million. Growers reported the total estimated cost to repair or replace greenhouses and structures equals $10.8 million. OAN is now seeking disaster relief in 12 counties. “Our growers are self reliant and unaccustomed to government assistance,” says OAN President Tom McNabb. “But during these tough economic times, when banks are more cautious about making farm loans, we need access to […]

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