State Of The Industry 2012: An Overview

Greenhouse Grower surveyed more than 100 readers online late last year, asking growers about their annual sales, their sales expectations for this year and how they’re coping with labor costs. The typical grower who took our survey, as you’ll see in this whitepaper, is the Midwestern grower/retailer with less than 50,000 square feet of greenhouse space. But we generated feedback from growers throughout the United States and of all sizes and kinds (e.g., grower/retailer, wholesale grower, young plant grower).

Data in this whitepaper is, however, presented in three forms, reflecting:

1. Growers of all sizes
2. Growers with more than 500,000 square feet of greenhouse space
3. Growers with less than 500,000 square feet of greenhouse space

For example, growers with more than 500,000 square feet and those with less than 500,000 differ on the factor that will be most important to their success in 2012. The majority (69.2 percent) in the bigger grower group says weather is the most important factor. Thirty-nine percent of those in the smaller grower group agree weather is the most important factor, but 41.6 percent from the group are more concerned about the economy in the new year.

“Between a faltering economy and water bans, it was a lousy year,” says a Northeast grower/retailer with less than 50,000 square feet of greenhouse space. “This was the third year in a row of a decrease [for us]. Too much competition from the big boxes. They’re killing us!”

Still, when we asked about the factor that had the greatest impact on grower sales performances in 2011, growers of all sizes are more agreeable on the notion that the weather was the factor that impacted their businesses most.

Regarding 2012 sales, the biggest growers are forecasting bigger sales increases over 2011 than the group of growers we surveyed with less than 500,000 square feet of greenhouse space. Not a single grower in the 500,000-and-up group is forecasting sales to be down this year. About 7 percent in that group expect sales to be flat this year, but the other 93 percent expect sales increases of some kind. Fifty percent of the biggest growers, in fact, expect sales to be up between 5 and 10 percent.

Labor is another topic we asked growers about, and growers of all sizes agree labor is a big expense. The overwhelming majority of growers with more than 500,000 square feet (83.3 percent) say labor is its top cost. Smaller-sized operations think differently, though. Only 36.8 percent of those with less than 500,000 square feet say labor is their top cost. About 30 percent are labeling labor as their second-highest cost, and 14.5 percent say it’s not even among their top five costs.

We also asked those surveyed about the equipment and automation they use. All growers with more than 500,000 square feet surveyed indicate they have ventilation systems and flat fillers. At least three in four growers in that same group also have lighting, fogging/misting equipment, blackout curtains, a transplanter, a conveyor, irrigation controls, label/tagging equipment, a potting machine and a seeder.

You’ll find more data on labor and sales in the pages to come. If you have any questions or comments about the data we found, contact Managing Editor Kevin Yanik at [email protected].

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