Mother’s Day Was Strong For Many Garden Centers This Year
Despite threats (or true blasts) of inclement weather in some areas, Mother’s Day weekend set records in several areas. Check out what retailers across the country are reporting in terms of traffic, weather and how they are seeking to improve efficiency.
“Our Mother’s Day weekend was a record weekend. We had great weather and plenty of traffic. We did have a wet March and April, so the month of May has been extremely busy. Friday and Saturday was busier than on Sunday, Mothers Day.” — Gina Whitener, Ooltewah Nursery, Ooltewah, Tenn.
“Sadly, we were down about 17 percent overall, which is contrary to the rest of our spring sales figures so far. Things have been going gangbusters here this spring and suddenly — Wham! The weather was cooler than it has been, a little cloudy with a chill in the air. The good news is that our gift departments were up more than 20 percent, and our pottery sales have been the biggest increase in our hard goods category. Why were we down so much? We are really leaning toward the competition from the likes of Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods for some of the loss in our Flower Shop. This Mother’s Day weekend, Whole Foods had designers building arrangements “by request and to go” on tables on their front porch at very reasonable prices. If you have a Trader Joe’s in your neighborhood, you know how good the quality and prices are on their cut flowers and orchids.” —Chris Martinez, Orchard Nursery & Florist, Lafayette, Calif.
“It snowed again in the Denver metro area over the weekend. Last year it was nearly the same exact set up — Friday was cool and overcast, Saturday rain and cool, and overnight into Sunday, snow! We had an average of at least 8 inches in our area, complete with broken branches all over town because many trees had already leafed out due to a mild spring. We had to lay down and cover all our potted trees and shrubs. Many were put on pallets and put into our indoor loading dock area to keep from cold and snow damage. We put our perennials on racks and moved them indoors to our garages. Luckily we did not have much damage; however our trees planted in our grounds had some breakage, as did many trees in our area.
We have a huge open house event every year on Mother’s Day weekend, complete with food prepared and served by the Tagawa family, plus a host of free concerts all weekend. Since all our events were indoors, folks still came out. (Not as much as on a sunny weekend, of course, but we had some leftover food that we were able to donate to a local food bank so there was a nice silver lining).
On Friday morning before Mother’s Day each year, we have a big sale on selected hanging baskets, and this year, we still had about 400 people in line to get in at 8 a.m. on Friday. Here is a link to last year’s event.” — Beth Zwinak, Tagawa Gardens, Centennial, Colo.
“Mother’s Day weekend went great! The weather was fantastic all week, which helped us make $400,000 (roughly 6 percent of our yearly sales) in six days, including $89,000 for Saturday, May 9 — which happened to be cloudy.” — Maggie Bridge, Sam Bridge Nursery & Greenhouses, Greenwich, Conn.
“Our traffic was almost equal to years past, but we had a huge rainout all weekend. Mother’s Day flowers were bought, but homeowners did not buy due to weather. Sales were down 40 percent for the three-day weekend.” — Sandi Hillermann McDonald, Hillermann Nursery & Florist, Washington, Mo.
“Heights Plant Farm had a stellar Mother’s Day weekend, our best ever in sales and traffic. Our new location is partly responsible for the increase, but our promo was a hit as most of the sales were promo related. Using social media, we teamed up with a neighborhood bicycle courier service for Mother’s Day delivery. Customers called in to order. From a selection pictured on our website and in the promos, they selected size, pot color and specific herb or annual, gave us a credit card and delivery address and their shopping was done. We included a free $10 Petal Points card, which is our loyalty program. This was incentive as it virtually offset the customer’s delivery fee. As well, it will get the recipient in the door later. There were many who came in to make their choices and did not utilize the delivery service. Aside from delivery, the pots themselves were a selling feature as they are brightly colored, beautiful, and made from biodegradable bamboo scraps, so we based the promo on “love your mother, love the Earth,” which seemed to click. There were no weather or other issues, thankfully. We’ve been having daily downpours since then, so we are happy the weather held off for the big weekend. All reports back have been great and the numbers show our promo worked!” — P.J. Whitehouse, Heights Plant Farm, Houston, Texas
“Our store had record one-day sales on Saturday, and record weekend sales by a 20 percent margin. Some of that was from weather, some was from our newly renovated nursery area and some was improved merchandising. We can’t compare this year to last year, which was so bad weather wise that it really does not count. We have come to realize that in a ten-year timeframe, we will have two excellent springs, two horrible and six average. It’s always a joy to be in the excellent years, but it is difficult to manage.” — Jeff Griff, Lowe’s Greenhouses, Chagrin Falls, Ohio
“We set records the week of Mother’s Day. Traffic began to build the week before, and then every day of the week of Mother’s Day was a record breaking day. The weather was great and although not nearly as concerning as the California drought, it is getting very dry and we will need rain to keep the momentum going past Memorial Day. Traffic was up 4.4 percent for the week vs. the prior year, and our average sale was up 11 percent. Our labor hours were almost identical, so sales per labor hour were up 14.3 percent. Gross profit margins are also up, and while continuing very sharp promotions and pricing, we have been more selective of the items we drive with price deals.
The year has not been without problems. Annuals are between crops, so we are pulling product that is less full than we would like and we have had more instances of growers shutting down deliveries and even not selling to walk-in wholesale customers because they cannot handle the volume demands. When it comes to our customers,
we have had more instances of bad behavior, profanity, threats, belligerence, tantrums, demanding their way and more. There are always some, but we have had more this year.
With the news of raises in minimum wage by national chains and regional competitors, we have been harder pressed to increase our starting wage rates. This has altered the market for part time and seasonal help, making it costlier to attract the best 10 percent of the seasonal employment pool. We no longer start any team members below $9.00 per hour.
All that being said, we’ll take the challenges of growth vs. managing during flat or declining sales any day!” — Jere Stauffer, Stauffers of Kissel Hill, Lititz, Penn.
“We had threatening rain mixed with cloudy skies all day, and our garden center is mostly outdoors (excluding our gift shop) which meant that our customers would shop for a bit, then panic when the sky darkened and buy the first thing they could get their hands on. Thankfully, we had stationed our best-selling Mother’s Day garden items such as hydrangeas, ready-to-grow combination planters, colorful hanging baskets and large annual pots up front near the checkout and entrance. A light rain Saturday morning gave us the opportunity to pull together a big, last-minute mixed display of gift items which was placed between our front entrance and the nearby checkout. For us, it was all about having the items handy and readily shoppable, and having staff available for quick check-outs all day. Earlier in the week, we had a local artist come by with outdoor wooden signs with all kinds of sayings, several of which had quotes about mothers. We had sold them through the week and worked out a deal with her to get many more for the weekend, which could then be switched out for more summer/garden sayings after Mother’s Day.” — Jennifer Gibson, The Good Earth Garden Center, Little Rock, Ark.
“Increase in customers and average sale going together made for the third-best day (the Saturday before Mother’s Day) in our 23-year history. It was the best day in seven years. Weather was certainly a help on Saturday. Mother’s Day itself was down a little. Rain was predicted for Sunday, which I think pushed the increase on Saturday. Sunday was a beautiful day despite the forecast. Here in southwest Ohio, temperatures hit the low eighties early in the week before Mother’s Day. The days leading up to the weekend were exceptionally busy, more so than the weekend itself because the sales on those days far exceed what is normal or average.” — Chris McKeown, Bloomin Garden Centre, Cincinnati, Ohio
“Sales were down 24 percent from last year, although last year was a record breaker. Last year was perfect weather. This year, the threat of rain was forecasted and haunted us all week for Mother’s Day Weekend. In the end, Friday it rained all day, on Saturday it was cloudy all day with the threat of rain and Sunday was beautiful. However, we are not open on Sunday. In addition to the weather, we did not repeat an Early Bird special that we had done the previous three years on the Saturday before Mother’s Day. We would hand out a coupon for $10 off a purchase of $25 or more for customers who came between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. It has been very successful. Unfortunately, it was too successful last year. People were lined up all the way out our back door and some customers reported they were in line for more than an hour. That was with eight checkouts open. It was my goal this year to repeat the coupon and have more people working while adding two or three more checkouts. Unfortunately, for whatever reason I am not quite clear on yet, our IT provider did not have the additional computers ready. That was extremely frustrating. In addition, we have struggled to find cashiers this year and did not have the staffing at the level needed to pull it off. All things considered, I am still pleased to have had an $88,000 day. Friday was a bust, but had it rained on Saturday, we would have done only half the sales of what we actually did.” — Dave Ploussard, Hoerr Nursery, Peoria, Ill.
“It was wonderful! I would give it a 10! We had record sales on Saturday and we were close again on Sunday. We did have lots of traffic and a lack of parking spots, but I heard no complaints about that. The weather on Saturday was perfect and we had a rainy slow start to Sunday, but it peaked after the sun came out a bit. The only real problem would be lack of help. But who doesn’t have that problem this time of year?” — Amy Draiss, Dayton Nurseries, Inc., Norton, Ohio
“It was our best Mother’s Day ever. Of our four businesses (trees & shrubs, flowers, gift shop, fresh produce), each was up significantly over the prior Mother’s Day Saturday’s. Demand continued to be strong this past week.” — Wally Steinhauser, Wingard’s Nursery & Garden Center, Lexington, S.C.
“At Weston Nurseries in Massachusetts, we saw a record weekend for transactions through our registers and overall sales. Even Friday was a big day. We had challenges with not enough carts, but managed to keep customers shopping by hiring two high school kids to help load and retrieve carts. We also had additional staff getting the lines moved through the registers more quickly by writing down SKUs of what was on people’s carts prior to them getting to the cashier. Our weather was great. People seem to be less concerned about costs and want to get the fresh new plant material.” — Peter Mezitt, Weston Nurseries, Hopkinton, Mass.