Weather had a major impact on spring sales according to our 2014 Greenhouse Grower Spring Crops Recap Survey. Sixty-three percent of the growers surveyed cited weather as their biggest challenge this spring, second to staffing issues. Twenty-three percent of the growers categorized the weather in their region as extremely uncooperative and 33 percent said it was moderately uncooperative.
Delayed Start, Strong Finish
Growers said prolonged cold and excessive rain accounted for a late spring. As a result, sluggish sales dominated the start of the season. Thankfully, they gained momentum as the weather improved.
“Cold weather was a huge setback, resulting in our worst March ever,” said one grower. “Eleven perfect weekends in a row (including peak weeks) turned the whole ship around.”
“Late spring freezes in the areas we service postponed our spring sales by a few weeks,” said another grower. “We could have sold more in March if the weather had cooperated.”
One grower reported no sales in April and the first week of May, which caused a cart shortage when retailers left plants on them to save labor.
“My worst start in nine years,” said another grower. “March sales were down 75 percent. However, when the weather warmed up sales were average in April and up 15 percent in May and June. That continued into July.”
Maintaining Quality And Keeping Up With Demand A Challenge
Growers said customers were reluctant to buy plant material, preferring to wait until the weather cleared, which meant plants sat in inventory a little longer than some growers would have liked.
“We had lots of stuff ready early since the weather was good in our region,” said one grower. “Unfortunately, our customers up North weren’t ready for it.”
“Weather put my landscaper customers behind. We had to hold product one to two weeks past the ready dates,” said another grower.
A grower-retailer expressed a concern about maintaining quality while trying to carry things longer than anticipated due to the cool spring. The company plans to delay some planting next season in case of another cool April.
While the chilly weather took its toll on spring sales, it did create an increased demand for plants. Due to the widespread plant deaths caused by the 2014 winter, one grower said local wholesale growers were not prepared to meet demand on product, especially trees and shrubs. Another grower said he had trouble meeting demand for early spring holidays.
“Product sold out quickly, and we had to turn to other growers to meet our demands,” a grower said. “They did not have enough product to meet our needs.”
“The weather made our season a hit,” said another. “A strong economy would have made it a home run.”
“We had a lot of orders that we couldn’t fill because we didn’t have the product, especially during the latter part of the season,” a grower said.
Frustrations With Being At The Mercy Of Mother Nature
Along with the late spring and decreases in early sales, growers in the survey commented on other weather-related problems.
- “The weather had a big impact. We didn’t have our greenhouse up and had to rely on outside growing.”
- “40 acres of peppers destroyed by hail.”
- “Extended cold and clouds slowed down development of warm season annuals, so the finished baskets were pretty small.”
- “Wind wrecked my main production greenhouses.”
- “Extreme cold combined with ice and snow made accessing our greenhouses difficult. Propane heated houses could not keep up, and propane suppliers could not access our farm in a timely manner due to the demand on our snow removal crews.”