Why Garden Retailers Stay In Retail [Opinion]

Why Garden Retailers Stay In Retail [Opinion]

Carol Miller resized for onlineSeveral years ago, I was on a tour of San Francisco Bay area garden centers. One evening, we visited Far Niente Winery owner Gil Nickel’s private estate. Nickel had also served as president of Greenleaf Nursery, which his parents founded. The estate was private, and we were invited to tour the grounds only because we were in the horticultural industry.

As we walked through the lush and stunning gardens that had amazing views of the wine country, someone said in disbelief, “He got all this money from owning a nursery?” Someone else responded, “He struck oil on his nursery.”


I’ve no idea if the oil story is true, but I do know several garden center owners were dreaming of a second career that evening.

Yet, let’s be honest. If making a lot of money was the main goal of any garden retailer, they probably wouldn’t be a garden retailer. They’d be a Wall Street trader, an accountant or pursuing some other high-income career.

A well-run garden store can and should earn a decent profit for its owners. And many of you own breathtaking homes. But even more of you won’t take a day off work throughout the busy seasons and won’t ease back to six-day work weeks until deep into the summer months. Vacations are only taken in the dead of winter. It’s hard to think of any career that requires more work for the money.

No, money isn’t what drives garden retailers. It’s the mental and emotional challenge that sucks you in and keeps you engaged from year to year.

Why Garden Retail Is So Satisfying

Think about how we tend to describe certain careers and the types of people who are drawn to them. Marketing types are outgoing, energetic and creative. Accountants are meticulous, organized and quiet. But retailers have to fire on all cylinders.

In your nurturing mode, you help talented employees by identifying what motivates them most to succeed. And you also arbitrate disputes, and find ways to blunt the impact of unhappy staff.

In your numbers mode, you examine your POS statements, looking for patterns that will improve your turns, lessen your shrink and move your overstocked materials. You also analyze your P&L, looking for clues to where you can curtail expenses and increase revenue.

Your designer mode helps you assess your store’s curb appeal, the store’s traffic flow patterns and how much of an impact your merchandising is making.

When you tap into so many different aspects of your personality, finding new ways to overcome challenges and create success, nothing is more satisfying. Yes, garden retail is hard work, but it’s also deeply gratifying.

Greenscape Gardens’ management team, made up of the Loyet family, John and Sally Loyet and their daughter Jennifer Schamber, and horticulture manager, Tammy Behm, demonstrate exactly what I’ve been talking about. Faced with the challenge of wanting to attract new and younger customers, as well as increasing their bottom line, the team developed a truly innovative business plan they’ve dubbed “social impact marketing.”

Click here to read Brian Sparks’ article on how the team managed to turn altruism into a highly satisfying win-win-win for itself, its partners and its community.