If you have a passion for all things green and vibrant, then owning a garden centre may be an excellent fit for you. Operators in this industry primarily grow trees, shrubs, ornamental plants, and bulbs. They then sell their botanical varieties to retailers, wholesalers, landscapers, local governments, and orchardists.
Depending on the size, on average, a typical garden centre employs around 15 people, but larger ones can have more than 200 people on staff. This will be an important aspect to keep in mind as you take the vital steps to develop your business plan.
Although recent years have seen an increase in big chains offering plants and gardening equipment, an independent business can thrive in this sector by offering unique products, how-to education, and by providing exceptional customer service.
Facts and stats
- The Garden Centre industry is forecasted to continue to grow, and many current owners in this sector are planning to expand their businesses within the next five years.
- More than half (57%) of all garden centres are micro in size, turning over a profit of $500,000 or less in a year. In addition, 27% report sales of between $500,001 and $2 million, with the remaining 17% selling more than $2 million of plants and greenery.
- During 2015 to 2016, the garden centre industry employed 27,000 people and sold more than 1.6 billion plants, contributing $2.29 billion to the Australian economy.
Trends of the garden variety
Although the overall outlook for the future of this industry looks bright, savvy owners should focus on developing innovative or niche products to set themselves apart from the competition. For overall success, you should consider embracing these current trends:
- Rise of millennials as gardeners: Approximately 20% of the population ages 18-34 reports gardening as a leisure pursuit. This unique market is passionate about protecting the environment and creating one-of-a-kind products. To appeal to them, be sure to offer heirloom seeds, battery-powered equipment, speciality tools, original landscaping ideas, and a plethora of natural and organic products.
- Challenges of smaller outdoor areas: Container and small-space gardening are huge trends in the current industry. More and more customers are embracing urban lifestyles that offer less land. Be sure to cater to this trend by suggesting container plants, herb gardens, and hanging gardens.
- Rise of robo-gardening: Customers want gardening to be easy and relaxing, so be sure to offer the latest technology, ranging from apps, drones, automatic watering systems, and moisture detectors to motorised awnings, LED lighting, and glow rocks.
There are a number of benefits to entering the garden centre industry. For example:
- Professional garden experts are in high demand among people who want to maximise the use of their land but are unsure about how to go about it.
- There is a healthy potential for profit.
- You have the flexibility to specialise in a variety of areas, such as organic gardening, natural pesticides, native plants, edible plants, etc.
In addition, you can also offer different services such as garden setup and design, teach classes on gardening and even provide maintenance services.
Challenges and how to overcome them
- Changing lifestyles: In recent years, there’s been a shift of new buyers opting for apartment/condo living instead of single-family homes. Although this trend has resulted in a slight decrease in the demand for outdoor plants, trees, and shrubs, it has boosted the demand for indoor and patio plants.
- Competition: Hardware stores, grocery stores, and even drug stores now carry plant and garden supplies at very competitive prices. These chains have more purchasing power, so they are able to receive better pricing, allowing them to pass those discounts on to their customers.
Essential skills needed to cultivate that green thumb
As an owner, a Diploma in Horticulture is not required, but it is highly recommended. Other helpful degree paths include:
At the very least, it would be very helpful to take courses and gain substantial experience working within the garden centre industry so that you have a strong knowledge of plants and plant care, as well as an awareness of a wide variety of products, trends, and tools. In order to achieve optimal success, a strong horticultural and industry background is highly beneficial.
In addition, other priority skills include:
- Business administration and experience with accounting and finance.
- A working knowledge of profit and loss, budgets, financial reports, cash flow, marketing, and public relations.
- Experience with managing and training staff.
In addition, it is beneficial to be physically fit, enjoy working outside, and able to warmly interact with others and offer sound advice and suggestions.