October sales, attitude, and our LinkedIn group

October has been a good month for sales. Up from last year. We did have some deep discounting with some of our plants. People are shopping for plants, but it seems right now you have to offer them at reduced prices just to get them in the door. Sometimes that leads to sales of other items not on sale, sometimes they just want the sale plant. Either way it's cash flow during what is a very slow time in retail. I heard about a well known nursery approx. 15 miles from here that is reducing their operating hours from 7 days to 4 days a week! This place has (had) large landscape crews that helped landscape the lower foothills, while the housing market boomed. People paying for their landscapes with home equity. Now all that is gone, including  most of the landscape crew. I think the nursery was funded with the landscape operations, and with that revenue dried up they are depending on the nursery to pick up the slack, yet they are reducing the store operating hours. Ouch. This was a award winning, very popular garden center for the last 10 years. The manager say's tongue and check that they are doing their best to drive business to another garden center, which seems to be doing much better. I can't see how reducing the hours will help the business.

It's just so easy to keep cutting expenses, since it seems at times that's the only thing you can do.  Trying to increase revenue sometimes seems like a loosing situation. Self fulfilling prophecy. You get in a funk, customers pick up on the vibe, and it just goes down hill from there. Attitude is so important. A positive outlook is so needed right now. People are migrating towards positive messages with all the negative news these days. I believe that you can change the world with your attitude. It will be those businesses that maintain a positive outlook, a upbeat attitude, and work to spread that message, that will emerge better off when the economy finally turns around.

Our Linkedin group has grown to  94 members! There are numerous discussions going on including, "What's been your most Successful Advertising Campaign?", "What point of sale and back office accounting systems are you using?", and "Homeowners online experience-interaction with your website". Once you have joined the group you can start you own discussions. Most important, in my mind, is we now have a place for those who see the need for change in our industry to meet. Not everyone agrees how we need to change, but most agree we need change.

Since the group has grown to 94 members I thought that the 100th member should be profiled here. Of course being the 100th member is mostly luck, but it might be nice to find out more about that person and their reason for joining.  I find it quite interesting to read the backgrounds of the people involved. Presidents of companies, managers of garden centers, media representatives, television personalities, nurserymen and women, garden bloggers, and others who share a love of gardening, garden centers, and the use of new media to get the word out.

What I would like to do is introduce some of the people in the group after we introduce the 100th member. You might learn more about our garden businesses, our motivations, and hopes for our common gardening future. No one has to be profiled if they wish, but if I think most of us are dying to tell our story. We have all been through so much change during the last few years, it will be an invaluable resource for us, and those interested in pursuing a future in horticulture.

Speaking of our LinkedIn group I started a new discussion. "Monrovia, Proven Winners, and Hort Couture are examples of branding in the garden center world. Brands are seen as a way to inspire customer loyalty, and create easily recognizable attributes in a crowded market place.

During a downturn in the economy do branded plants appear too 'expensive', or a 'luxury' to be skipped by the public in favor of 'seemingly' less expensive alternatives? Alternatives like eating out, shopping at the 'cheaper' box stores, taking that vacation, or just not spending at all?" If your a LinkedIn member or not your comment here, or at the group is appreciated.