We have been working our tales off the last few weeks. Getting Monica's Day Care up and running involves installing another bathroom in the building, fencing, playground, etc. Meanwhile we decided to move our event tent so that it fits right up next to the store. I just increased the store space by 100%. All the while the leaves are falling off our trees leaving huge piles to deal with. Oh, and there are customers that need help, too. So much to do, little time to think about the economy. That's the way I like it. What can I do about the economy anyway? Nothing. The fact of the matter is, all times are challenging for the small business owner. Even when the economy is firing on all cylinders we have our share of challenges. Big box competition, declining interest in gardening, vendors going out of business, etc.Â Recession? Get in line. One of the benefits of being a small garden center is we can change on a dime. Where as larger companies have to go through a series of procedures just to change focus, we can do it now.
Here is what we have done. We have no staff to cut. The couple of people that work for us in the spring and summer are off for the winter. Being in the foothills and mountains winter gardening drops off more than in the valley. Monica and I can handle the business for now. We are staying stocked with seasonal items through some generous spring dating we receive from key suppliers. Buy now, pay in April. Our foray into Hydroponics, and indoor gardening is starting to pay off with people coming in to get started with gardening in the winter. We have increased our advertising via e-news from twice a week to every week! I figured out how to put the e-news together myself so I don't need the help of my webmaster. Savings in the thousands of dollars a year! When is the last time you heard of increasing advertising while decreasing the cost? We started staying open 7 days a week this last spring. We use to close on Mondays. Moving the event tent next to the store will provide more indoor space for winter shopping. We are starting a new business, "Miss Monica's Preschool and Daycare" in front of the garden center. This will provide a more steady income during the year, to balance the seasonal ups and downs of the garden center business.
We have heard about some other garden center businessesÂ in our general area that are reducing their hours of operations. One is reducing the open hours while another is closing down one or two extra days a week. This is not good. We decided to expanded our hours of operation. Some of these businesses are reducing spending on advertising. We have doubled our advertising while cutting costs. I am concerned that these businesses are hunkering down when they should be looking for new avenues of revenue, like our hydroponics or Miss Monica's Daycare.
The natural response for all of us when times are tough is to hunker down until the storm blows over. You have to fight that feeling and redouble your efforts to become innovative when everyone else is running scared.Â It's not easy. If the economists are right and the recession lasts for a couple years, you can't wait out the storm. You have to sail right into it, and deal with it. Besides, that's where the action is. It's counter intuitive, but that's why so many never take the first step.
My feeling is that over the next year or so we are going to see a lot of changes in the garden center business. More than we have imagined! Lot's of closings, reorganizations, layoffs, etc. It is not going to be pretty. Never the less, I am reminded that it's during these tough economic times that ideas emerge that will transform our industry. You either innovate, or go out of business. Tough times force decisions that we might have been able to put off for later.
Later is here!