How are you coping with the current economic situation?

HW polled exhibitors at the Kildare Growers' Trade Show in Ireland last month.

"For people who have recently set up a business, times will be more difficult than for those who have been in the industry for over 10 years. The way forward is to promote yourself and to advertise. Put plenty of time and energy into your business.

"Big landscape contractors have quietened. Turnover will be down this year. A lot of work was coming from development and builders - that will have seriously reduced from last year. Landscape contractors will need to chase work. But the business people will survive.

"That's where the Association of Landscape Contractors of Ireland (ALCI) can help. We find there is a lot of interest at the moment from new contractors looking for support."

Evert Verveen, secretary, ALCI

"I feel that the industry is in some way recession-proof. If people are not buying they invest in their property and spend more time at home.

"You can see from the property sections in papers that there are more pictures now of gardens that are fully stocked. I'm not unusually concerned. We're quite positive about the sector.

"The impact is on new developments and landscape contractors are feeling the pressure. There will be a bit of a fallout and a sharpening up of practices, which could be healthy.

"There is no major doom and gloom. It's positive that our minister of horticulture Trevor Sargent is from the Green Party and here today."

Gary Graham, development marketing executive, Bord Bia, horticulture division

"As a company, we are consolidating while the country is 'enjoying' a recession. Fortunately, as is usual during a recession period, people will go into their gardens and revamp. Buying by landscapers has dropped but the average person in the streets will still buy plants.

"Gardening will always be an interesting pastime. There is always business to be done. Because we have a broad range of plants, we feel our business will thrive under the present circumstances of slowdown. Customers can expect to enjoy greater service and better prices.

"We will look inward for better efficiency, including increased mechanisation and better management."

Matt Lohan, managing director, Woodstock Trees & Shrubs

"The housing market has slowed down. We used to finish housing estates but the developments have dried up now.

"So we have set up a company to supply big trees directly to the public. The idea occurred to us last year. We are fairly well-known and get a lot of direct phone calls from homeowners. Instead of referring them on to landscapers we are now supplying up to 35-year-old mature trees ourselves. We price them directly and use landscapers who are our customers to carry out the planting.

"They've all come on board with that. There's something for everyone. Anything to stimulate new business at this time of year has to be good."

John van Veen, sales representative, SAP Nurseries


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