Start planning for the future today

With news about the economy seemingly getting worse by the minute, it's hard for anyone in business not to get sucked into the gloom. The latest downgrading of the UK's prospects came early on Monday morning with a letter from CBI chief Richard Lambert admitting that the employers' organisation had been "consistently over-optimistic" about the economic outlook over the past 12 months.

Despite this, HW's business management columnist Leslie Kossoff in her latest article this week urges business owners and leaders across horticulture not to waste time bemoaning tough times - or even speculating on how bad they might get (p27).

On the contrary, she says, this is the perfect time to take a long, hard look at every detail of the business before using the next 18 months to build a new version fit for the future when the upturn comes, most likely, according to current consensus, in 2010.

For garden retail this might mean making sure you are exploiting your cafe facility fully - or every potential sale that could come from the boom in consumer interest in grow-your-own. Interestingly, we note this week that sales of vegetable seeds at Suttons have climbed to 70 per cent and the firm has declared 2009 as the year of the tomato with new products to match (p5).

Another aspect is building new business relationships, which today may be all about working through the difficult times, but once the upturn comes could be driving something much more exciting.

We reported last week on yet another example of ornamental growers successfully pooling their sales and marketing operations to match an increasingly consolidated customer base. The move will also allow customers to order small "top-up" quantities. In a similar vein, this week we report on cash and carry operator Greenfingers' planned promotion days for 30 growers, where, once again, orders will be consolidated, allowing buyers to purchase in smaller quantities.

Meanwhile, West Sussex Growers' Association is to prepare a study illustrating the critical importance of horticulture to the region, which will help win greater understanding of the sector from local planners and others. Says Kossoff: "Loud voices win a lot more than whisperers."

Kate Lowe, editor. Email:

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