In horticulture, and particularly the garden retail side, every year is different.
As ever, in 2012 a major factor that has a impact on our industry and is one that we know ultimately is impossible to control, is the weather. But in the current economic situation, many businesses are facing another form of uncertainty - financial.
This is key in all areas of business but especially in the planteria. So how are garden centres going to manage their costs? When I asked a client last year about his procurement and supplier strategy he told me he didn't know and nor, he thought, did his planteria staff - and he was talking about a part of his business that accounted for a quarter of his turnover.
Admittedly it was a small centre but I bet the same answer would be forthcoming from managers of garden centres of all shapes and sizes. So some simple questions to ask might be - you have great plantsmen and women but how many have received any training in negotiation? Do they have formal buying targets or margins levels to maintain? Do they know where their buying patterns fit with the overall procurement strategy?
All the major multiple food retailers and the large sheds that operate in the garden sector have short, medium and long-term buying plans, with revenue and wastage budgets across all their ranges. They will have done in-depth analysis of stock ratios across the categories, not just to minimise waste but also to ensure that stock is available for customers to buy.
Planteria managers are key members of any centre team. Hopefully, they are in the job because they love horticulture but passion does not automatically lead to profits. They need to be good retailers too. Merchandising, negotiation customer service skills are key attributes and 2012 looks like it might be a good time to review those training needs.
Guy Moreton is a director of MorePeople.