A Wild Ride!

A Wild Ride!

by Danny Summers

At first glance you could easily think I am referring to a vacation experience in a recent memory. For Karen and I, this could harken us back to several things.

One is our first visit to Walt Disney World and the chance to ride on Space Mountain. If you have never had this experience the easiest way for me to describe it is... A Roller Coast in the Dark! Or, as Disney would want to describe it.. a rocket ship in space avoiding meteorites! For Karen, the description is much shorter... just simply...

her first... and LAST time to ride it! We can fill you in on more details when we talk sometime.

Another might be when Karen and I were in a near plane crash. This was in the mid '80s and we were in a small corporate plane trying to land in Ocala, Florida's community airport late at night and touched down for just seconds in a pasture and passing through some oak trees about a half mile from the runway. Losing 3 feet of the leading edge of the right wing and damaging the left as well, created a time for quick reactions, lots of praying and thankfully a safe landing after missing an approach. We can also share more details on this "wild ride" at a later time. The most appropriate way for us to describe this experience is... It was "God's Miracle" for us and obvious that He had much more for us to do!

You may have even more interesting stories to share when thinking of "A Wild Ride" and I welcome the chance to hear them sometime when we are together..,. or even send me an email about it.

But the idea for this blog message began by thinking about where our Centers (and industry) has been the last three year. Three years ago this week in 2020, many of us attended the TPIE 2020 Show in Ft. Lauderdale and that would be the last show we would physically attend for the next 18 months.

The Spring of 2020 began early if I recall correctly and many Centers were showing very positive numbers. Then Monday, March 23rd came and we witnessed the first Garden Centers being forced to close due to not being essential as some states and local governments reacted to the pandemic. Thankfully over the next month or so, the "essential" question was won and what followed could easily be described as "A Wild Ride" as thousands of customers, current and new, young and seasoned, turned to gardening and nature to find peace and joy in the midst of chaos and trauma. With an early start to that spring, then losing several key weeks, Centers found new business even into the weeks of early summer. Overall, Centers ended a year of chaos with record business and success in fulfilling the needs of thousands. The lasting results and benefits are the countless number of new customer relationships for future years.

Then, following a dramatic late winter freeze in the south that resulted in large numbers of landscape plants needing replaced, Spring of 2021 proved to be even bigger than 2020. Centers had the ability to serve the growing customer base with their full staff and experience to meet the growing need for plants and related products. While we were concerned whether all those new customers that found your Centers in 2020 and you ushered them through newly-created open-air checkouts (and didn't get their emails and contact information) would return. They did. And Centers ended 2021 with another double-digit increase over the year prior. The 2020 and 2021 seasons could be viewed as the roller coaster slowly making that HUGE climb upward.

And then came 2022. Tim Quebedeaux who now manages The Group's Financial Sharing Programs suggested adding a new Weather Rating element to our Weekly Department Review Program. This was the perfect year to do so. This is the right place to say for years we all have blamed "the weather" for many shortfalls but let's face it, we really have never had real data to back it up – that is until 2022. Each week Group Centers were asked to provide 3 numbers for the week being reported. The average HIGH and LOW temperature, and a weather rating, based on a scale of 1-10 and 7 being the perfect weather. Below you can see the temperature extremes for each week. Keep in mind this is a total average across the country, not just one region. If we consider Week 18 to be about the beginning of BIG SPRING numbers, consider the average Low and High in this chart.

And while the HIGH and LOW Temperature can appear good, it is the other factors of weather that can ultimately impact the opportunity to garden outside. Remember, each Center is asked to rank the overall week's weather and apply a number between 1-10 and 7 being the ideal weather ranking. Below we have placed a red line on Week 18. You can see the average ranking for Week 18 was 4.6!

In fact, we did not reach a weather ranking over 7.0 until week 24... six weeks later when it came in at 7.4! It is interesting when we are able to look at data and details from across the country over the entire year. You can see the weather ranking chart here that is being used in the WDR Program.

With the full 52 weeks of our WDR reporting in, the best way to describe the 2022 year is...

A late spring and early summer!

Certainly a compressed spring season, when most Centers experience 70-80% of the annual business, creates challenges to reach sales goals, many of which were established during typical-length seasons. But as Steve Bailey always told our Centers... "it's not what you sell but what you get to keep" that matters most. Tim Quebedeaux has been cautioning Group Centers most of 2022 on their levels of inventory and urging them of managing other expenses that can help maximize their profit opportunities, even with reduced sales.

Following the 2020 and 2021 record-setting performances of Group Centers, we are eager to see what 2022 numbers will be. We hope all Group Centers will be participating in the upcoming Annual P&L Study for 2022. Watch for reporting documents and instructions later this month and results will be reported in the March 9th GROUPtalk LIVE Session (details HERE).

When looking back at the last 3 years and especially spring months, it is easy to see the opportunities when we have a normal or early arriving spring season or at least a normal length spring season. Obviously, the best way to maximize your opportunities is to be ready for it to begin. If Spring 2023 arrives "on schedule"... it's nine weeks from TODAY:

Monday, March 20, 2023, at 5:24 p.m. EDT.

If "on-time" is could very well be another Wild Ride from a HUGE Spring.

Be ready!


Sharing is at the heart of The Group and your ideas are very important. If you have any trouble logging into The Group WebSystem, please let me know. Are you and your staff all subscribed to our eLists such as GroupEs, Retail-Grower, Retail-Landscape, Owners-Only, and a number of others? Need help subscribing? Let me know so I can show you how you can sign up.

Thanks for sharing!

Danny Summers
[email protected]
Tel: 678-909-7770
Cell: 678-761-7145

REMEMBER: Your interaction (by phone and email) with Group Service Providers such as Tim Quebedeaux, Sid Raisch, John Kennedy, Jean Seawright, and of course Danny Summers are included in your retainer!

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