Kate Spirgen

In these uncertain times, it’s difficult to predict what spring sales will look like in many parts of the U.S. and Canada. As of press time, many states are under shelter-in-place orders, unemployment is higher than ever and “non-essential” businesses are shut down in large parts of North America.

While many garden centers are reporting plummeting sales, others are reporting that business was better than ever. By the time you read this, circumstances may be very different.

In an online poll of more than 370 IGCs at the end of March, more than half of garden centers said the COVID-19 outbreak has had a significant impact on operations, with more than 80% operating under a stay-at-home or shelter-in-place order. And nearly half said that sales have decreased significantly during the past few weeks.

But the message is going out loud and clear thanks to the efforts of industry members across North America: Gardening is not cancelled. From curbside pickups to delivery options, virtual classes and workshops, online resources, mail order options, gardening kits and video concierge services, IGCs are digging deep and finding ways to keep on serving customers this spring.

Many are finding a silver lining that could last far beyond the impact of the coronavirus. Victory gardens are coming back in style and people are looking for ways to get outside and stay active amidst the pandemic. And with travel, especially international travel, likely to slow down this summer, there may be more people looking to spruce up their yards. In uncertain times, many are finding comfort by getting back to nature in their own backyard gardens.

The innovation and creativity IGCs are showing in the midst of this uncertainty will likely last much longer than the effects the coronavirus outbreak will have on sales. With the prevalence of Amazon deliveries and subscription services, the way the average consumer shops was already changing. This pandemic is pushing that even farther.

We here at Garden Center magazine have been adapting to the current environment as well, working remotely to report on how COVID-19 is affecting the industry. We’ll continue to bring you updates through our virtual conferences, daily newsletters and online exclusives throughout the spring and beyond.

The impact of this pandemic will be great, but the innovation and evolution garden centers are showing today just might change things for the better in years to come.

Kate Spirgen