During casual conversations with independent garden center retailers throughout the past year, we’ve heard that hiring is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry, as unemployment has decreased in the past few years and competition for quality candidates has increased. Once staff members are hired, training them, retaining them and maintaining competitive wages continue to be obstacles. Data from our 2017 State of the Industry Report seemed to reflect these informal stories shared by retailers, as 40 percent of respondents said that high labor costs is their garden center’s greatest challenge, second only to weather. Another 25 percent said that staff is their greatest challenge.

Our annual Spring Survival Guide usually covers various aspects of running a garden center during the busiest season, including management, marketing, merchandising and more. This year, we decided to dedicate the majority of articles in the issue to all aspects of hiring, including recruiting, training, retaining and new sources of talent that you may have previously overlooked.

The special section kicks off with recruiting tips from human resources expert Jean Seawright. Garden center consultant Leslie Halleck provides training tips that can improve the bottom line, and Dr. Sherene McHenry covers the opposite end of the spectrum — signs that it’s time to let someone go. The section also includes stories from garden centers and other businesses that have had success hiring people with previous criminal convictions and people with disabilities, two groups with higher-than-average levels of unemployment. Bachman’s also shares its strategy for hiring during the peak season by employing volunteers, and we learn about the work going on at FFA programs to get the next generation ready for retail.

We hope this guide provides insights to help you manage the busiest season and hiring in 2018.

— Michelle Simakis