ILLUSTRATION BY MATTHEW LAZNICKA

When we conducted our State of the Industry reports in 2013, 2014 and 2015, independent garden center retailers reported very similar conditions over the three-year studies. After a devastating recession in 2008, retailers started to bounce back in 2012, and they continued to indicate they had stronger sales year to year.

The most profitable categories, for the most part, stayed the same, with annuals, perennials, edibles and trees and shrubs leading green goods sales, and the hottest trends being edibles/grow your own, container gardening, miniature/fairy gardening, organic/sustainable gardening and native plants two years in a row.

This year, we decided to look at the numbers differently to bring more context to our annual report. Garden center retailing is a seasonal business, and weather is often the biggest external factor affecting sales. Economy also comes into play, and those two can vary greatly depending on where you are in the U.S. or Canada. For 2016, we’ve divided our results into regions — Northeast, South, Midwest, West and Canada — and examined how retailers in different locations responded to questions.

First, you’ll find the overall results, as we have done in the past, with notes about statistically interesting differences among the regions. Then, we divide all of the results to see what the State of the Industry is for the Northeast, South, Midwest, West and Canada, and how weather, trends, the economy and more impacted their spring seasons in 2016. Though the focus is on regional differences, we also looked at the data and compared garden center responses by age of business and sales volume, and note some interesting findings throughout the study.