Let’s Hear It for a Healthy Spring By Tim Hodson

It’s March, and spring will officially arrive later this month, a cure for those winter blues. Hallelujah!

Winter was a bitter pill for a lot of people to swallow this year, with huge amounts of snow and ice blanketing different regions. Many people succumbed to the deep freeze, too, with record low temperatures. If you ask me, spring cannot get here soon enough.

The turbulent economy seems to have been even more depressing than winter. It hit everyone pretty hard in 2008, and it looks as if 2009 is going to be just as challenging. In fact, the National Retail Federation (NRF) is predicting that retail sales will decline 0.5 percent for the entire year. Here’s the good news: The NRF forecasts a 3.6 percent increase in retail sales in the fourth quarter.

The question on a lot of growers’ minds is, “What’s going to happen this spring?” And no one has the answer. There are probably a lot of other questions keeping you awake at night as spring approaches, such as, “How will consumers react when spring finally arrives?” “Will shoppers head out to the big boxes to buy truckloads of my products?” “How much will they be willing to spend this year on plants, shrubs and vegetables?” “How will all of this impact my business?” These are tough questions that we won’t know the answers to until later in the year.

Despite the crazy economy, are you ready for spring? How are you reaching out to consumers this year to maximize your sales and profits? Are you well positioned to do business in this economy? What are you doing this year to fend off the economic flu that has been so pervasive? Do you have a prescription to keep your business healthy? Drop me a line at thodson@sgcmail.com and let me know.

Looking for Good News?

If you’ve picked up a newspaper, watched a TV newscast or surfed the Web lately, you’ve no doubt been bombarded by a lot of negative economic news. Despite the optimism shown by many Americans in January when our new president took office, negative economic headlines have continued to fill the airwaves, papers and websites. After a while, following the negative news can actually get kind of exhausting.

If all these stories are wearing you out, maybe this will make you feel a little better: There’s a website where you can find positive economic news, www.positive economicnews.com.

It is actually a blog that links to news stories that report optimistic and encouraging business news. It is by no means Pollyanna-esque, nor does it ignore the realities that are taking place in the marketplace. But it is a nice respite from a lot of the negative news out there. If the news is getting you down, you should check it out!

In early February, I did hear some good industry news: The Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. reported record first-quarter sales, up 3 percent from the same period in 2008. The company said the growth was due in part to a 9 percent increase in its global consumer business. Let’s hope that kind of news is contagious.

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