What is a garden center?

It seems that often the "new" ideas and products that we sell at the garden center are not new at all. We jumped into the indoor gardening scene over the last year. This happened after I visited a local hydroponic shop in the middle of last winter. While my conventional garden center was in the winter doldrums, the hydroponic shop was jumping. Not only was it jumping, but it had many of the illusive garden shoppers known as males of generation x and y. Our industry is always asking where these people are, and why they don't garden. They do garden, and they are not visiting conventional garden centers! We talked about this a year ago, and the reasons for our entry into this market. Now many of us prefer the outdoors for our gardening. The less involved gardening is with modern technology, the better. That's fine, but there are lot's of people who enjoy growing indoors, and using modern technology to that end. Reading my morning Boing Boing I came across this post about Farms as Skyscrapers. As the article points out, "The concept of indoor farming is not new, since hothouse production of tomatoes, a wide variety of herbs, and other produce has been in vogue for some time. What is new is the urgent need to scale up this technology to accommodate another 3 billion people. An entirely new approach to indoor farming must be invented, employing cutting edge technologies."

This resonates with many people who ask themselves, if it has been done commercially for the last decade or so, why can't the same technology be used by individuals? It can, and is. What I enjoy about indoor gardening and hydroponics's is it engages a customer base that has not been a big customer of conventional garden centers.  It also can become an obsessive hobby that keeps the indoor gardener visiting the garden center time and time again, trying out all the new products and equipment. It's also is mostly a winter time activity which is traditionally a slow time for the nursery.

Like water gardening, this is not an area you can just dabble in.  If you are going to educate and sell indoor equipment you have to get into it in a big way. We are expanding our garden center into two units of a small strip mall in front of the nursery. This will increase our indoor space by about 900 sq. ft.,providing a place to showcase and demonstrate how the technology works. The key in my opinion is to have actively working displays to show just how this stuff works.

Many in generation x and y respond to the idea expressed in the Boing Boing post that indoor gardening, "if successfully implemented...offer the promise of urban renewal, sustainable production of a safe and varied food supply (year-round crop production), and the eventual repair of ecosystems that have been sacrificed for horizontal farming." Even if it is for reasons other than creating a sustainable food supply, it's an area that engages peoples imagination, and an area that traditional garden centers have allowed to be usurped by hydroponic shops that operate out of warehouses. I read in a indoor gardening trade magazine that the indoor gardening industry is recommending that hydroponic shops change their names to something more user friendly like, "garden center."

Did you get that? They want to call themselves garden centers! Not indoor gardening shop, or hydroponic shop, but garden center. You don't think that local hydroponic shop operating out of a store front is a garden center? Doesn't matter what you think! The people using those shops think of them as their "garden center." You just gained a whole lot of competition. Actually, that competition has been there all along. We just didn't know it!