Profiles in Power: Edibles on the rise
John Darin, president of English Gardens, speaks about trends in edibles in his stores.
EDIT NOTE: English Gardens is up in Michigan.
Q. What percentage of your total square footage is dedicated to edibles? How does that compare to the square footage dedicated to annuals and perennials?
A. Edibles, which includes vegetables, herbs, fruits and berry plants make up about 5 percent of our outdoor areas. In most of our stores, annuals, vegetables and herbs are grouped together in one area. Vegetables and herbs make up about 10% of that space.
Q. Are these edible plants grown on site, or are they supplied by another source?
A. English Gardens doesn’t grow any of the plants we sell. We’re able to pick the best, and leave the rest.
Q. What is your profit margin on edibles vs. annual bedding plants?
A. Annual gross profit margin is 47.8 percent and vegetable/herbs is 59.8 percent.
Q. Do you have specific staff members who are trained in edibles gardening?
A. Many of our associates are gardeners themselves and draw upon their own personal experiences in growing vegetables when helping customers. We are developing specific training for 2013.
Q. What types of edibles are consumers asking for?
A: Various heirloom tomatoes, peppers … green and red bell, jalapeno, cayenne, habanero, Hungarian hot, red chile, Thai dragon, poblano, garden salsa, kale, Swiss chard (four kinds,) spinach, collards, escarole, broccoli, various herbs … basil, Italian parsley, tarragon, rosemary, lemon thyme, oregano, dill, lemon grass
Q. How has the demand for edibles changed over the last five to 10 years? Has it decreased, increased or stayed the same? Have you noticed any trends?
A. Since 2008, we have seen a 39 percent increase in vegetables. Since that same time period, we’ve seen a 16 percent increase in herbs.
Trends include grafted tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, hot peppers, various greens already mentioned, various lettuces, broccoli, cucumbers and burpless cucumbers; herbs … basil, basil and more basil, thyme, rosemary, Italian parsley and leeks. Also popular are vegetables high in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and other healthy benefits.
Q. How are you marketing your edibles? Are you offering any related classes, events, special displays or promoting them some other way?
A. We’ve included in our Inspirations magazine, e-mail blasts and flyers. And we’ve used POP from Burpee Home Gardens in our vegetable department.
Q. Lastly, the healthy living movement has grown stronger in recent years. Is English Gardens taking any specific actions to take advantage of this movement? Do you promote the physical and mental benefits of gardening to your customers, for example?
A. Educating customers is a big strategy for us. Throughout the year, we host in-store presentations in our stores for our customers. We hosted a program on growing herbs and a Make It & Take It Workshop on a kitchen herb garden in March. The workshop costs $19.99. We also hosted a “Planting a Raised Vegetable Garden” seminar in early April in all our stores.
In August, we are hosting a seminar, “Preserving the Harvest” to give people information on how to store, can and freeze their produce.