Russian Roulette

The largest garden centre in Europe, possibly the world! Garden centres open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! These were key surprises for me looking at the industry around Moscow. I had been invited to Russia to present a key note address and workshop to the floriculture and horticulture industry on my views on garden retailing over the next five years and how Russian garden centres can maximise their opportunities from the coming changes.

This was my first visit to this region and I had no idea what to expect. There is no garden centre association in Russia and therefore it was difficult to carry our research prior to my visit. My observations are based on the garden centres around Moscow, which I am told number around 300. This includes the largest garden centre in Europe- Imperial Gardens, well designed European style retail centres, as well as many small family owned businesses that often consist of a shed and a few plants.

The first observation I had was based on the demographics of the market. The impression around Moscow is that the market is basically two groups. The ultra rich who have large mansions around the edge of the city and employ landscapers and gardeners and the second segment is apartment dwellers. There seems to be an almost none existent or at best, very small, middle class. These segments clearly define the retail marketing opportunities. The spring season starts on the 8th March, Ladies Day, when men are encouraged to buy flowers and plants for the ladies in their lives. In general, 65% of sales are seasonal and 20% of sales are sold to the super rich.

One surprise was the amount of retailers that told me that Russians are still keen gardeners. February is a busy month as gardeners start propagating plants ready for spring. Whilst at the same time the Christmas season is still not a big season for many garden centres as consumers do not think of a garden centre when buying Christmas decorations.

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