The business, that is.  I knew 2007 was rough on a lot of my local competitors and suppliers, but because we seemed to be clicking right along with plenty of work (those of you who know me well know why that is), I never paid much attention.  The last few days have been an eye opener that’s made me feel both happy and more than a little unsettled.

I drove to one of my main perennial suppliers to pick up a few shade-loving vines, and as I pulled into the drive, I noticed that all of the hoop houses were down.  As I got out and looked around, there were literally thousands of 4″ and 1 gallon pots strewn everywhere, filled with soil and previously alive perennials, now just baking in the sun, having not received water in who knows how long.   If there was an Old West perennial ghost town, this was it.

I got back in my truck and visited another supplier who had what I needed, but also knew some of the back story; the owner was now working as the lead retail guy for a new, very small retail branch of an only slightly larger landscape construction firm.  Along with that news, they also told me of a large outfit in a neighboring town that had gone belly-up over the winter.

It jarred me a little, and I couldn’t tell you the route I took back to the job site, because I was trying to tabulate all the casualties our local landscaping industry has suffered.  So far:

1 of the largest companies in the area laid off 5 crews.
2 of my smaller competitors went out of business.
1 perennial supplier went out of business.
1 big competitor went out of business.

This is all in a market of maybe 150,000 people.  I guess I’m feeling pretty fortunate that we have enough work in the pipeline to potentially justify one new hire.  But knowing how hard the economy is hitting our industry, I shouldn’t enjoy that feeling for too long.

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