August 15, 2009
Each year, Green Profit magazine in the U.S. holds its Young Retailer Award competition to recognize the top members in the garden centre industry under the age of 35. This year a Canadian, Lindsay Mennen, won the award.

Garden centre managers and owners from across North America are eligible for nomination. Mennen, Pathways to Perennials’ retail manager, was crowned the winner in a special ceremony held in Ohio.

This is the fourth year for Green Profit’s Young Retailer Award. The field of nominees was narrowed to three finalists. The finalists were required to answer an essay question. A panel of four industry leaders was chosen as judges and each candidate was interviewed independently by each judge on a variety of aspects of their business.

“The essay question was what we’ve learned from the recession. It was tough, because we only had 600 words to spill our guts and make an impression,” says Mennen. “The judges asked great, tough questions and kept hammering away, you never really felt totally comfortable.”

In her essay, Mennen wrote, “When asked to write about how the recession has affected our business, a million things came to mind. Our biggest lesson came before the season began. We had the first two months pre-sold, then jobs started cancelling, and our calendar emptied. Lesson learned: Take nothing for granted. We have opportunities. How can we run stronger, leaner, yet still profitable, while maintaining our immense passion for what we do?”

The retail manager wrote that staff members were shown who we are, what we stand for, our goals and expectations and how to achieve them. “To get our name out, we wrote several timely press releases about the unique features of our business and sent these to publications, enticing them to write about us. We designed a writer/speakers’ package to send out on why they should hire us to write for their publications and speak to their groups. This is an opportunity to be paid for promoting our company and knowledge.”

She revealed that the company didn’t print a newsletter for its mailing list, but instead used its e-mail database to communicate with customers on a biweekly basis. Mennen said it saved the company about $15,000 on printing and designing, while providing opportunities to reach customers more than once.

“Overall, despite the rough economic times, we have the opportunity to tighten our belts, learn new things and do what we do best—bring people and plants together!” concluded Mennen.

Pathways to Perennials is a member of LO and an award-winning landscape design firm with a boutique garden centre located in Kettleby. Pathways boasts over 11 acres of display gardens, lifestyle displays, a sculpture park and an outdoor garden café.