Should I stay or should I go ?
Cue up the music.
The question refers to the upcoming San Francisco Garden Show, which by the way is not in San Francisco but in San Mateo.
The answer, after much rumination and research says , “no”.
No, I do not think that doing a small pocket garden vignette/ exhibition garden would be a smart investment in this current economy for my small design firm.
Of course this is a gamble, a calculated gamble, but a gamble no less.
The basic premise is that as a designer of a show garden, be it large or small, there is a significant outlaying of time and funds.
In my mind and pocketbook, this equates to a meaningful inve$tment .
The biggest market impact in deciding against doing the show is the timing. And as they say, timing is everything.
The economy is slightly gaining in pace, but from my extensive conversations with design professionals the residential landscape design and construction market is down, way down, and it is not going to bounce back to the days of yesteryear any time soon.
So when you take this info into consideration , along with the amount of time and money that is required to install a exhibition garden , the payback is highly likely to be small in comparison to the investment.
Other mitigating factors that come into play for my specific firm is that The Show is now held in San Mateo and not San Francisco. - (In my opinion a mistake by the producers )
My office is located north of the Golden Gate bridge and my client base is located in Marin, Sonoma, Napa Valley and The Sea Ranch . On occasion I have traveled to Carmel but those jobs were just shy of a million dollars plus or minus. I don’t see much new residential landscape design and installation work in the million dollar range in the next year, people are playing it very conservative and cautious.
Realistically, to do a high quality, exceptional calibre exhibition garden, even in a small space ( 10 x 10 ) the investment is going to be around $ 1000 to $ 3000.00 dollars or more.
The gambling question is , can you make that investment back plus a profit within a year or two , in this current economy ?
I don’t think so. In another economic climate I would say a resounding yes, but I’m not feeling confident about the next year.
Our business is down about 65 %. The budget for the jobs has dropped significantly.
Gone are the days of our average installation budget of $ 265 to $ 350 K and the occasional million dollar plus landscape install.
We’re seeing budgets in $ 10 K to $ 40 K.
So in closing, I don’t see the investment of doing the S.F./ San Mateo Garden Show a favorable investment for my small North Bay design firm.
Photo from the 2008 show, when it was still located in San Francisco at the Cow Palace.
San Francisco Garden Show 1990 at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco