An Alberta/B.C. greenhouse nursery was facing what its owner called a “catastrophic” situation three weeks ago after learning it would be sitting on millions of dollars of inventory due to COVID-19 pandemic retail shutdowns.
However, Lawrence Jansen, owner of Darvonda Nurseries with facilities in Langley, B.C., Redcliff, Alta., and Mundare, Alta., received a lifeline recently with the help of commercial real estate experts at Avison Young. They’ve helped him arrange for pop-up garden shops, to be called “Glow Gardens,” in seven locations in Calgary, Edmonton, Red Deer, the Tsuut’ina Nation (just outside of Calgary) and Saskatoon.
In late March, Jansen discovered Darvonda’s largest wholesale buyer wouldn’t be able to accept the majority of its spring plant order. That presented a crisis for Jansen, who had to find a solution to sell up to 80 per cent of its annual vegetable and potting plants or risk the survival of his third-generation family business.
The company was founded more than 30 years ago.
“We were facing a massive problem. We were being told that up to 80 per cent of our pre-booked product was not going to be able to be taken into the stores because of the COVID thing. So we were struggling,” said Jansen.
“When this whole thing started three weeks ago, we were looking at a complete catastrophic failure.
“Our business would not be able to survive.”
Avison Young team finds pop-up locations
Jansen worked with the Avison Young team – James Heaps (senior vice-president of business advisory services), Hani Abdelkader (principal working with the retail services team) and associate Travis McElroy – on a plan to set up seven pop-up locations throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Since then, the easing of some COVID-related restrictions will also help open the door for Jansen to sell his product in some different retail outlets.
“We believe we have a win-win-win solution; we win by working with communities and providing our product to our customers. Real estate owners win by gaining a short-term solution with no additional cost, and fortunately, we now have a plan in place to help our business survive.”
The inventory for the nursery is about $10 million.
All the pop-up locations are in parking lots.
Abdelkader said the support and “rallying around business” attitude has been unprecedented for all the locations where the pop-ups will appear.
Business must employ creative thinking
Heaps said COVID challenges the survival of many Canadian businesses. At the same time, however, owners need to rethink how they operate, how to get their value proposition in front of consumers differently than in the past, and how to implement new ways of doing business that align with social distancing and health practices.
Abdelkader said pop-up business is a viable option for many different businesses, but it’s directed by the market.
“In regard to this type of offering in the agricultural space, I think this is potentially a way forward,” he said.
“Landlords are becoming more cognizant to the fact that they can add elements to their parking lots that drive traffic and help out retailers. So, we’re slowly seeing allowances for this type of use in leases.
“We think that pop-up is very likely something that’s going to be more prevalent in the future and we do think think pop-up stands in parking lots may be something to generate revenue for landlords and help tenants on-site as a way going forward as well.”
Pop-ups emerge into retail mainstream
Michael Kehoe, lead ambassador in Canada for the New-York based International Council of Shopping Centers, said pop-up retailing has moved from the trend phase into the mainstream of consumer real estate.
“Retailers and consumer real estate providers alike are benefiting from the fast-paced, short-term format of pop-up tenancies and shoppers are engaged with fresh, seasonal retail offerings,” said Kehoe, a veteran of more than 40 years in the industry and broker/owner of Fairfield Commercial Real Estate in Calgary.
“Compressed lease terms that recycle available spaces in shopping centres and in retail street fronts give retailers an opportunity to roll out new product offerings quickly and test-drive new entrepreneurial concepts.”
There are also several benefits for property owners and managers.
“Landlords have the ability, with pop-up retail, to incubate new retailers that morph into longer-term tenants if they prove to be viable., Kehoe explained.
“Landlords are quick to fill a vacant space on a short-term or seasonal basis to keep their properties’ retail mix fresh to attract and engage with shoppers.
“Both tenants and landlords must be quick on their feet to recycle vacant space in a timely manner to ensure maximum productivity and impact. Retailing is always changing and evolving with the pace of this change accelerated in recent years.
“Pop-up retail is here to stay.”
Darvonda Nurseries products will be sold at wholesale cost at the following pop-up locations:
* May 1: 14815 Bannister Road SE (Calgary) – Former Rona (Front parking lot);
* May 2: 7516 Macleod Trail S (Calgary) – Former Part Source (Front parking lot);
* May 5: 1817 Crowchild Trail NW (Calgary) – McMahon Stadium (East parking lot);
* May 7: 3777 Grey Eagle Drive – Grey Eagle Casino (Tsuut’ina Nation) (East parking lot);
* May 7: 4847A 19 Street, (Red Deer) – Red Deer Westerner Park (Northwest parking lot);
* May 1: 730 St. Albert Trail, (St. Albert) – Former Rona (Front parking lot);
* May (TBD): 503 Ruth Street (Saskatoon) – Prairieland Park.