If Only I knew Now…What I Knew Then – Economics and Water Garden Industry

Published on March 3, 2008

But I did know then. In fact, I knew before then! You say, how could this be?

As a college student in the fifties, long before I started Maryland Aquatic Nurseries, I took an economics course, Prices Allocations and Distributions (PAD). It sounds awfully boring doesn’t it? It was anything but, at least not for me. I still remember the gist of a lecture dealing with the rise and fall of markets, businesses and profit margins. This phenomenon is ever present, just as the air we breathe. Basically, it says that when a new market gets hot (say, water gardening about 20 years ago) many businesses get into it, as sales and profits rise; but then as market growth slows, so do profits. When this happens such as when supply (or suppliers) exceeds demand, businesses start to get out or are forced out of the market. This is called the “shake-out.” I believe that water gardening is having a shakeout, i.e., more businesses are getting out than are getting in.

What I didn’t know was that this turning over of businesses also applied to products within my own (or your) business. For years I’ve been creating products to augment my plants business. Several of these products enjoyed great success in the bird store and gift markets. Both were hot for only four to five years. In each case, foreign manufacturers invaded the American market and wiped my products off the shelves. Their products were far cheaper and acceptable, even excellent quality. This aspect of foreign competition was not so evident in 1987 when I first started my business. Now, with the advent of the global economy, you not only compete with domestic suppliers but with companies worldwide. This means that businesses and products are turning over at an even faster rate because of this added competition. My economics professor probably would never have envisioned the power of the present-day global market.

Another big factor that came along was the Internet. In the past 20 years, it has multiplied exponentially and now rivals traditional business models for dominance in the marketplace. It has spawned the super discount web-based competitor. This may be the future for water gardening. In this Internet arena, because profit margins are slender and mutations swift, businesses will turnover at a faster rate than ever.

With all this in mind, I am doing what everyone else will need to do to prosper and that is to continue to create new products and mutate as quickly as possible to meet the challenges of the new marketplace. My sons (Stuart and Brian) and I are augmenting our water gardening businesses by developing and selling environmental products and services. These relate to cleaning up and beautifying natural bottom ponds, mainly storm water retention ponds and other ponds that accumulate pollution. This is potentially a huge market and one that is part of huge trend, i.e., “going green.” We have the products and the know-how. We’re off to a good start; let’s hope we succeed.

One last thing, you should note that this magazine is now “Pond and Garden,” no longer Pondkeeper.” Could this be a market-induced mutation? I think so.

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