Landscapers business affected by seasons and economy
Landscape businesses in Philadelphia face many challenges, whether it is the season changes and having less business in the winter months, the recent downturn of the economy, or even working in a city in general with not that many yards. Every landscaping company is affected in a different way.
Anthony Cicoeelli, president of AMC Nursery and Landscaping Inc., explains that business is not necessarily worse for his company during the winter seasons, just very different.
Their peak season for business is from March 15th-June 30th. For the rest of the year, they average around 20 people from June to December, and then maybe a dozen throughout the winter, Cicoeelli said.
“There are different aspects of the business during different times,”said Cicoeelli, who is a graduate from Temple University and started the business in 1991 right out of college. “During the winter we do snow removal and sell top soil.”
The company does not have pay differences between seasons and doesn’t migrate between seasons for this very reason, Cicoeelli said.
Something that has actually affected the company is the downturn of the economy.
When the economy was good, the company did a lot of developer work and construction work. When that died off, they started focusing more on the maintenance aspect of the work for homes. That is what they’ve been really focused on for the last four years, Cicoeelli said.
“Since the recession, we’ve grown as a business but our profits have stayed the same,” Cicoeelli said. “Now we’re just doing more work, but for less money.”
Roger Donaldson, owner of the landscaping company Donaldson Services, has a similar outlook. His company sees difference in business during the winter months, but finds ways to deal with it.
The spring and fall are the busiest times for the company, and in the winter it slows down, Donaldson said.
“I don’t have another job, but I find ways to deal with the slow business during the winter,” Donaldson said. “I save up my money during that time, and the employees have pay differences.”
Donaldson has three employees and started the business three years ago. His family owned business in the construction field, so he got started with it when he was just a kid. Almost all of their customers are reoccurring, Donaldson said.
Donaldson has a positive outlook on the recent changes in the economy.
“I’ve only been in business for about three years now, so I’m not really sure what business was like before then,” Donaldson said. “It really seems like it’s getting better now though.”
On the other hand, Marcy Smith, the manager of Avant Gardens, has a different outlook on season changes. She said their company absolutely sees an affect from different seasons.
“Our on seasons are the warmer months,” said Smith, who has been the manager since 2007. “There isn’t a whole lot to do in the winter.”
Their work tends to start decreasing in October, and they normally finish off any regular maintenance by December. By the end of March, they start to get calls and in April it gets busy, Smith said.
“Our company is like a skeleton, because we don’t have active full-time employees,” said Smith, who does not have another job for off seasons. “Only part of our crew stays around for every month.”
Smith explained that there are unique challenges of having a landscaping business in a city. They have to worry about if there is a back entrance to the house so they can bring equipment in. Many times they have to make sure a back entrance or back alley-way is wide enough for a wheel barrel. In the past they have had to carry equipment through the house because there is no other way to the backyard. This then brings up the problem of cleaning everything up. They also have to make sure they find a parking space large enough for their trucks,
“We have always been a city-based company, so our actual expertise is urban landscapes,” Smith said. “There are more yards in the city than you would think. Some are very small, but some are actually a very nice size. Many of the row homes in center city have backyards that could easily be the length of the house.”
The company has returning customers, but also definitely sees a level of all new work because many of their businesses are one shot deals, Smith said.
Avant Gardens has absolutely seen an affect from the downturn of the economy.
“We’re considered a luxury item, so it’s hard not to be affected,” Smith said. “If a family is struggling with mortgages, do you think they’re going to want to get a patio?”