Are We Looking at the Big Chill This Holiday Season? By Tim Hodson

Even though it is only October, and fall mums, pansies and asters are still making their way off of the retail shelves, the holiday season is just around the corner. But by now, you have planted your poinsettias and other holiday varieties and are probably just waiting for these crops to finish so you can send them off to retail. What are you expectations for this holiday season?

Forecast for a Stormy Season

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), most, if not all, retailers are a bit nervous when it comes to predicting their sales for this Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. The good news is consumers are expected to spend $470 billion this holiday season. The bad news is NRF prognosticators anticipate that holiday spending will increase only 2.2 percent this year. That figure is less than 2007’s subdued 2.4 percent increase and only half of the 10-year average of 4.4 percent.

High gas prices, an ongoing credit crunch, a roller coaster stock market and a dismal housing market continue to play Scrooge with consumer confidence. And to top it off, this year, there are only 27 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. These are the ingredients for a not-so-merry holiday season.

“Current financial pressures and a lack of confidence in the economy will force shoppers to be very conservative with their holiday spending,” NRF Chief Economist Rosalind Wells said last month. “We expect consumers to be frugal this season and less willing to splurge on discretionary items.” In fact, one in two consumers said everyday low prices or sales would be their biggest deciding factor in selecting a store for their holiday shopping.

‘Tis the Season…to Make Crucial Decisions

According to NRF figures, the average consumer’s 2007 holiday expenditures were $923.37. Of that total, $20.53 or about 2 percent were spent on flowers. So if consumers are “less willing to splurge on discretionary items,” what will happen to that 2 percent this year? Will it go up or down? What will your merchandisers be doing in the stores to make your products desirable to shoppers this season? Will the quality and display of your product make it a must-buy?

Poinsettia sales at many of the big boxes across the country were not stellar by any means last year. In the February 2008 issue of Big Grower, I asked whether you had analyzed your sales numbers and pay by scan data to find out which varieties were your winners and losers and which of your retail locations performed the best, before you made your 2008 poinsettia planting plans.

Did you look at those numbers again before you started making your planting decisions for this holiday season? What did you do with that data? Did it help you make any of your growing plans for this year?

Please drop me a line at [email protected] and let me know what you think will happen during the 2008 holiday season.

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