Back To Basics By David Edenfield

Spring 2007 is now just a memory. You will likely place this season into one of three categories: great, average or same as last year.

I spent several weekends working as merchandiser in some major metropolitan markets this year. My job was pulling racks, consolidating products, unsleeving and hanging baskets, and occasionally answering customer questions, such as, "Where do I find 'that fertilizer that kills weeds'?"

The weekend weather throughout the season was just great, and by 9 a.m., the stores were filled with customers.

This Season's Observations

As the season winds down, I wanted to share some general observations:

  • It is a mandatory requirement to grow and ship good quality plant material. Some growers understand it, but a whole bunch still don't get it.
  • Consumers don't really pay attention to retail prices on plant material. People have a price range in mind but not the exact price. One major exception: "Where are the Wave petunias?" There may be (or not) better genetics out there, but people know the Wave name and look for it.
  • Customers are not buying brands. Again, if the products looked good and customers were ready to garden, they bought. They are also not buying varieties. Consumers do not have time to study (or care) about the differences of one series of impatiens over another.
  • Customers are looking for information to help them with their garden experiences. They are reading tags and, new this year, reading the information on the pots as well.
  • As an industry, we have to do a better job explaining, separating and calling out the annuals from the perennials in the garden centers.
  • The number-one reason people do not buy plants is if there are no prices on them. Across the country, I have seen several growers this year signing racks with a price before shipping them to retail locations. On the West Coast, it has become mandatory at one major retailer.
  • No retailer I have visited has the basket display issue solved. Baskets are either hung too high or they are not hung at all. I found a lot of baskets on display in sleeves.
  • No surprise the majority of shoppers were women, but what I did see this year was more couples and more men shopping than ever before.
  • I thought maybe we would see container sales slow down this year. It did not happen. In fact, sales were off the chart on the ones that looked really good. The bigger the container, the better.

The Results Are In

There were some really hot and not-so-hot products this year:

  • Big containers were popular. The new hot shape is square, and the new hot colors are black and gray (anything but terra cotta).
  • Big baskets (12 inches and larger) also were popular. Both mixed and straight colors sold.
  • Six- and 8-inch color pots sold like hot cakes. I think this is driven by time-starved, impatient, casual gardeners looking for instant gratification.
  • People were looking for (and willing to pay for) one or two really special premium varieties grown in 6-inch pots.
  • Regular impatiens and petunias in good stand-by colors still sell well.
  • Cheap impatiens and petunia baskets were not selling. They looked terrible and hung around until they died.

What Do You Say?

So was it a great, average or same-as-last-year season for you and your company? I got an E-mail from a friend the other day with a tag line that made me think: If you want something you've never had before, you need to do something you've never done before.

How do you make 2008 a great season? Do something you have never done before.

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David Edenfield

David Edenfield is president of Visions Groups LLC., a solutions group providing marketing, management and production assistance to the green industry. He can be reached at [email protected] or (440) 319-2458.

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