Connecting Growers to Non-Traditional Market Segments
The past two years have brought on many extraordinary changes to our world. From working from home to Zoom calls galore, we can all agree that some of these changes are going to be around well into the future. Selling plants online is one of those changes that we at National Plant Network believe will continue to progress, due to more people working from home and continued interest in our industry’s category.
National Plant Network launched in 2019 with the goal of connecting growers to a fulfillment network that services retailers selling plants through their own online websites. Not prepared for what was to come, 2020 brought a unique (albeit hard) opportunity for National Plant Network and its mission. Garden centers were closing, it was nearing Mother’s Day and a wide-set panic overtook the industry. Were garden centers essential? How could we move our product? Everyone in our industry understands our product is essential, but how could we convince those writing the rules of that before our busiest retail season?
I received several calls in the early days of the government shutdown on how we could help move plants through the National Plant Network. Receiving those calls not only humbled me but also brought about a sense of relief that a company we had envisioned for four years was becoming a much more needed reality in the marketplace.
After two seasons that were not only difficult but also revolutionary for the horticulture industry, National Plant Network is not only helping growers get their product where the shoppers are shopping: online in their hands, ordering plants on a website while 30,000 feet in the air (I have done my Christmas shopping this way!); but we are also providing knowledge to many other growers steering toward the endeavor of online plant sales.
We continue to look for new avenues to bring our product to the marketplace through non-traditional channels, both brick and mortar and online-only stores. If we, as an industry, could envision selling our product on other websites that do not traditionally carry our product, how much larger could the marketplace be? Starbucks selling coffee and tea plants? Retailers carrying items closer to year ‘round. Weather-proofing the garden center and creating convenience for those who cannot make it to the store. The possibilities are endless — and hence our focus on this non-traditional market segment.
Two of National Plant Network’s non-traditional retailers are Macy’s and Sunday. They each have their own product lines, but they both needed a solution to get plants into the hands of their respective consumers. Macy’s, a very new retailer to the online plant segment, created an online houseplant market for their consumers. Their reach online is massive and opens an entirely new category of retailer for our industry.
Sunday (www.getsunday.com) takes the guesswork out of lawn care and saw a need to carry several categories of plants for their consumers. Their focus is on their customers’ backyards — beautifying them with fruit trees, flower shrubs, perennials and several other product lines. The founders’ primary focus is sustainability and using ingredients in their lawn care product that you can pronounce. The consumers’ push for sustainability from our end will only continue to grow, and it has been a pleasure to partner with Sunday and see them on the forefront of such an important initiative.
The online garden store will never replace walking into a garden center during the peak of spring, but the convenience of shopping from your home or finding that very specific item you’ve been searching for and in quantities you need is a problem online plant sales have solved for the end consumer. National Plant Network will continue to provide the services for our growers and retailers into the future and we hope that our work creates lifelong gardeners in the process.
With over 17 million new gardeners, we as an industry must continue to engage those consumers, pursue them where they are, and continue to provide education to keep them coming back for more. Online is a great tool for all of those needs, and National Plant Network is happy to be a small part of building the garden world to what we all know it can be: a place of peace, a place of learning, and a place to feed your body and soul.