A reason to celebrate

Features - Marketing

Here’s how garden centers made the most of Valentine’s Day, despite snowy weather conditions and the ongoing pandemic.

March 11, 2021

Guests mingled and shopped as local singer Erica McKenzie (top right) performed during Colonial Gardens’ Galentine’s Day event.

As snow and ice slammed parts of the U.S. during Valentine’s Day weekend, many customers braved the elements to buy gifts for their loved ones in honor of the heartfelt holiday. We checked in with two IGCs to find out what trends and motivators swept customers in the door for Valentine’s Day 2021.

Sarah Beach, executive director of Sunshine Garden Center in Diamond, Illinois, says that she noticed many excited family pairs shopping together this year. She also noticed many women came in solely to buy pottery.

“We had a lot of mother-daughter duos coming in. They bought flowers and gifts for somebody else, but they were actually out just spending time with each other, and I think that was their Valentine’s Day thing,” she says.

Cut flower arrangements and houseplants were big purchases this year, and colorful displays helped to draw in the customers’ eye. This is the IGC’s second full-on Valentine’s Day with their floral shop, which they opened up at the back of the store last year. However, it was shut down temporarily in 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We had houseplants and cut flowers kind of mixed together. We had people come in for cut flowers, and go, ‘But she really likes houseplants’ and so they would kind of drift back and forth between those categories,” Beach says.

As they walked in, customers were greeted with candles, houseplants in sun pots, bouquets and vase arrangements. Beach also prepared a center table themed with décor, gifts and roses to accentuate traditional romantic Valentine’s Day themes. She also created a wall stacked with teddy bears, more vase arrangements and cards for a customizable experience.


“I had an entire table of extra flowers in vases, so when you looked down one aisle of the store, all you saw was this giant block of sorted color — things like hydrangeas, clematis — that you would normally see at a garden center, but things you wouldn’t normally see in February,” Beach says.

While the holiday spurred a bump in sales, Beach says compared to previous years, sales were down a bit. She attributes this to the snowy weather rather than the pandemic. Last spring, the IGC reworked its entire business model so they could sell items online in accordance with COVID-19 measures.

“We kept the online store going as everything started to loosen up, so this is the first year that we were able to put cut flowers up online for people to order,” she says. “And we got some online orders, but it almost seemed to confuse people. There were still a lot of people that wanted to come in and shop, as shopping for flowers is still very, very personal.”

As a result, they spent a lot of time marketing the fact the IGC could accommodate each customer’s level of shopping comfort during the pandemic, whether it be online, delivery or in-store.

Blush-colored blocks of craspedia flowers and carnations were a hit at Sunshine Garden Center.
Potted snake plants, assorted roses and vases of flowers like iris, gerbera daisies, hydrangeas, carnations, eucalyptus, lilies and astrancia were hits at Sunshine Garden Center.

Just for the girls

Sunshine Garden Center also hosted a Galentine’s Day gathering the Thursday before Valentine’s Day, an event popularized by the TV show “Parks & Rec” in which the main character, Leslie Knope, celebrates Feb. 13 as a day to honor women.

Beach encouraged customers to wear pink and red for a raffle ticket — along with a mask to follow COVID-19 guidelines. She also offered snacks and martini succulent make-and-take kits for eager customers.

“The Galentine’s event was a hit. We partner with other area businesses to put it on throughout our town, and this was our third year doing it. Having our cut flowers out and displayed as they shopped reminded the women of all the services that we provide,” Beach says.

At Colonial Gardens in Kansas City, Missouri, the IGC kicked off the weekend with their own Galentine’s Day event on Feb. 13. Raechel Lukowski, marketing manager, and Megan Wright, coordinator, prepared a free open house/happy hour from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. complete with local vendors and live music.

“Here in Kansas City, the weather has been absolutely horrible, just treacherous and cold. We wanted to provide people with a safe place to come. We stuck to all the Jackson County mandates and followed social distancing and mask wearing protocols,” Lukowski says.

They marketed the event primarily on Facebook, Instagram and their newsletter, and asked guests to RSVP in order to gather an accurate headcount and safely accommodate attendees. They even set up chairs and tables in the greenhouse.

“We are blessed with such a large facility,” Lukowski says “Typically, we have a great outdoor space, but in the winter of course, whether it’s a pandemic or not, we have to kind of utilize what we have inside. We have our community room where all the tables are socially distant, so people can sit in there and enjoy their coffee or a cocktail, or just sit and chat with friends.”

The Galentine’s Day bash set a sales record for February, and while the weather was in the single digits, the IGC was packed, she says. The turnout was fantastic, and she hopes to make it an annual event.

 “We served rosé and chardonnay wine and our Single Ladies cocktail (gin, tonic water and raspberry liquor with a lemon wedge). Samples included a sunflower seed and oat cookie, raspberry chocolate and cheese and salami. The café was open for those starting out with breakfast or joining us for lunch,” Lukowski says.

While the IGC does not offer pre-cut floral arrangements, popular offerings for Valentine’s Day included succulents, citrus plants and bromeliads. Special promotions ran from Friday to Sunday including 40% off bare-root succulents (normally priced at $2.99), citrus plants (normally priced at $34.99) and bromeliads (normally priced at $29.99). All pots were $10 off and customers could take an additional 10% off of all meat and produce in their market.

“We’re lucky enough to have a community that shares different businesses in the area, and we’ve got a couple of influencers to help us just get the word out about our events,” Lukowski says.

And she’s already planning ahead for the coming months and hopes Colonial Gardens’ ambience will bring customers back for more. “We are going to have more outdoor events, weekly and monthly, that people can look forward to if they’re looking for a place to come and be socially distant outside, but still enjoy the company of their close friends or family members,” she says.