Retail ponderings: More than mums and pumpkins

Departments - Retail

Extend the season by catering to autumn activities like football and by emphasizing that fall is for planting

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July 29, 2014

It’s hotter than Hades outside, and it’s so humid you could cut the air with a knife. But make no mistake, I’m not complaining. As I pen this column, it is the Fourth of July holiday week. Ever since I was a kid, this marked the halfway point of summer. In my mind it’s now a downhill slide until the kids are back in school, the weather starts to cool, fruit appears and foliage changes color.

Gosh, that is really kind of a depressing thought! But then again, it depends on your point of view. It also means we’re headed to football season. Woot woot! Yes this Browns fan is experiencing Johnny Football fever! And I’m curious to see how my alma mater the Penn State Nittany Lions will do with their new coach.

If you recall, last month I discussed capturing customers by taking advantage of pop culture phenomena. There isn’t much that captivates the American public more than professional, college and high school sports teams.

Last fall I attended my first PSU game since graduation courtesy of Rick Grazzini of Garden Genetics. When I toured his facility, we approached a greenhouse that had this yellow-stemmed, dark green, almost black-leaved Swiss chard. I looked at it and said, “Oh my God, this would be perfect for a landscape for a Pittsburgh Steelers fan!” Get this; there is actually a book from Doug Oster titled, “The Steel City Garden,” which explores the many ways you can landscape with black and gold. He says it can help a “Yinzer” or garden lover to take the term “Steeler Nation” to an entirely new level. So yes, sports passion can overflow in to the garden.

At my family’s retail store we carried many garden accessories for sports teams. Everything from flags and garden stones to statuary and gift items. What we failed to do was tie in the plants. From experience, I can see where creating sported-themed displays could be a great promotion and differentiation strategy.

Now not everyone has a green thumb. Even the best of us can have annuals that take a dive and look less than stellar. Although simplistic, it is important to have bright, larger size pots of annuals for Memorial Day and the Fourth of July so consumers can spruce up for entertaining.

Labor Day marks the unofficial start of fall. The days of fall = mums + pumpkins has passed, though. Those are staples to carry, but let the big boxes be the mum kings. With Halloween being the second largest holiday behind Christmas, there are bigger fish to fry. It’s up to us to reinforce that “fall is for planting” and push late season flowering perennials and shrubs and not just as end of the season leftovers. If we’ve purchased correctly, we’ve bought as needed for a continuous flow of fresh stock with minimal TLC material left over. Displays of black, orange and purple plants mingled with fall decor and colored pots in a prominent selling spot will scream, “Buy me!”

Or, why not offer a product that stimulates multi-season sales? What about larger patio containers with a focal plant like Sky Pencil Holly or Lollipop Crabapple, which allow for planting in the pot base? This provides a main feature that consumers can update anytime; for a special event (such as graduation), a holiday or simply each year to match their outdoor décor color theme. You’re giving them a reason to revisit your store often. Create a display with a door and the pots on either side. Have signage that reads “this could be your front entrance” along with recipes for each special occasion.

My daddy always told me, “You can’t sell from a half-empty display.” If you feel your year ends after spring, then it will. If you want to extend your selling season, than fill your displays wisely with products your customers relate to, that will inspire them and provide solutions.

 


Maria is president of Upshoot LLC and Director of Plant Development and Ornamental Program Manager for the HGTV HOME Plant Collection.