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Four Trends to Watch in 2015

Our industry is always changing, and it pays to anticipate trends that will affect your business.  There are four trends I believe will have a major impact on our industry this year.

By Tom Smith, President of Four Star Greenhouse

Tom Smith
Tom Smith, President of Four Star Greenhouse

Last year’s weather created the “perfect storm” for our industry, in a positive way.  Most of the country experienced a long, hard winter and a late spring – leading to a consumer feeding frenzy.  We can’t order up that weather for this year, but we can take advantage of several trends to grow business and increase profitability. 

1. Make it easy for your customers 

We hear a lot about ways to put the customer first and make it easy, and it’s big in many industries.  At Four Star Greenhouse, we have incorporated this idea into our mission statement, where we focus on making every aspect of our business “Easy, Successful and Inspiring” for our customers. 

I’ve said before how critical it is for our industry that consumers succeed at gardening, so they return again each year.  If they can’t succeed at gardening, they will give it up.

There are a lot of ways to make this happen:  Breeding plants for better performance in a variety of conditions; giving consumers education at the retail source; and developing products that make the establishment and care of plants easier and more successful.  Two big trends in this direction are the popularity and availability of combinations, and the development of new water-holding containers.

Combinations have always been popular but never more than they are now.  But when consumers don’t know which proper soils, fertilizers and watering routines to use, they may not succeed.  Growers can help consumers be successful by creating combinations with plants that grow well together and have similar vigor ratings, all planted with proper soil and fertilizer mixes, plus tags that give them clear directions. Consumers are then buying “instant success” packages, in addition to beautiful flower combinations.

Another idea we’re looking into is the development of water-holding containers with ample reservoirs that make water easily accessible to the plants.  Why? There are several reasons:

  • They make watering easy for consumers and eliminate worries.
  • They make fertilizing easier because there is less leaching out – the salts rinse to the reservoir so the plants can still pull the nutrition out of the saved water.
  • If there is too much rain, it will drain off for later use and reduce harm to the plants.
  • They save lots of time and effort.

We’re working on prototype models this summer, so stay tuned!

2.  Growers are going for profit

There was a time when many growers only focused on their operating and input costs and didn’t have a realistic picture of their profits.  Fortunately, this has changed and many growers I have met know exactly how much margin they’re making and on what products. 

This is a great trend for the industry because it means many growers are looking for plants that offer the most potential for higher profits, as well as higher sales, faster sell-through and better consumer results. 

While some growers continue to sell generic plants at lower prices, they may be missing higher profit opportunities by selling branded plants.  For example, I’ve seen 4-in. pots of seed white Alyssum selling for $2.98.  This sounds good at first, but consider if that grower selected branded plants like Proven Winners® and charged $3.98.  For $1 more, he or she would get advanced genetics that sell faster at retail, a branded container, tag, trays, delivery and a national marketing campaign that encourages higher sales.  This adds up to selling a better plant at a higher margin, with input costs included. That’s a great profit picture and one many growers are using to increase their success.

Savvy growers know that the investment in branded plants can bring higher prices,
faster sell-through and better margins — more than this generic Alyssum.

3.  New generations want new things

Many independent and big box stores are using clever merchandising that combines branded plants, P.O.P. and selective use of display areas to guide shoppers to featured plants. 

This isn’t your father’s garden, and the new generation of young gardeners wants things a bit differently than before.  This generation particularly needs to have successful experiences at gardening. They’ve already shown little patience with waiting for success, and many of them live an urban lifestyle.  How do we serve them?

The popularity of grocery store bakeries might be an inspiration.  Instead of making cakes from scratch, many people just buy them already made.  Why not offer specialty combinations ready-made?  Herb and decorative combinations, shade combinations, smaller containers and plants that take less space, mixtures including perennials or shrubs, seasonal containers and special occasion combos are just a few ideas.

Don’t forget the growing power of social media for this generation too. Retailers can capitalize on this by sharing ideas and plant care tips, and spreading the idea that new gardeners can be successful gardeners.

4.  Smarter merchandising means more sales

Big box stores and many independent garden centers are leading the way with inventive merchandising that combines P.O.P., branded containers and useful information.  The experience in any garden center retail operation should be friendly and confidence inspiring.  Clean and neat displays, helpful signage, and attractive branded products give consumers more confidence in the products they buy.  Conversely, messy and disorganized displays without tags or P.O.P. do not encourage the buyer. 

Marketing gurus tell us that the shopping experience itself is now more important to customers than prices.  It pays to make sure your retail operation makes successful gardening something every customer believes he or she can do!

Have some thoughts you’d like to share? Email us at or call 734-654-6420.

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