Easy Product Upgrades
Merchandising and marketing programs are helping growers keep their products in demand at retail.
April 28, 2009
A collective tightening of the belts among American consumers likely means growers and retailers will have to work harder in 2009 to capture those oh-so-precious discretionary dollars. But luckily, there are plenty of easy product upgrades you can try that can help you get more bang for your buck.
So, how exactly can you elevate the price of a plant without alienating customers? Tal White, general manager at White's Nursery & Greenhouses in Chesapeake, Va., says adding value to an item by adding cost, like bundling a ceramic container with the plant, does not necessarily increase its perceived value to the customer.
"We have found that it's necessary to create a brand new item where there's no past perceived value in place," he says. "It creates the opportunity to increase the new item's price in relation to existing items."
White is quick to note it's not always an easy task, though. "Creating an item that maximizes a retail pricepoint and yet allows you to minimize your input costs while achieving a 95 percent sell through at store level is still a challenge."
Make It Easy
Tim Stiles, president of Masterpiece Flower Company LLC, in Byron Center, Mich., says Masterpiece has found simple things can make a world of difference when it comes to elevating pricepoints. One example is putting a purple fountain grass in a purple quart pot to give it some added pizzazz. "Sometimes, we dress (plants) up, too, with a little bit bigger tags, and maybe a tag that has some custom photography on it," Stiles says. Supporting plants with large signs that include lifestyle shots also can help increase value, he adds. "I think those suggestive ways to show the consumer how to be successful are helpful."
Keeping signs short and to the point is important, too, including two or three bullet points on how a plant will perform in certain conditions. "I think any time you can help a potential shopper understand how this plant is going to best perform is one of the most useful things we can do," Stiles says.
Masterpiece has seen the most success with its orchids, which Stiles says have been dressed up with special packaging for the different seasons. On top of dropping orchids in fancier containers, adding protective packaging is convenient for consumers who might be purchasing the plant on a snowy day. "It's things that are fairly practical, at least in my viewpoint," Stiles says. "If you're there at the grocery store and you want to buy a plant, having a sleeve is a helpful thing to get it out the door to your car."
To Brand Or Not To Brand
Another way to enhance perceived value is through branding, and Gerry Giorgio, creative director at MasterTag, which designs tags, labels and custom merchandising programs, says your brand message must be strong and simple. "There should be no doubt as to what you are about and what is the value of your product. Defining who you are is the first step in establishing yourself in the mind of your customer."
He adds that strong messages, when exposed to over time and linked to a source, will create an identity. "But, the value of a given product and the decision to buy it is largely at the point of sale," he says. "This prompts the question, 'Do we brand or merchandise?'"
Giorgio says the decision to brand your products is based on a few factors, including frequency of exposure to your brand and the length of time you plan to commit to it. Financial and human resources will also be determining factors as to whether branding is the right decision for you.
"I believe the value-based program is more practical for most growers to implement than establishing a brand," he says. "Consider that 50 percent of consumer brands don't have advertising beyond store level. The loudest possible ad vehicle you can have is right in the store where the consumer is standing there encountering your display. This means merchandising displays are becoming the key marketing communications tool. A well-done display, set in the right place and providing the right message, can be more effective than establishing a brand. Displays, packages and labeling with a value-based product message can be the answer to brand."
Give Them Choices
Brenda Vaughn, assistant marketing manager for the horticultural division at John Henry, says eye-appealing, value-added programs have been very popular lately. John Henry can design virtually anything growers can think of, from unique tags to Potcha pots and plant porters. Vaughn says the key is making sure the plants are worthy of the extra money spent. "What I find challenging in our industry is that often, the grower does not see the value of spending 25 cents to $1.50 to present their product in a brand new way or is stuck in the middle and the retailer reaps the higher margin."
Vaughn points out that even though money is tight right now for consumers, they'll still buy gifts, and homeowners will still want color in their yards this spring, which makes it well worth a grower's while to invest in eye-catching marketing and merchandising. "It's time we catch up and give the consumer more choices," she says. "I'm not advocating changing all your pots, but offer some of your better performers in special packaging. I know you've all heard it before - we are leaving money on the table. I see the reaction of the women that come through our displays at Pack Trials. They go through the benches of plants and then see them merchandised, and their reactions and body language completely change. Yes, they are inspired by the plant alone, but when set in a beautiful pot with a special pick, it takes them to a new level."
Ann-Marie Vazzano is managing editor of American Fruit Grower magazine, a Meister publication.