Sustainability, Reaching Customers Matter To Gen Y
One retail intern reveals ways to reduce costs, go green and get those customers interested in plant products again.
September 27, 2012
My name is Radka Martinova. I am 23 years old and from Bulgaria. I am an intern in the U.S. through the Ohio Program. To be honest, it has been the best experience in my life. I met a lot of new friends, learned more about the country and its culture and, of course, improved my English. I am currently working in a retail store in Ohio. We sell a lot of different plants that are delivered from greenhouses and farms.
The State Of The Industry
Everyone is familiar with the economic crisis that struck North America and then the rest of the world. The U.S. is still impacted by the economic conditions in Europe. The green industry is going through a soft recovery. Until that settles down, people live with some anxiety, and that keeps them from buying. I noticed some costumers consider our pricey products a luxury. Most of them pick a smaller version of the same plant or choose a more affordable one. The greenhouse industry is facing low consumer confidence and high fuel prices at the same time. The latter impacts both consumers and producers. Many companies are looking at innovative ways to streamline production and reduce costs. This is no longer an option; it`s a necessity. There are three important issues to point out:
Energy efficiency. Companies have to try to become more energy efficient. This will not only save money, but it will also protect the environment.
Water and water storage. Some states experience water deficiency. The problem with water storage arises. Like the problems associated with energy efficiency, improvements in the collection and use of water are also required. These efforts will help in the short and long-term.
Cultivating new customers. The problem of future generations is a result of macro demographics in the country. The Baby Boomers have pretty much bought everything they need from us. They secured the growth of plant purchases over the last few decades, but nowadays, they are getting more and more out of the game. At the same time, there are few people in Generation-X than during the Boomers’ era. It's a basic function of supply and demand. Demand is down because there are fewer people demanding what is being sold. Research says that the U.S. will have five to eight more years of this demographic downshift until the population gets old enough to buy houses. Then they will want to purchase plants in the larger quantities that growers are able to supply.
Unfortunately, living in such a fast-paced environment also takes its toll. People are less interested in gardening, as they hardly find time to do it. The bar is being set lower. One gets satisfied with less. Why plant flowers in the bed when I can buy ready-to-go containers and place them on the front porch or back patio? Thinking this way leads people to buy fewer things. In other words, the industry earns a smaller profit.
How To Reach Customers
There is a need to cultivate new customers. In my opinion, the industry should focus on young people because we are the future. Times are changing and so are we. If a company wants to prosper, it has to have the right people on its side. Younger people get into things faster. They would know better what consumers want. For example, I quickly learned what customers want in my store, and after the first two months, I was already giving some suggestions to managers. That was a huge step forward for me because there are employees with a lot more experience, but the customers trusted me. I felt really proud of myself.
At the 2012 OFA Short Course in Columbus, Ohio, I met a representative from one of the companies at the show. He told the company has a policy of hiring younger people in many of their departments. He also acknowledged that such a policy will help the company improve. I am glad that these policies are being implemented.
Another way to cultivate new customers is for growers to distinguish themselves from the competition. The operations need to offer better service and gather feedback from retailers. This, I believe, will build strong relationships between the two sides. Then more retailers would be willing to do business with certain growers. Research people`s opinions or thoughts. See what they want and what they like. Understand them better, so you can offer better service. By taking these steps, I believe growers can cultivate new customers. Nothing`s easy but it’s worth trying.