Inviting Buyers Into Your Greenhouse

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Inviting Buyers Into Your Greenhouse

Clearwater Nursery serves major grocery store chains, including Kroger, Supervalu and Stater Bros., and get-togethers between Clearwater and its retail customers are no different than most grower-retailer meetings.

“Normally, we meet at trade shows,” says Steven Medeiros, Clearwater’s marketing executive. “From there, we have meetings at their corporate locations with presentation material that’s basically just paper and sample product.”

Last year, though, Clearwater’s Peter Hesse and Guy Miel developed the idea of inviting its existing buyers–and potential buyers–to a special event at their greenhouses in Nipomo, Calif.

Using a traditional mum and poinsettia trial as the core draw, Hesse and Miel invited vendors like Aris Horticulture, Ball Horticultural Co., and Temkin International to exhibit their products on site, where interested retail buyers could make appointments to meet with them between Nov. 30 and Dec. 3. Four poinsettia breeders–Dömmen, Ecke Ranch, Selecta First Class and Syngenta Flowers–were invited to showcase their newest varieties and connect with buyers.

In addition to new mums, poinsettias and hard goods products, the event–dubbed Plants On Parade–gave Clearwater the opportunity to talk about a few of its unique initiatives, including an interactive sustainability initiative that involves kids collecting reusable plastic food tubs in which plants are grown.

“We’ve grown our mums in these I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter tubs,” Medeiros says. “Kids will collect them after the flowers have played their role, and they’ll return them to their school or an area that’s been designated by the store for two cents each.

“TerraCycle has agreed with us on an exclusive agreement and for any store that participates, we will implement a marketing/PR program that enables us to go into a geographic area around the grocery store and direct market to that elementary school.”

Another initiative Clearwater pitched to buyers is also geared toward kids, but more specifically about introducing kids to floriculture. Medeiros has developed a cast of cartoon characters called The Two Toes, whose mission is to influence kids to start their own Take Care of Your Planet (TCYP) clubs.

The Plants On Parade event also afforded Clearwater yet another opportunity to meet with retail buyers at the end of another busy year. Additionally, Clearwater had the opportunity to show buyers tangible materials for their initiatives–and lots of them, at that–rather than pitch their ideas and tell stories in a boardroom somewhere.
“There’s no place like home,” Medeiros says.

Collaboration Is Key

Plants On Parade was a possibility primarily because of the pot crop trials and a special grower day Syngenta Flowers hosted to showcase its mum breeding program. Because Syngenta was directly involved and promoted the event to some of its key customers, Clearwater saw an opportunity to make more of the four days.

“Syngenta was going to invite buyers for its mum trials,” Medeiros says. “It wasn’t just Clearwater inviting. It was our partners inviting. So while they were coming in, we gathered the list of who Syngenta was inviting along with who we were inviting, and we parlayed that and used the momentum.”

Still, because Clearwater wanted Syngenta to get the most out of the event, other festivities took place in separate areas of the facility.

“Attendees went to the mum-poinsettia trial, to lunch and then went to see other vendors,” Medeiros says. “It gave Clearwater sales people a chance to join with their customers and then walk them to the vendors.”

Other vendors who participated were decorative packaging companies like Flamingo Holland, Hill’s Imports, MNC Stribbons and Norwood, an Australian-based company. Some vendors met buyers for the first time, and meetings were pre-arranged between 10 and 20 minutes.

“The great thing about this was it wasn’t a trade show,” Medeiros says. “It was more focused, one-on-one attention, and it really enabled the hard goods vendors to effectively pitch their product with less distraction. The format really benefited them.”

Medeiros anticipates Clearwater hosting the event again next year. He also believes the event gives the company an edge over its competitors.

“Hosting an event like this shows our willingness to promote different looks, as well as our willingness to be an industry leader in sustainability,” he says. “I wouldn’t be surprised if another grower tried this approach.”

Kevin Yanik is the former managing editor of Greenhouse Grower.
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