Why We Must Cultivate New Customers

Jeff Warschauer

The green side of our industry isn’t growing. We can blame the economy–and that’s part of the problem–but there are bigger issues we need to address, too.

Our customer base is changing. The 80 million people in the Baby Boomer generation have fueled the greenhouse industry over the last couple of decades. But now they’re moving into retirement. They’re not gardening like they used to. Generation X is barely half the size, so even if we can interest them in gardening like the Boomers–which is debatable–we’re going to have to get twice as many of them buying our plants just to break even. Generation Y is bigger, but they’re years away from being a market driver.

We must acknowledge the facts we see around us. The consumer today is not as interested in gardening. You can blame the economy, and I do. But I also wonder if people have just run out of time for having a beautiful landscaped garden in their yard. They go get a couple $50 containers and put them on the front stoop. Maybe they buy a couple of baskets because they have to look good to their neighbors. Hopefully they do the same for the back patio. But that’s the extent of it.

Convert Consumers To Customers

We need to find ways to appeal to new generations of consumers and create new customers. We have to be able to look at the different market segments and the different customers and ask, “What would they want? Why would they want to buy my plants?”

For me, those questions are easier to ask than to answer, in large part because I am not that customer. I can study. I can think I understand it. But I can’t walk in those shoes. How do we do it? We need to hire some of these people to help us understand. As an industry, if we’re going to go after Gen X, Gen Y or Gen Whatever, we have to have these younger people–who understand exactly what those consumers want– on our management teams.

Create Partners With Service

But our efforts need to go beyond appealing to consumers. What can you as a grower do to cultivate new retailer customers for your business?
With all the great genetics out there, along with mechanization and education, there are many good growers today. So what sets you and your business apart from the rest? Why should a retailer buy from you? You either have to have a lower price–which you don’t want to do–or you have to show the retail customer that by doing business with you, you are going to help him increase sales.

As a grower, you need to be more than a plant supplier. Consider a business model where you help your customers stock and merchandise their stores. Show them how to set themselves apart from their competitors. Provide benches. Charge a fee and help them do a better job merchandising plants. You’re not just a provider of plant material anymore. You’re not a wholesaler. You’re a partner.

To begin growing our industry and our businesses again, we need to find new customers–consumers and retailers–in completely new places. We will have to learn who they are, and understand what they want. We need to help them, whether it’s providing new products in new ways, or helping retailers serve their customers. We need to be visionaries.

Leave a Reply

More From Grow Initiative...

May 1, 2015

18 New Grasses To Grow

Ornamental grasses fit in with the needs of today’s landscapers and consumers better than ever. Whether your customers are looking for creative solutions for patio containers or a mass planting in a landscape, some of the 18 new varieties included here are sure to meet the need.

Read More

May 1, 2015

Restoration Landscapes: A Specialized Market For Natives And Grasses

Restoration landscapes, depending on their purpose, often require straight native species, along with a confirmation of their known provenance. Research is key in this area and good recordkeeping is a must.

Read More

April 30, 2015

North Creek Nurseries Welcomes Nikki Drake As New Financial Administrator

Nikki Drake will fill the role of new financial administrator at North Creek Nurseries, with responsibility for the accounting department. She will also serve on the strategic planning committee.

Read More
Latest Stories
fieldtovase

April 29, 2015

Field To Vase Dinner Tour Promotes American Grown Flowe…

For the first time last month, guests at The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, Calif. were treated to a four-course, gourmet, farm-to-fork style meal in the middle of the fields. The event was part of the 10-city Certified American Grown “Field to Vase” Dinner Tour. The tour is a series of private, intimate gatherings that place seasonal, local and sustainable American Grown flowers at the center of the table where locally grown food, beer and wine is served by a farm-to-table chef. The Flower Fields event was one of four dinners that will be held in the state this year. It featured chef Marissa Gerlach, executive chef at the Vista Valley Country Club, Vista, Calif. Mike Mellano, a third generation flower farmer with a Ph.D. in plant pathology, led guests on tours of the fields. Guests were given a floral arrangement as a symbol of the evening’s theme: Celebrating Local American […]

Read More
CrownBees_Blue-Orchard-Bee-Female_Artz

April 21, 2015

There’s Still Time Left In Crown Bees’ Camp…

There is a little more than a week left in Crown Bees’ Indiegogo fund-raising venture designed to give garden center retailers a chance to help increase awareness of native bees, and to increase the number of bees to pollinate local food. The company is raising $100,000 to redesign “Bee with Me,” a social network that connects, maps and empowers bee boosters across the U.S. Garden centers that take part in the campaign can: Be listed as a local resource for products and supplies in the online network Get access to and activate a new group of customers Be viewed as a leader in the community Be seen as a source of local expertise. Within your own store and brand, there are several ways you can also help to raise awareness about native bees, such as educating customers about the gentle nature of solitary bees. Visit CrownBees.com for some easy facts to pass […]

Read More
Todd Woodfield

April 8, 2015

Sustainable Horticulture Pays Off

Practicing holistic horticulture has saved money and improved plant quality for Abby Farms. Its manager shares where the operation has seen differences from conventional production.

Read More

April 1, 2015

Philadelphia Flower Show Draws More Than 250,000 Attend…

With more than 250,000 consumers attending the prestigious Philadelphia Flower Show in March each year, it's a great opportunity to get flowers and gardening products into the public eye. This year's show displays took on family favorites at the movies, with a focus on Disney and Pixar films. Check out some of the highlights in our slideshow.

Read More

April 1, 2015

Peace Tree Farms Grows Its Customer Base

Over the past five years, Peace Tree Farms in Kintnersville, Pa., has concentrated on growing its business by providing plant material for the displays at the illustrious Philadelphia Flower Show. We caught up with Peace Tree Farms’ Lloyd Traven to ask about how the Flower Show figures into his business plan.

Read More
Bloomtown_Screen Shot 2015-03-10

March 24, 2015

Bloomtown Exposes Consumers To The World Of Horticultur…

A new web series called Bloomtown is all about the mud, sweat and tears of horticulture. Filmed in St. Louis, Mo., it chronicles the world of horticulture using local flower growers, greenhouses, wholesalers, florists, consumers, retail shops and arborists, with the goal of opening consumers’ eyes to the world of horticulture around them.

Read More
SAF CAD

March 18, 2015

Growers Ask For Immigration And Healthcare Reform Durin…

Nearly 90 growers, retailers, suppliers and wholesales attended the Society of American Florists' (SAF) 2015 Congressional Action Days March 9-10. The delegation, representing 18 states, arrived on Capitol Hill at a time when two major industry issues - immigration and healthcare reform - are especially prominent in national headlines.

Read More
Nexus Corporation's Cheryl Longtin Encourages Women To Seek Volunteer Leadership Opportunities

March 4, 2015

Nexus Corporation’s Cheryl Longtin Encourages Wom…

When Cheryl Longtin came to the horticulture business in 1994, she applied her experience in the automotive industry to promote the adoption of more technology in greenhouse production. Longtin says horticulture, with its rich family tradition, has long promoted women in the industry compared to other industries, but women in horticulture must continue to seek out opportunities to provide volunteer leadership in organizations that shape the future of the business.

Read More
Smart Herb Garden

March 2, 2015

Smartpot Uses Sensors And Cartridges To Ensure Success …

Click & Grow helps make it simple for consumers to grow their own herbs and spices at home, even if they have little experience with plants.

Read More

March 2, 2015

Student Flash Mob At TPIE Has Roots In Floriculture

The local FFA students who entertained TPIE attendees in 2014 and 2015 received industry donations of plants and a greenhouse structure to help expand their horticultural program.

Read More

February 12, 2015

GROW Perspective: What Is It You Do Again?

The industry is very good at talking about what we do and how we do it, but has almost completely lost touch with talking about why this work is important. As an industry, we need to promote our professions as vital to healthier living.

Read More
bee photo

February 11, 2015

26 Ways Growers Improve The Green Industry

In Greenhouse Grower’s annual State Of The Industry Survey, we asked how your operation is living the GROW Initiative’s five pillars: How are you driving consumer success, cultivating new customers, demanding quality, investing in the industry and sharpening business management? Through your candid responses, we learned about some of the ideas you’ve implemented and steps you’re taking for 2015. Here are just a few.

Read More
Noble Foundation

February 3, 2015

Lloyd Noble Scholars Program Application Period Now Ope…

The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation is offering college students an opportunity to work side-by-side with the Noble Foundation’s renowned agricultural consultants and researchers through the Lloyd Noble Scholars in Agriculture program, a summer internship that provides students the opportunity to enhance their in-class education with real-world application and experiences.

Read More

January 7, 2015

GROW Summit 2014 Homes In On The Issues That Keep You U…

During Greenhouse Grower’s third annual GROW Summit in December a number of ideas, questions and calls-to-action transpired. Here are a few of the highlights.

Read More
GROW Logo

January 6, 2015

Growers Resolve To Educate Public About Their Operation…

See what growers plan to work on for their 2015 business resolutions.

Read More

December 22, 2014

National Garden Bureau Launches Therapeutic Garden Prog…

National Garden Bureau has chosen the Growing Solutions Farm in Chicago as the first beneficiary of its annual fundraising effort "Growing For Futures."

Read More

December 19, 2014

Hydroponic Food Production Course Serves Up Life Lesson…

Students in the new HORT 331X Hydroponic Food Crop Production course at Iowa State University are producing more food than they can eat, so they began donating the vegetables they produce to a local food pantry and free meal program.

Read More
GROW Logo

December 8, 2014

“The Cheapest Generation” Will Be Tomorrow&…

Members of the Millennial generation aren’t buying cars and houses the way their parents did, and according to a recent article from The Atlantic titled “The Cheapest Generation,” it might be more than an effect of a bad economy. So what does this mean for horticulture? Industry members weigh in.

Read More