A Grower’s View: Marketing In A Slow Economy

Scott Titus, owner of Windy Meadow Nursery in Bellingham, Wash., has an idea to generate long-term sales and it involves giving away free vegetable starts. Free?! Hear him out.

Because of the recent economic conditions, companies have lowered their prices more than any time in the past 50 years. Microsoft recently reduced the price for leasing software by more than 25 percent.

When companies reduce the price of their products, they must also cut their variable costs to remain profitable. As sales volume and profitability decline, so must the number of employees within the company.

The pricing level a retailer sets is a double-edged sword. Price your product too high and you will lose market share to low-cost competitors like big box stores. Higher margin pricing strategies target customers who are less sensitive to price.

Last summer, Starbucks lowered prices on staple items like iced coffee to compete with McDonalds but raised prices on fancier drinks like Frappuccinos and Carmel Macchiatos. High-margin pricing on mature products with loyal customers and few competitors makes good business sense. To attract the budding vegetable gardener, a more modest pricing strategy may be better.

Price your products too low and lose profitability with less room for having profitable discount sales events that normally increase sales volume.

So how does a nursery revive demand and win sales? The weather, or more accurately, the changing of the seasons certainly helps revive demand, but the real answer is to attract more customers to your business.

Last summer, Magic Mountain offered discounted tickets to anyone who brought in two empty soda cans. They were able to successfully attract the most price-conscious customers who otherwise might not have visited the park.

Scott’s Idea

I have written before about nurseries being in the original green industry and the effect we have on the well being of humanity. If we take the idea from Magic Mountain and advertise a gift of a free vegetable start to anyone who brings in aluminum soda cans (no limit).

In this economy, who wouldn’t want a free vegetable start in exchange for some cans they were going to throw away or recycle anyway? The proceeds from recycling the aluminum would be donated to the closest school in your neighborhood. The dumpster could be donated by the recycling company and can be arranged by the school principal. The school would also support the event in the form of advertising to families in the district.

Your nursery will generate good will in the neighborhood you do business and involve the younger generations (kids and parents) in gardening that will have a perpetual payback.

When I started Windy Meadow Nursery more than 20 years ago, Washington state led the nation in recycling efforts and Whatcom County, where I live, led the state in recycling. So this a natural extension of that engrained train of thought.

To be viewed as sustainable and sensitive to the environment is becoming a major selling point for many global companies. This is an opportunity to make a global difference at the local level and profit by attracting customers who might not otherwise visit your nursery.

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