Are Packs The New Black?

OK, so we have had a lot of family stuff these past few weeks – plus I’ve been in the home office working with my head down, so clearly I’m not spending enough time out in real world, because I just drove past the local gas station and a gallon of gas cost $3.79.

It had been about $3.25 last I remembered, so first I said a really bad word, because I was surprised and shocked. Then I had to laugh at myself for being an idiot. Of course we will see $4-and-up gas this summer. I’ve clearly spent too much time sleeping in my cave in Florida — old Rip van Winkle would be chuckling at me.

I knew that oil passed $120 a barrel. I knew all about sub-prime and the bursting of the residential housing bubble. I could tell ya’ about it in great detail — what the Fed has done/is planning. I read the paper and listen to the biz press. But gas at those prices is — just wrong.

Then I thought about what I’ve seen at retail this spring, in terms of how we, as a group of consumer product marketers (we used to be growers), are dealing with helping consumers cope.

This past spring, I saw a lot of nice plants at retail. I saw some spiffy new genetics, a few more organic packages and products, some nicer, bigger tags and few better signs. But thinking back on this spring, I really did not see anything that addresses today’s issue of less dollars in the pocketbook.

Here is how my small brain is working:

1) Consumers have less money in their pocketbooks. Consumer confidence is at record lows, the press is ga-ga (technical word) over the housing crisis, Washington is dazed and confused and sending us all a small check and gas and milk are at record highs.

2) Consumers will shop less. They will make fewer trips to the store as it is too expensive to fill that tank.

3) Consumers will slow down on some items that are perceived to be "luxuries" — i.e. Starbucks coffee is losing some momentum to Dunkin’ Donuts and new McDonald’s coffee. In some ways, being frugal is the new chic.

We make bedding plants, which you have to go to the store to buy and drive back, preferably in a jumbo sized SUV. No Amazon.com free freight here.

Bedding plants are seldom on a shopping list, so they may be forgotten with fewer trips to stores. Just in case the above is not bad enough, many/most consumers think of bedding pants and flowers as a luxury item.

Hmm … that may explain some of 2008 and might alter a wee bit of thinking as you plan 2009.

With all that as background, what can we do about it? Well, let’s look at packaging. In the past many years, we have seen a shift to fewer packs and more 4-inch and larger pots — a solid push at "premium" annuals. I wonder if consumers who are making fewer trips to Starbucks will shift the package in which they buy flowers. (On a related note, a few weeks ago, Starbucks did introduce its new, less expensive coffee — hmmm). Color me silly, but if the economic trends flow all the way down to our products, would this not be a time to rethink more "value packaging"? How about those handle-packs that scream out, "Buy 5 and get 6th one free." Or "24 plants for more coverage than a regular flat" — or words to that effect.

If we are suddenly buying more in bulk from Sam’s Club or Costco to save some trips and money on paper towels and toilet tissue, why wouldn’t we behave the same way with plants? And I was serious about the handle screaming out a sales message. It might need some wordsmithing and a graphic designer, but I think your handle-pack handle should be printed with that value message — make it easy for me to find that jumbo package of paper towels.

Way back in the good old days of say, 2005 or 2006, we would have scoffed at that idea. Packs are dead, pots are in. It was all about the consumer being too busy. We need to offer larger plants that are easier to grow. It is all about decorating, you male idiot, give her what she needs. Heck, I know half my columns were on that vein, and darn it, in that era of, "Look how much our house is worth" and "Sure, we can refinance at low rates," that trend was real.

While I still agree "she" is still too busy, and "she" really is a decorator, not a gardener, I am not convinced that a shopper who is driving through Mickey D’s for a small regular coffee rather than getting her Starbucks soy latte is spending her shrinking disposable dollars for that fab new nemesia in a 4-inch or quart pot. I really believe that for many consumers that flat/handle pack/value pack/box-o-plants is looking more attractive.

I am not suggesting it is just about selling the regular stuff more cheaply. That is one approach to an under-pressure consumer, but it is not the only choice. She still is too busy, she still needs help understanding our products — but how do you make the presentation look like it is a better deal? Those who can rethink package and price may have a success. There is a lot of room between a 4-inch specialty annual at $2.79 and a six-pack of marigolds at a buck. Make her feel like she is getting a great blend of high-quality plants in a less expensive package per unit. Done right, there is margin and dollars for growers and retailers.

Kill your 4-inch program? Nope. Shift all to packs based on a now last-year (spring 2008) observation? Nope. But maybe, just maybe, the product mix you bring to market in 2009 will have a few additions that fit the beleaguered consumer.

So questions to ask yourself, your retailers and, gosh forbid, your consumers about this past spring:

Are you seeing a shift from higher-priced retails to lower-priced value retails, counter to what many have seen the past three to five years?

Is the ratio of potted premium product correct for 2009, or is there room on the retail bench for more value-priced items?

Is there potential for packages with more units per square foot of bench space, the plant equivalent of those large 24 rolls of paper towels at Sam’s – be they packs or shuttle trays, handle packs or, gosh forbid, a new and fun retail package?

Leave a Reply

More From Marketing...
PP&L CAST 2015 intros

April 22, 2015

6 Breeding Companies Serve Up New Varieties At Pacific Plug & Liner

Pacific Plug & Liner’s theme this year, Labyrinth, a conservatory of the world’s most captivating plants, was perfectly topped off (pun intended) with fascinators for the women and newsboy caps for the men. The PP&L team dressed their part to act out the gothic “conservatory of the world’s most captivating plants.” Truly, the displays looked like they practically popped out of a catalog, and the costumes were a nice touch. Retailers take heed, the fully merchandised displays at Pacific Plug & Liner are worthy of emulating. We’ll let the pictures tell the story of all the fabulous variety introductions presented at  Pacific Plug & Liner’s 2015 California Spring Trials, where Cultivaris, Cohen Nurseries, Histil Nurseries, Jaldety Nurseries, Southern Living/Sunset Collection and Pacific Plug & Liner all highlighted their 2016 introductions.  

Read More
Speedling 2015 CAST intros

April 22, 2015

Speedling Inc. Presents New Varieties From ABZ Seeds, Hem Genetics, Thompson & Morgan, Vista Farms & PSI

You name it, we saw it at Speedling's California Spring Trials location in San Juan Bautista, where five companies showed off their new introductions for 2016.

Read More
PittMoss on Shark Tank

April 22, 2015

PittMoss Wins On Shark Tank

Mont Handley, president and CEO of PittMoss, appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank on April 17 to try to get the “sharks” to invest in his peat moss alternative. Three investors from the TV show contributed $600,000 to PittMoss for a 35 percent stake in the company. Check out this clip from ABC’s website in which Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary and Robert Herjavec discuss getting on board with the product. PittMoss is an alternative to sphagnum peat moss, made up of a mix of proprietary additives and recycled paper rescued from landfill space. Handley founded the Pittsburgh-based company in 1994. What started as a small experiment grew into a full-fledged business with the help of funding provided by an EPA SBIR grant and Pittsburgh’s Idea Foundry. Today, PittMoss is available to commercial greenhouses and nurseries from Michigan to Maine to North Carolina, with plans to grow. To learn more, visit PittMoss’ website, or check it […]

Read More
Latest Stories

April 15, 2015

Redesigned SunPatiens Website Offers New Tools For Saka…

Sakata Seed America's new and improved SunPatiens website launched March 1, 2015 and provides growing information, marketing support, product location and many more tools to encourage consumer success with SunPatiens.

Read More
Keenland

April 13, 2015

Proven Winners Partners With Award-Winning Designer Jon…

Proven Winners will partner with award-winning garden designer, author and fine living expert Jon Carloftis on a new series of four LIFE + STYLE events in 2015. In true Carloftis style, food and spirits will be paired with inspiring architecture and innovative garden designs featuring Proven Winners plants.

Read More

April 13, 2015

New Consumer Website Makes Buying Roses Easier

A new website has been created as a resource tool for gardeners who are looking for a rose that fits their needs. This website is 100% consumer focused and will inspire confidence and promote rose gardening to the next generation of gardeners. Visitors will also find links to connect on social networks, such as Facebook and Pinterest. The website promotes roses, not specific brands, and that is what makes it unique.

Read More
Rose rosette on Knockout rose, April 2012. Photo credit: Alan Windham, University of Tennessee

March 25, 2015

$58 Million In APHIS Farm Bill Funding Will Support Hor…

Nearly $58 million as been allocated by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to support the industry's Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program, under Farm Bill Section 10007. The program will support mitigation efforts for specialty crops, including providing research and other funding to address plant pest and disease priorities for the specialty crop industry, including floriculture and nursery crops.

Read More
National Floriculture Forum 2015 029

March 18, 2015

2015 National Floriculture Forum Focuses On Marketing I…

The 2015 National Floriculture Forum, held March 6 to 7 in Minneapolis, Minn., zeroed in on the topic of marketing in horticulture and included visits to Gertens Greenhouses and Garden Center, Bailey Nurseries, Bachman’s Floral, Home and Garden and Tangletown Gardens. The annual meeting allows greenhouse and floriculture faculty, graduate students and industry partners to meet and share updates on current research, issues and initiatives.

Read More

February 18, 2015

Range Of Nursery Inspections To Protect Patented Plants…

Plant patents are under protection, and breeders are fighting for their rights to keep growers from illegally propagating protected varieties. It's something you don't want to take a chance on, because the risk is far higher than the reward. More than 300 inspections were carried out last year from New York to British Columbia and from Ontario to Florida to protect plant patents, Plant Breeders’ Rights (PBR) and branded programs.

Read More

February 4, 2015

TPIE 2015: An Electrified Industry Vibe Boosts Cool New…

The general feeling at the Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association's 2015 Tropical Industry Exhibition (TPIE) was upbeat and positive. Attendees were inspired by exciting new products and varieties, as well as creative new displays and innovative ideas and left energized for the season ahead.

Read More
Costa Farms Website

January 21, 2015

Costa Farms’ Launches New Interactive Website

Costa Farms is making efforts to educate consumers while pushing horticultural digital marketing forward with the re-design of its website. The new website features a fresh design and improved navigation, as well as a plant finder that gives gardeners easy access to plant information.

Read More

January 5, 2015

Growers Are Successfully Marketing The Benefits Of Pla…

Growers who are already marketing plant benefits and gardening as a lifestyle say they think this could be the best angle for the floriculture industry to promote our products.

Read More

January 5, 2015

Plants Love You Campaign Raises Plant Benefits To Foref…

Plants make us feel good. It’s a no-brainer, backed by numerous studies, but there’s more to the story. And it’s one the Canadian Ornamental Horticulture Alliance (COHA) hopes its Plants Love You campaign will tell in such a way that it will inspire people to make plants a part of their life, and on a bigger scale. COHA is an alliance between the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association (CNLA), the Fédération Interdisciplinaire De L’Horticulture Ornementqale Du Québec (FIHOQ) and Flowers Canada Growers (FCG). Inspiration for The Plants Love You campaign came from COHA’s research, which revealed that 96 percent of consumers surveyed have a favorable attitude toward plants. When COHA delved deeper into the numbers, one thing stood out loud and clear. “It quickly became apparent that while consumers like plants because they are pretty and make them feel good, few understood the environmental and health benefits plants offer.” says Frank […]

Read More

December 9, 2014

New Website For PanAmerican Seed

PanAmerican Seed's new website is mobile-friendly and has a fresh look and enhanced navigation.

Read More
What’s a pumpulent? It’s a pumpkin planted with succulents, and it’s also one of the ways Altum’s is catching customers’ attention with new products and modern marketing.

December 1, 2014

9 Digital Marketing Resolutions For 2015

Whatever your experience with digital marketing, here’s some advice for keeping your business progressing into the new year.

Read More

November 25, 2014

Conley’s Launches New Website

Conley’s Manufacturing and Sales recently launched its newly designed website, which was redesigned to create a user-friendly digital environment for customers to explore Conley's products.

Read More

November 17, 2014

Canada’s Plants Love You Campaign Educates Consum…

In a cooperative effort to promote the benefits of plants to consumers, the Canadian Ornamental Horticulture Alliance (COHA) recently launched its Plants Love You campaign to make consumers more aware of the health, environmental and economic benefits of plants.

Read More
Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum™ Petunia from Proven Winners

November 11, 2014

Plantbid Offers New Tool For Growers, Plant Buyers

Plantbid is touted as a revolutionary new tool that allows plant buyers to purchase their whole plant list at one time, from growers who provide their complete availability online. According to the company, this new offering could change the way growers and landscapers do business.

Read More
Dahlia Dahlinova Temptation Lavender from Dummen Fides Oro

November 10, 2014

Bas Pellenaars Takes On New Role As Brand Manager For D…

Dümmen group announces the transition of Bas Pellenaars from area manager to brand manager.

Read More

October 28, 2014

Zombie Adventures Are Back: GGS Releases Premiere Of Ne…

What's good for plants, but bad for zombies? GGS structures. The company released a new promotional video to get growers in the spirit of Halloween. GGS Structures ran a series of zombie movies last year, and this year, something new was released October 24.

Read More
Suzanne McKee

October 27, 2014

Use Your Data To Make Smarter Marketing Decisions

Learn which marketing metrics are important to your business, measure successes and learn where changes are needed.

Read More