The OFA Grower Town Hall—it is a great time to get together and talk about all the revolutionary things we can do to change the industry. But are these changes being made? It seemed to me that some people in the room this year want to try new things, and some people want to keep on selling the same old products and using tired marketing.
I heard a lot of talk about what we have to get consumers to do— come into our stores, appreciate perennial color and texture, connect with the earth, value the product this industry creates. Truthfully, those are some pretty tall orders to fill. You can be exactly the solution the consumer needs for cleaner air and a more peaceful life, but if they don’t get the message, you don’t make the sale. You, as a product provider, need to give the consumer something they want. So now we need to ask ourselves, “Are we offering a product that the consumer, the non-gardening consumer, wants?”
I find it interesting that as a woman, on the border of Gen X/Y and pretty tech savvy, no one in the industry has ever asked me what products and services I want. Well, I’m going to tell you anyway.
As someone said during the Town Hall, we are just one tweak away from going gangbusters, like that little kid who’s dancing slightly off beat. I believe it, too. We may need just one little tweak to really rock it. How about these?
– Indoor plants, patio plants and balcony boxes and plants for these types of products. Consumers don’t have the time or patience for gardening. Are we doing anything about it? Americans are moving to smaller apartments and condos, but we’re offering a LOT of the same plants—bedding plants. I’m still shocked at how garden centers offer bench after bench of bedding plants, and so little product for indoors. Can annuals and color be bred to grow indoors? Tell me you wouldn’t have a pot of calibrachoa on your desk if you could. We need to offer a product for every consumer, whether they’re indoor or outdoor gardeners.
– Gifts. This is the number one thing I don’t get. I have to buy my mother a birthday gift every year. My co-workers. And I can’t think of anything to buy them. Where is the grab-and-go potted plants that look like gifts? You know—nice packaging. Several price points. While I may not want to spend on myself when times get bad, I’m going to buy my mother/brother/spouse a birthday gift every year.
– Get them to try it once. Do you remember the first time you grew a plant? Do you remember what it was like back in the beginning? That’s what needs to be shared. We need new customers! I don’t buy into the idea that we don’t need to market to a generation until they’re homeowners. If you aren’t reaching out to a school to get kids into gardening, then you can’t complain when they don’t know how to garden as adults.
– Get into different stores. Garden centers and growers need to partner with other retailers. Everyone who comes to My Salon today for a haircut gets a 4-inch geranium. The Wreath Factory at Otter Creek did it. If I’m not a gardener, I have absolutely no reason to go to a garden center.
– Whoever you are, it’s your responsibility. If you’re a grower, you need to talk to the consumer. After the town hall, it’s clearer than ever: This is all hands on deck. It’s important for gardeners to connect to a person, in store and online. And I want to see that person. Where is the photo of the person?
Change is scary, no doubt. You want to talk about change, look at the publishing industry. We’re going through it, too. And we have to adapt or die. Doing the same old thing is not an option. Our customers want something new. Offering the same old thing isn’t an option. We have to try crazy things, which, when they’re said and done, don’t seem so crazy after all.
You know the definition of insanity—doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Art Parkerson of Lancaster Farms asked a great question over at Open Hort: Will there be a town meeting for you to skip in 10 years?