Five Profitable Weekends Add Up

Five Profitable Weekends Add Up

Ten years ago, the Swanson’s Nursery team pondered if there was a profitable way to sell plants in the fall, to turn September into another May. Like many of their contemporaries across the country, retailers took the post season as an opportunity to reduce their existing inventory of plants that remained after several months of selling activity.

Swanson’s Nursery, Seattle, Wash., was determined to find a new strategy to approaching this challenge. Wally Kerwin, owner of Swanson’s, wasn’t particularly enthused about focusing on a me-too business strategy like “Fall Is For Planting,” which seemed to them to be over-used. Nor was the Swanson team interested in compromising on their high standards of merchandise for the fall sale.

Swanson’s needed to boost store traffic with a refreshingly different approach to plant selling in the fall. The garden center hoped the large numbers of customers looking to purchase plants at a discount would also be interested in purchasing other offerings at full markup. That meant full markups on spring flowering bulbs, fall mums, outdoor decoratives, hard goods, Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations. Kerwin and his associates reasoned that all those kinds of sales could swell as the traffic increased, and the gift shop should thrive.

Through a decade of refinements and upgrades, a highly successful approach has developed that includes material handling and logistics. Changing the fall sale period from an inventory clearance to a profitable month began with discussions with growers to educate them on the benefits of participating in the sale. For it to be a viable sale, it needed to be a win-win situation for everyone involved (customer, retailer and vendor). Swanson’s wanted to offer customers:

– Fresh, top-quality plants–nothing damaged, shop-worn or picked over.

– A nice variety of plant material including colorful perennials, groundcovers, herbs, evergreen shrubs and deciduous shrubs.

– A significant, across-the-board discount percentage at retail.

– Discounts in the 25 to 50 percent range to attract customers in large numbers in the fall.

– Grower participation–for both the quality and quantities available at predetermined prices.

– Growers’ shipments need to be timely according to Swanson’s schedules to ensure a fresh selection of product is continually available to purchase. 

Extending The Season

“Basically, the above program has evolved and works smoothly and amicably,” Kerwin says. “This past season, six growers have been involved. Each had participated in past years. That fact suggests this is a win-win arrangement for all of us. Naturally, we like that aspect.”

Originally, Swanson’s fall sale was confined to a two-week inventory reduction period. Later, it was expanded to a three-week period and subsequently to one month. In 2007, the fall sale ran from August 30 through September 30, so that five weekends were involved.

“A two-week period, with several weekends included, was just not long enough once we discovered the amount of traffic this event generated,” says Brad Siebe, general manager at Swanson’s.

Siebe explains that other reasons influenced the decision, too, like the weather. A few bad days of weather could ruin a short sale. A longer sale reduces the influence of Labor Day, “the last weekend of summer” or back to school focus. A longer event also makes restocking and reordering more manageable and cuts back on aisle and parking lot congestion.

“We wanted the shopping experience to be reasonably similar to what it is normally,” he says. It is important to Swanson’s that during the fall sale, customers could quickly shop discounted plant selections so they had time to shop for other goods, such as spring bulbs, annual fall color, gift areas and the café. How the store looked was important, as well.

“We like to think that our presentation of plants is inviting and somewhat sophisticated,” Siebe says. “It provokes customers to meander throughout the property. It would be all wrong to present all the discounted plants stacked on racks like a mass merchant. We didn’t eliminate the vignettes or themed end caps. For regular customers, this was still the Swanson’s they had come to know and like. For newcomers, attracted by price, they saw us quite like we usually are.” 

Part Of The Schedule

The scheduling of the fall sale weeks affects what goes on in the preceding and following weeks. Before the sale, for example, Swanson’s does its pre-fall sale design seminars. Following the event, Swanson’s hustles into the holiday season with the setup of their Fall Festival and Holiday Shop.

In October, the second, third and fourth weeks mark the revelation of the various holiday specialty goods. Shoppers during the fall sale have a high awareness that Swanson’s becomes a Christmas store. They are reminded that purchases during the fall sale earn Holiday Dollars that can be redeemed throughout the store. Their loyalty program is a model for effective cross merchandising.

The primary product categories that drive the sales volume during the fall event include trees, shrubs, vines and roses (discounted 40 percent); all perennials, herbs, groundcovers (discounted 25 percent); and all planting containers (discounted 25 percent).

Siebe also says there is a special on soil building compost: one bag free when three are purchased.

“Otherwise, everything else in the store remains at its regular pricing,” Siebe points out.

Both Siebe and Kerwin are very pleased with their Fall Sale 2007 numbers: “On sale items, we grossed $1 million dollars and produced a 48.8 percent material margin,” they revealed with great relief, as the month-long period was successful.

Leave a Reply

More From Marketing...
The-Capitol

July 7, 2015

Washington Gridlock Could Block Industry Research Funding

The latest standoff on Capitol Hill could have some implications for the floral industry, including future funding for floriculture and nursery research initiative activities, says Shawn McBurney, SAF’s senior director of government relations. “Republicans in the House and Senate are determined to work within the sequester-imposed limits for domestic spending in the federal budget, but Democrats have threatened to block any appropriations bills until Republicans agree to spend more money than that agreement allows,” McBurney says. “With both sides digging in, there could be an impact on budgets that affect programs and services important to the floral industry.” The back and forth over spending limits isn’t new, McBurney says. In 2013, then-Budget Committee Chairmen Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) negotiated an agreement that increased spending levels for defense and nondefense discretionary spending equally above the sequester level for two years, offset by fee increases and changes to mandatory […]

Read More
Medal of Excellence Award

July 6, 2015

Get To Know The 9 Variety Finalists For Editor’s Choice And Industry’s Choice Awards

Greenhouse Grower‘s Evening Of Excellence reception is rapidly approaching. Here, you can learn more about the varieties that are finalists for the Medal Of Excellence Editor’s Choice and Industry’s Choice Breeding Awards. Thank you to the 2015 sponsors of Greenhouse Grower‘s Medal Of Excellence Awards, Landmark Plastic, Nufarm and Stockosorb. Editor’s Choice Asclepias ‘Monarch Promise’ (Hort Couture) Basil ‘Balsamic Blooms’ (EuroAmerican Propagators) Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ (Sakata Seed) Dianthus Jolt Series (PanAmerican Seed) Salvia Grandstand Series (Green Fuse Botanicals) Scabiosa ‘Kudos Pink’ (Hishtil Nurseries) Industry’s Choice Basil ‘Balsamic Blooms’ (EuroAmerican Propagators) Bidens BeeDance Series (Suntory Flowers) Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ (Sakata Seed) Dianthus Jolt Series (PanAmerican Seed) Lobelia ‘Starship Deep Rose’ (Kieft Seed) Vinca Valiant Series (PanAmerican Seed)     Join us Monday, July 13 in Ballroom 2 at the Columbus Convention Center to find out which varieties will receive the coveted awards. The reception begins at 5:15 p.m. and the ceremony […]

Read More
crider-rd2-internal_Rough-Brothers_featured

July 1, 2015

Rough Brothers Is Acquired By Gibraltar Industries

RBI Solar Inc., Rough Brothers Manufacturing Inc. and affiliates have been acquired by Gibraltar Industries, a manufacturer and distributor of products for residential and industrial markets, for $130 million. Capitalizing on its 80 years of design-build experience and leadership as the largest greenhouse manufacturer in North America, Ohio-based RBI has established itself during the past five years as North America’s fastest-growing provider of photovoltaic (PV) solar racking solutions. The transaction will enable Gibraltar to leverage its expertise in structural metals manufacturing and materials sourcing to meet global demand for solar racking solutions. The company also announced that it anticipates its second-quarter 2015 financial results will be in line with its previous expectations. “Acquiring RBI is an important step in the transformation of Gibraltar into a company with a higher rate of growth and best-in-class financial metrics,” says Gibraltar CEO Frank Heard. “This acquisition directly aligns with key end markets and product platforms […]

Read More
Latest Stories
Feature image The 2015 Perennial Plant Of The Year, Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo.’

June 27, 2015

Perennial Plant Association Wins The 2015 Excellence In…

With its emphasis on education and its Perennial Plant Of The Year program, the Perennial Plant Association boosted the popularity of perennials and helped make it the vital category it is.

Read More
baker creative

June 23, 2015

Baker Creative Wins International Award For Work With J…

Baker Creative, a local branding agency, was recently selected as a Gold Award winner for the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals’ 2015 Hermes Creative Awards. Baker Creative won in the Advertising/Direct Mail Piece category for creating a factory opening invitation mailer for Jiffy Group . Hermes Creative Awards is an international competition for creative professionals involved in the concept, writing and design of traditional and emerging media. The Hermes Gold Award is presented to those entries judged to exceed the high standards of the industry norm. Only 22 percent of the entrants received the award. “When Jiffy needed to make a splash to draw attention to the opening of its new substrate facility in West Bridgewater, Mass., we turned to Baker Creative. The video card created by Baker Creative assisted us greatly with getting the much needed attention when inviting professional growers to the official opening,” a Jiffy Group […]

Read More

June 17, 2015

Marketing Ideas You Want To See From 2015 California Sp…

Back when California Spring Trials (CAST) were still called Pack Trials, new plants were placed on growing benches in packs so attendees could see for themselves how uniformly the plants grow. It was practical and useful. Today, CAST is primarily about introducing new plants in a way that catches your imagination and convinces you that these plants are not only disease resistant, need almost no inputs, including plant growth regulators (PGRs) and have excellent timing, but also that they are plants consumers will fall in love with. In other words, marketing. Some of the breeders go a few steps further and pull together ideas and information that growers can use for their own businesses. It can be methods to connect better with their retail customers or even to help promote our industry and its great plants directly to the public. Here are some of the standouts from CAST 2015. Pacific […]

Read More
Medal of Excellence Award

June 10, 2015

Greenhouse Grower Announces 2015 Medal Of Excellence No…

On this page, everybody’s a winner, because we’re announcing Greenhouse Grower‘s 2015 Medal Of Excellence nominees for two of our three awards in breeding, the winners of our Medal Of Excellence for Industry Achievement and Excellence In Marketing awards and the winners of our Grower Of The Year program, who are finalists for Operation Of The Year and Head Grower Of The Year. All honors will be presented during Greenhouse Grower’s prestigious Evening Of Excellence on Monday, July 13, during Cultivate’15. We hope we will see you there! Correction: Lobelia ‘Starship Deep Rose’ was bred by Kieft Seed, not Darwin Perennials, as we mistakenly printed in the June 2015 issue. Medal Of Excellence Watch Benchrunner in the coming weeks to read profiles of our Industry Achievement and Excellence In Marketing award winners, and look for these articles in our July 2015 issue. Industry Achievement Award The Kientzler Group Excellence In Marketing Perennial […]

Read More
Double Whammy Merchandise Display At CAST2015

May 28, 2015

Grow Inspiration To Grow The Horticulture Industry

We need to work together as the horticulture industry to inspire and instruct consumers with our plant knowledge and marketing expertise.

Read More
Plant-Select_for-web

May 28, 2015

PlantSelect.org And FindPlants.net Assist Consumers Wit…

The recently launched PlantSelect.org and FindPlants.net websites offer growing and maintenance tips, where-to-buy information and design ideas to help consumers have success with growing and finding plants.

Read More
Four Star Greenhouse Proven Winner Plants At English Garden

May 26, 2015

Retailer To Grower: It’s Time To Offer Services To Loc…

Retailers wonder why mass merchants are the only ones to receive stocking, merchandising and plant care from growers.

Read More
New Guinea Impatiens

May 14, 2015

10 Tips To Improve Retail Shelf Life Of Bedding Plants

Good-looking plants at retail lead to stronger sales and less postharvest shrink. Try these 10 ideas for maintaining quality and keeping plants looking beautiful.

Read More
GrowIt! App Wins Gold At Design100 2014 US Mobile & App Design Awards

May 12, 2015

Suntory And GrowIt! Garden Socially Partner On A New Se…

Three different contests will run from May through early August. Garden center retailers can upload their own photos or encourage their customers to enter and win.

Read More

May 6, 2015

Orange Is The New Green: An Interview With Dümmen Orang…

The day the news came out about the name change of DNA Green Group to Dümmen Orange, and everything that meant for the large flower breeding conglomerate, Greenhouse Grower Editor Laura Drotleff talked with Dümmen Orange Operations Manager Kate Santos about what the identity shift would mean for the company, its customers and ultimately for consumers. What’s going to happen to the brands and what was behind the decision to do away with those brands and consolidate? A key objective for our organization in moving to one corporate brand is to continue to stay true to the heritage and history of the individual brands that have made us what we are today and what we will build the future of our company upon. For this reason, some of those brands that have a deep-rooted history and much more recognition within the market, will have a longer persistence in our overall […]

Read More

May 1, 2015

Restoration Landscapes: A Specialized Market For Nativ…

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
Dummen_Begonia_UnbelieveableFirstKiss

April 29, 2015

Dümmen Orange Is The New Name For DNA Green Group

DNA Green Group has a new name: Dümmen Orange. The company revealed its new name, logo and brand values at all of its facilities in 16 countries on Thursday, April 23. The well-known corporate brands Lex+, Bartels, Terra Nigra, Dümmen Group, Agribio China, Agribio Colombia, Oro, PLA, as well as the production locations, are changing their identities immediately to Dümmen Orange. Other established brands like Rijnplant, Ecke, Oglevee, Red Fox, Fides, Japan Agribio and Barberet & Blanc will convert over limited time. The company’s CEO Biense Visser calls it a logical next step. “All companies that have been acquired have a rich and successful history,” Visser says. “We have always tried to respect that heritage. Doing so, we created confusion for our customers. Our employees expressed a preference for a more uniform approach to the market, too. That is why we have chosen one large umbrella brand that embraces the entire product […]

Read More

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