Garden State Growers Mirrors The Starbucks Model

Garden State Growers Mirrors The Starbucks Model

The question is probably one all growers have asked themselves: How can greenhouse floriculture take a commodity plant, just like Starbucks did years ago with coffee, and turn it into something consumers must have?

Roy den Hollander, an owner of Garden State Growers in Pittstown, N.J., has thought long and hard about that question, and he’s realized there isn’t one silver bullet that can achieve such demand for his product overnight. Den Hollander does, however, believe there’s a starting point to position plants as the next Starbucks coffee, and that’s to admit the approaches growers have historically taken are largely the wrong ones.

“As growers we always thought we were selling to the big box,” says den Hollander, whose operation serves Walmart and Home Depot. “What’s changed is we’re not selling to them. You think Coke says, ‘We’re selling to Walmart?’ No, they’re selling to the end user.”

Adopting A New Mindset

Five years ago, Garden State was no different than many other growers, selecting product and putting it to market without necessarily considering whether consumers would accept or reject it. Now, long before a bedding plant or combo planter lands on a retail bench, Garden State asks: How can we best reach the consumer with this product? (If you think about it, it’s the same question Starbucks’ founders sought to answer when they developed their brand.)

To better connect consumers with live goods, den Hollander has put together a team that’s willing to adopt the consumer-first mindset. Noah Schwartz, once the head grower for Matterhorn Nursery, was hired late last year as senior production coordinator and head grower. Among Schwartz’s responsibilities is taking commodities and fitting them into upgraded programs.

Garden State Growers team
Garden State’s Roy den Hollander, John
O’Donnell, Kristine Lonergan and Noah Schwartz
are on a mission to improve the consumer’s
live goods experience.

John O’Donnell, merchandising manager, is another key team member who’s on the front line with consumers at retail. He’s a believer in changing out store fronts each week to capture the consumer’s attention every time she visits – even if it means doing the extra legwork at dozens of stores.

But perhaps the biggest driver of change at Garden State is Kristine Lonergan, a 12-year veteran of the home furnishings industry who’s spent the last three years reinventing how Garden State markets its product to consumers. Den Hollander welcomes Lonergan’s perspective because he believes growers have been too close to the industry and are not in touch with end users like they should be. Lonergan offers Garden State the fresh outlook it needs to reposition live goods the way Starbucks did coffee.

“Our industry is mostly families growing up in the industry,” den Hollander says. “Families may not be in tune to the marketplace and what consumers are looking for. But the innovative growers are now reaching out to marketing people and looking at how they can really ramp up their game and market their products like any product out there.”

To Lonergan, plants are no different than the home furnishings she’s spent the bulk of her career around. Both products appeal to emotion, she says, through color, texture and scent. So why, Lonergan asks, aren’t growers also marketing and merchandising their products in a way that appeals to the female consumer’s wide range of emotions?

“We’re speaking to the same consumer as other industries, whether it’s fashion, home furnishings or cosmetics,” Lonergan says. “Being a female, if you see something that connects with how you’re feeling, you tell yourself you deserve it. So really we’re just taking a page out of home furnishings and cosmetics in our approach.”

Exploring Other Industries

New ideas are what Garden State’s big box buyers are looking for, so turning the conversation to marketing and merchandising plants like home furnishings or cosmetics certainly grabs their attention. And rather than find inspiration at greenhouse industry shows, Lonergan ventures to other industry shows for ideas. She and den Hollander have attended a number of gift and home design shows throughout her tenure.

Some growers, of course, might think venturing into other industries is a risk. Lonergan, however, doesn’t feel that way.

Garden State Growers
Offering consumers a new “look” by changing
out a front apron weekly is a key to repeat customers.

“I feel like this is the natural thing to do,” she says. “We’re appealing to the same consumer and we have an emotional product. That’s why I have more of a natural tendency to go to these other industries.”

When Lonergan attends other industry shows, she’s most interested in the overall presentation of a product or program. She takes a look at colors, textures and even the fonts on packaging. In one instance this year with calla lilies, Vera Bradley served as the inspiration for incorporating a more Victorian font onto plant tags. Exploring other industries also gave Lonergan the idea to pursue a cause marketing campaign for Garden State’s calla lilies.

“We’re just looking at new and innovative ways to change our everyday product,” den Hollander says. “You can create a whole program behind an idea like this. You’re putting a package together with the support of your customer. That’s what’s expected today, anyway.

“You can’t just show up with a grower pot and a plant in it. Growers are truly partners with retailers now. So we’re constantly going out looking for new designs, new pot manufacturers. We’re taking our everyday products we’ve been growing and looking at them from a different perspective.”

Just like Starbucks took an everyday product and elevated it into an experience consumers crave.

Overcoming The Weather

Garden State is even exploring ways it can make the weather a non-factor in the consumer shopping experience. Starbucks, of course, doesn’t necessarily have a weather problem, but den Hollander says growers can no longer afford to let a few rainy spring weekends be the downfall for their entire year. To overcome the weather, his team came up with the idea to alert consumers by text message when new plants are available at stores.

Lonergan cites an example of a European cookie company that adopted the same text messaging approach for fresh cookies. The text recipients, she says, didn’t know they wanted cookies until they were alerted. The same approach can apply to a Caffè Latte at Starbucks, as well as a fresh rack of calla lilies or the first spring pansies.

“The first thing on the market is pansies,” Lonergan says. “Sometimes, it takes a while to get products into Home Depot, so people are texted when new products are there. Send them a text to get them in there.”

Send the text, indeed, be it raining or shining. Give consumers a reason to visit stores, she says. They may not even be interested in the first spring pansy about which they’ve been alerted, but they may come take a peek and find something else they like.

And who says consumers have to plant the day or weekend they purchase a plant anyway?

“You still buy a beach ball even if it’s raining and you can’t go to the beach today,” den Hollander says.

The Look, Not The Plant

The more den Hollander has spent exploring other industries with Lonergan, the more he’s realized the majority of consumers seek a “look” rather than a single item. Take home furnishings as an example.

“People don’t just buy a couch,” he says. “They buy a whole look now. You see it with pillows and tables as add-ons. If you want this look it’s one cost and if you want an enhanced look it’s another.”

Sephora, a store that offers cosmetics, skin care, makeup and other beauty products, is yet another example of a retailer that particularly appeals to the female consumer’s emotions. Sephora devises different “looks” in which consumers can identify themselves, and both den Hollander and Lonergan cite the beauty retailer as a prime example of a retailer that’s marketing and merchandising more directly to the consumer growers should be pursuing.

“From a marketing standpoint [Sephora] does a very good job with packaging,” Lonergan says. “They inspire the consumer. Their whole shopping experience is just that – an experience. We’ll go there just to get ideas. They draw a lot of consumers, and it’s not like they necessarily need cosmetics. So they’re similar to the live goods industry.”

Another tactic to draw consumers back is to create a new “experience” every time consumers visit.

“We’re working for Mrs. Jones,” says O’Donnell, who directly supervises 54 Home Depot stores. “We are very quick to change our store fronts because we know she loves active colors. We need to be inviting. We need to show her we have something different. I think when you do that enough, she comes down.”

If you show consumers something different and appeal more directly to their emotions through marketing and merchandising, as well as create a Starbucks-like experience consumers can’t pass up, they will come.

“Whether you’re offering coffee, cosmetics or furniture, it’s still that same consumer,” Lonergan says. “But are we giving her that same experience when she shops for flowers? Our feeling at Garden State Growers is that there’s opportunity to create it.”

Leave a Reply

More From Marketing...
Feature image The 2015 Perennial Plant Of The Year, Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo.’

August 27, 2015

The Perennial Plant Association’s Regional Symposium Will Be This October In Dallas

The Perennial Plant Association plans to hold its Regional Symposium October 5 in Dallas, Texas, in conjunction with the All-America Selections/Home Garden Seed Association's Summer/Fall Summit held October 5 to 8.

Read More
september_grow_rodale institute

August 25, 2015

Hospitals Are Getting Into The Organic Food Business

Growers investing in the organic food movement could serve a growing new area with vegetable transplants and starts, as well as produce, as hospitals begin to prescribe healthy diets and nutrition, and even go so far as to grow their own food. As part of a new phenomenon among progressive hospitals, health professionals are beginning to realize that without health and nutrition, programs and techniques may be done in vain or worse — obsolete. As more patients seeking a healthy diet turn to nutritionists, who recommend sugar-free, alkaline diets to prevent disease and aid in recovery, hospitals recognizing this trend are taking action. St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem, Pa., recently contracted with the nearby Rodale Institute to manage an organic farm, established in 2014. The hospital, part of a six-campus network, aims to provide excellent healthcare, part of which includes educating patients about the benefits of a plant-based, organic diet. […]

Read More

August 21, 2015

Proven Winners Announces Roadshow Events For 2015

Proven Winner's Roadshow Events, held across North America, provide growers and retailers with the opportunity to learn how to grow Proven Winner's newest varieties and receive information about industry trends.

Read More
Latest Stories
eMailMarketing feature image

July 23, 2015

Is eMail Dead?

Email as a marketing technique may seem outdated, but when done well, it is still an effective way to share content and market your brand.

Read More
HGTV HOME CAST 2015

July 22, 2015

Cultivate’15: Keynote Nancy Fire Says Use Passion…

In the second keynote presentation at Cultivate’15, Nancy Fire, founder and creative director of Design Works International, discussed how the horticulture industry can capitalize on the latest design and lifestyle trends. Fire works with companies to help bring their designs to the next level, and she has expertise with textiles and surface design, market analysis and corporate rebranding. She was appointed as design director for HGTV HOME in 2011. Fire says customers today are interested in companies that show passion for what they do. That, combined with following the general direction of trends and maintaining a brand, are what will keep horticulture businesses relevant to their customers. A trend isn’t just a passing fad, Fire says, but rather, it indicates that something is developing or changing in a certain direction. Plants are important to consumers today, and fit into current trends, both inside and outside the home, Fire says. “I don’t […]

Read More
LuxFlora logo feature image

July 21, 2015

Luxflora Launches With Cultivate Speaker Event, New Web…

A new organization for women in horticulture that aims to change the way consumers think about flowers, launched at Cultivate’15 by sponsoring Ketty Maisonrouge, a marketing expert, who presented “How To Create A Luxury Brand.” Luxflora recently launched its website, as well as a page on LinkedIn, to facilitate networking among women in horticulture. The organization is working on next steps, including setting up a board of directors and officers. Updates and information on future events will be available at the Luxflora website as they are scheduled. Read about Luxflora’s mission and what it hopes to accomplish in “Luxflora Wants To Create A Lifestyle Movement.” In the session during Cultivate, Ketty Maisonrouge, owner of KM & Company, adjunct professor of luxury strategy at the Columbia University Business School and the author of “The Luxury Alchemist,” presented her ideas and expertise on luxury strategy marketing, and how it applies to horticulture. […]

Read More

July 15, 2015

New Products Featured At Cultivate’15

A multitude of new products were on display at Cultivate’15, held in Columbus, Ohio. Attendees were given a first-hand look at new plant introductions coming to market, as well as innovative hardgoods, technology and equipment. One of the new options for varieties featured at Cultivate’15 was Sporticulture, winner of the 2015 Fresh Ideas Award. Sporticulture offers access to major sports leagues’ licensed products and packing. Team logos can appear on containers and tags, allowing growers and retailers to benefit from the loyalty customers have for their favorite team. Some of the featured plant varieties included Jolt interspecific Dianthus, from PanAmerican Seed, plus six new varieties from Sakata, including ColorWorks petunias, ‘Dragon’s Breath’ Celosia, PartyTime Coleus, ‘Proud Mari’ Marigold, SunPatiens Impatiens and Vitalia Vinca. Emerald Coast Growers featured its Marsala-toned plants, as a nod to Pantone’s Color of the Year. The collection included Pennisetum messiacum ‘Red Buttons,’ Pennisetum ‘Rubrum and ‘Eaton […]

Read More

July 8, 2015

Behind The Sale: Why Dümmen Orange Bought Florexpo, And…

Dümmen Orange recently announced it has acquired the product portfolio of Florexpo Costa Rica, a leading specialist in the production of perennials, herbs and annuals. During the fall of 2015, Dümmen Orange will start up production of perennials at its upgraded Antigua Flowers Guatemala farm, formerly the Ecke II facility in Antigua, Guatemala. The Altmanns, who founded Florexpo, as well as some of the key managers in the Florexpo team, will be assuming roles in this new endeavor. “In its long history Florexpo has built a good assortment, an outstanding sales network and a professional team of employees,” Perry Wismans, managing partner at Dümmen Orange, said in a press release. “With this move, Dümmen Orange takes the next step in realizing its growth strategy – aimed at creating synergies in technology, production and sales. We realize these synergies by distributing a variety of breeding programs and cross selling these products […]

Read More
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