Is Fall For Planting?

Is Fall For Planting?

Ah yes, that is the question. Naturally, if you’ve been anywhere remotely connected to the garden center industry, you would know that indeed fall is for planting (with apologies to the Sunbelt markets, where almost anytime is for planting except in the searing heat of the summertime).

Why is fall for planting? It is absolutely proven to be the most effective time of year to plant shrubs and trees, among other things. It certainly is the best time to re-seed a lawn, start a new lawn by seeding or laying down sod. The basic question is what makes it such a good time to plant and the answer is simple.

Plants that are put into the ground anytime from late August through late October in most Northern areas (apologies to the Zone 3, 4, and even 5 folks) are treated to a less stressful environment. Generally, rains are sufficient this time of year to not require irrigation as often as in the heat of the summer. Temperatures are more moderate this time of year, with mild days followed by cool (but mostly not freezing) nights. Soil temperatures are optimal for root growth, but cooler day and night temperatures slowly harden off the top of the plant structures to prepare for the cold days of winter. Roots will continue to grow even after plants drop their foliage (if they’re deciduous) well into November and maybe even December before the ground may freeze.

Landscape contractors are the best example of people who are really clued in to this concept. They are typically installing new landscapes right up until the ground freezes to end their installation season. They know they probably will have less losses attributed to lack of acclimation to the cold than they would had they installed a landscape in the spring, where they run a higher risk of losing plants to the heat and dryness of the summer.

So now that we’ve gone through all the great reasons to put a plant in the ground in the fall, let’s look at the retail environment to see how this is capitalized on, or not. From my past experiences, spring sales of shrubs and trees are far higher than in the fall. They are probably eight to 10 times higher in the spring than the fall. The grass seed category also tells a tale of consumers not knowing what’s really good for them. The sales are absolutely reversed as to the categories’ successful execution. Two-thirds of the sales are done in spring and one-third in the fall. This is really a function of how many consumers shop for their gardening needs in one or two shopping trips in the spring and do all their purchasing for the year. Same goes for shrubs. 

Influencing Shopping Habits

How can retailers influence customers’ perceptions and shopping habits? How easy is it to even do this? Is it impossible? Not worth the bang for the buck? Can it happen overnight? The answer to these questions, in my opinion, is that it’s possible but definitely not easy. This is one of those quests that retailers and the supply side need to be in for the long haul. Most times, retailers look at shipping in fresh products in these categories as high risk, low reward. This is versus spring where it is the opposite — high reward, low risk.

Influencing the consumer takes marketing, advertising, merchandising, selling staff and fresh product. If you even try to pump up the volume on the “fall is for planting” message without some crowd-pleasing new product at exciting values, you’d be making a mistake. Stale, shopworn and tired product that has carried over from the spring and summer should be dealt with in a straightforward manner through the process of intermediate markdowns, successively lower until the consumer takes the product home to plant. Why not give a customer “a bargain” on the old stuff (while pitching them that the stuff is going to be really happy to be planted in fall) and then sell them some great new plants fresh from the farm. We all know they want fresh.

It’s really going to take the mass merchants in the industry to continue to get this message out to the consumer. After all, they have more customers going through their stores to receive these messages. If any of the big guys shy away from the category in the fall, then countless consumers are getting the message that fall isn’t for planting. Sure, there is always going to be the requisite short list of color items for fall such as mums, pansies, cabbage and kale, asters and so on, but there is so much more market potential out there. The biggest fear is that you are going to bring in more product than your potential sales in the fall, leading to markdowns.

One way to look at it as a buyer is the more you bring in (within budgetary limits), the more you will sell, and resulting markdowns to clear out product will be lower as a percentage of sales. The other way to look at it is to bring in less-than-anticipated demand and hope that your resulting carryover will be less and resulting clearance markdowns lower. This method sounds more fiscally responsible but is somewhat less visionary in capturing market share or simply in driving top-line sales. The bottom line, in my mind, is it’s somewhat sinful not to leverage the hefty customer counts that mass merchants tend to generate in an average store. What independent garden center wouldn’t sacrifice a limb or two, rhetorically speaking, to get some of those same numbers of customers walking through their retail establishments in October? 

Creating Excitement

Independent garden centers are all over this entire process and create all kinds of exciting environments and retail theater to capture the public’s imagination. They utilize fall color — mums, pansies, kale and cabbage, asters — to pull customers in and hook them. Then the fun begins with pumpkins, corn stalks, hay bales, gourds, scarecrows, apple cider and so forth. They are so finely tuned into that Halloween decorating theme for the outdoors. Many garden centers will feature kiddie attractions geared to get in the young ones, along with moms and dads.

This theme or message is undermarketed, in my opinion, to get consumers in to the garden centers and then have them captivated by fully stocked nursery yards and poly houses and front aprons chock full of colorful fall plants. Color should be the driving force to get them in, as it always has been. Once you’ve got them, offer them more than just that.

Retailers can do gardening how-to clinics on weekends that speak to the benefits to the consumer of planting in the fall. Fall advertising, in print, radio or television, can easily be tweaked to emphasize the benefits of fall planting. There have been all kinds of really fantastic point-of-sale merchandising products through the years that speak to the consumer about the benefits of fall planting. Retailers should more fully take advantage of every fence banner, shelf talker, overhead sign and plant tag as they can. Cashiers and sales associates can reinforce the message with “Fall Is For Planting” buttons and so on.

A “Fall Is For Planting” theme is not for the faint of heart in retail management. The buying public has latent demand that can be stirred up through marketing. Tapping into this demand can really help to drive primary sales of the plants and then will result in tremendous related sales, leading to higher return on investment — if you’ve got risk tolerance for something that’s really not that risky. Just tell customers what they need to be successful and you will be rewarded. Let’s try not to keep this one of the best-kept secrets from the buying public.

Leave a Reply

More From Marketing...

April 1, 2015

Philadelphia Flower Show Draws More Than 250,000 Attendees With Disney Pixar Movie Theme

With more than 250,000 consumers attending the prestigious Philadelphia Flower Show in March each year, it's a great opportunity to get flowers and gardening products into the public eye. This year's show displays took on family favorites at the movies, with a focus on Disney and Pixar films. Check out some of the highlights in our slideshow.

Read More

April 1, 2015

Peace Tree Farms Grows Its Customer Base

Over the past five years, Peace Tree Farms in Kintnersville, Pa., has concentrated on growing its business by providing plant material for the displays at the illustrious Philadelphia Flower Show. We caught up with Peace Tree Farms’ Lloyd Traven to ask about how the Flower Show figures into his business plan.

Read More
protecting bees and pollinators video

March 31, 2015

New Video On Protecting Bees And Pollinators Educates Horticulture Industry Professionals

A new educational video that provides information on the horticultural industry’s essential role in bee and pollinator stewardship is one result of industry collaboration by the Horticultural Research Institute, AmericanHort, Society of American Florists and the American Floral Endowment. “Protecting Bees & Pollinators: What Horticulture Needs to Know,” narrates the current state of bee and pollinator health, provides information on factors that impact pollinators and the environment and underscores the beneficial role horticulture plays in providing healthy pollinator ecosystems.

Read More
Latest Stories
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
Sara Tambascio

October 2, 2014

How To Measure The Success Of Your Digital Marketing

Take a look at these metrics in your digital marketing to see if you’re connecting with your audience or just adding to the clutter.

Read More

September 26, 2014

How To Get The Digital Generation Into The Garden: Gard…

Capture millennials’ gardening interests with these marketing tips.

Read More
The Joseph Shinoda Memorial Scholarship Foundation

September 9, 2014

Shinoda Foundation Contributes Nearly $15,000 In Schola…

Based in California, the Joseph Shinoda Memorial Foundation's mission is to encourage educational opportunities for young people interested in entering the industry. Since 1965, the foundation has awarded $790,000 to more than 660 undergraduate floriculture students.

Read More