August 5, 2009

Lessons From The Market: Merchandising

Industry marketing consultant Jerry Montgomery says controlling and executing merchandising is a key to long-term grower success. Based on his extensive retail travels the last two years, he lists merchandising’s missing elements and common traits that make merchandisers successful. From extensive retail travel to almost 1,500 garden center in 2008 and 2009, it is apparent merchandising at the point of purchase is a key success factor and impacts sales velocity more than many other factors, possibly with the exception of “wow” color. There are garden centers that have outstanding products, attractive pricing, great locations and plenty of parking that clearly never maximized their sales opportunities by the way they merchandise. From our observations here are some of the missing elements of merchandising: – Prices that are difficult or in some case impossible to find. – Plants that are not saleable but remain on shelves. – Plants without labels. – Overcrowding displays in which the […]

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July 30, 2009

Nominations Open For AIB’s Holmes Award

Nominations are now being accepted for the America in Bloom John R. Holmes III Community Champion Award. The honor is to recognize an individual who exemplifies community leadership through actions that reflect the mission of the organization. The award recipient, who must be from a city that has participated or is currently participating in the program, will have demonstrated a vision and selfless commitment to moving the community forward. See a list of the 2,900 participating AIB communities here. America in Bloom created the award this year in memory of John Holmes, the late CEO who died unexpectedly in February. An AIB board member and officer since the organization’s inception, Holmes was a tremendous advocate for city beautification and a true believer in the power of flowers and plants to change lives. The first award will be presented during the 2009 AIB Symposium and Awards Program, October 1-3 in Hershey, […]

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July 27, 2009

Montgomery’s Colorado Retail Report

Colorado is a hot spot for some of the best retail growers and independent garden centers in the country, so it was a great opportunity to be able to tour some of these facilities on a beautiful summer Saturday in July [18]. I had the opportunity to tour the area with Frank Yantorno, owner of Center Greenhouses. Yantorno knows the local market as well as anybody and supplies many of the high-quality garden centers in the Denver Metro with “wow” quality hanging baskets and perennials. Center Greenhouses arguably has the most consistent basket recipes. All varieties bloom at the same time, and this is not very typical of most mixed baskets. The weather for our tour was in the low 60s in the morning and climbed to the 90s by late afternoon. There was a lot of activity, particularly at the independents, with less traffic at the national retailers. We […]

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July 21, 2009

Montgomery’s Columbus Retail Report

After arriving on an early flight, I had some time on Saturday [July 11] to take a quick afternoon tour of the retail scene in Columbus. Because of limited time, only 14 stores were surveyed. It was a rainy and windy Saturday that obviously slowed most traffic, but I did have the opportunity to see what was on the retail shelves and to observe how effective the merchandising was at the national retailers. Home Depot Columbus is clearly one of the best markets for Home Depot, exhibiting big bold color, really good signage and very clean and well organized garden centers. Mixed containers were well grown using recipes in which all varieties bloomed together. That’s unusual. Containers were spaced so the consumer could easily see what they were buying. I did not find one item that was not clearly priced, and Home Depot did not have too many SKUs that […]

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June 18, 2009

One Bird At A Time

I enjoy sharing the trial gardens at the university with my friends and neighbors, and having recently moved, I mentioned I was going over to check on watering to my new neighbors. In my little pickup truck trundled Jean and Vicki, two friends who enjoy gardening but don’t know one cultivar from another. They were also newbies to the trials, having never visited it. When they walked into the garden, they exclaimed with delight and wanted to see everything, look at the names and bring their husbands and family over to share it with them. I had mentioned I had a few extra plants they could have, and like kids in a candy store, they walked around the containers asking the usual questions about sun and shade, annual and perennial and, of course, “What is that?”  While wandering through the geraniums, the basil, the angelonias and the calibrachoas, they may […]

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June 18, 2009

Medal Of Excellence: Behind Branding

Sometimes the best ideas for business ventures have the simplest beginnings. For Henry Dudley in Lansing, Mich., his idea started with wanting a card to go with the bouquet of flowers he gave to his wife each week. He always had to go to a separate gift shop for the card. Dudley was calling on growers and florists to sell waxed and assorted wrapping papers. He developed his own line of small cards with envelopes and offered them to florists at no charge, if they purchased 12 decorative paper designs. His idea changed the way flowers are presented. He named his new business The John Henry Co. after his newborn son in 1912. The business began with the cards and decorative papers and expanded to serve other floral retailing needs, such as tags and care and handling information. The progression from floral to indoor potted plants and gardening was natural, […]

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June 17, 2009

Montgomery’s New York Retail Report

I visited 57 retail garden centers in New York City and Long Island from June 4-8 to determine the performance of these garden centers and their vendors. The weather for the most part was ideal, except when it rained all day June 5. The weather was ideal for the weekend and the traffic in the garden centers was heavy, with many consumers still buying lots of vegetables. The other items that seemed to be selling well were annual packs, annual flats–1801, 2401 and 3201–as well as 10-inch basic and premium hanging baskets. The breakdown of the stores visited is as follows: – Home Depot 29 (14 Ivy Acres, 15 Weiss)–Lowe’s 9–Walmart 10–Kmart 3–Costco 2–Sam’s Club 2–Independent garden centers 2 Home Depot Home Depot, of course, is the most dominant retailer in lawn and garden in this area because of its store density. There are three Home Depots for every Lowe’s. […]

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June 9, 2009

Walmart Getting Serious About Marketing

Walmart has arguably been the retailer the recession has rewarded most, and in an article this week on, one Walmart executive shed light on how the company positioned itself in the market over the last couple years. Chief Marketing Officer Stephen Quinn says Walmart has invested heavily in market research over the last few years. He says Walmart polls more than 1 million customers monthly. At the same time, the company has invested in marketing talent to strategically position Walmart during a recession and beyond. “I’m proud of the story here,” Quinn says, “because I think it’s showing how marketing is making a really big difference to a company that maybe didn’t take it as seriously as they do today. I think marketing is at the forefront of championing the customer internally and doing something about it.” Based on research and other factors, Walmart developed the “Save money. Live […]

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June 2, 2009

Survey: Consumers Shop On Quality

The survey wasn’t an exact science, but a survey conducted by our sister magazine, Today’s Garden Center, gave us an idea how people are shopping. Several of the editors pushed the survey out to friends and family (the only requirement was that they were not in the horticulture/floriculture industry). All told, 87 percent of the respondents were under 45 (88 people responded total). About 25 percent of those who responded were in their mid- to late-20s, and 18 percent were 30 to 34. What we found was a little surprising. Nearly 83 percent lived in a house or condo that they owned or rented (that’s not the surprising part). Of the 88 people who responded, more than three-fourths said they enjoyed gardening. That goes against the general feeling that the younger crowd doesn’t really like to garden, and does it more to increase their property value. Moreover, when we asked […]

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May 29, 2009

New Communications Agency Focuses On ‘Green’

Green Penguin Communications is a new communications agency launched because of renewed public interest in fresh produce and continued growth in the organic and sustainable sector. Green Penguin serves businesses in food, fiber, flowers and forest products, along with the suppliers to those industries. “Clients come to us because they want to connect with the sustainably driven customer,” says Annie Gardiner, founder and president of Green Penguin Communications who was previously an independent communications consultant who worked with companies in floriculture. “They are either looking for an effective promotional strategy or want tactical support in getting their story in front of the right people.” The Green Penguin team also features a unique capability: certification communications. The agency can help companies harness the power of their organic or sustainability certification in the marketplace. For more information on Green Penguin Communications, click here.

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May 27, 2009

You Say Tomato

Homegrown herbs and vegetables are at a popularity level not seen in a generation, and thanks to a host of branded programs on the market, growers and retailers have plenty of opportunities to capitalize on the trend.  Plug Connection’s Organiks line of organic herbs and vegetables, for example, appeals to consumers through its unique, colorful packaging. “We decided to go with the lifestyle look,” says Josh Schneider of Cultivaris, a consulting firm to Plug Connection. “We basically ignored the perceived wisdom that you need an exact picture of the plant.”   Instead, the thyme plant, for instance, features a picture of halibut with a thyme sauce, and the pepper tags feature a photo of mouth-watering kabobs. “The entire Organiks marketing concept, with the bench cards, signs and all of the supporting marketing material, is to showcase the big, lush, beautiful opportunity that is presented to you as you’re standing there […]

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May 22, 2009

O2 For You Visits Boston

Mothers in Boston hospitals each received a potted peace lily for their newborn babies May 14, when O2 For You: Houseplants With A Purpose visited.   Costa Farms teamed up with Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots youth program and volunteers from B.O.L.D. Teens, delivering live plants and build-and-grow kits to families in Dorchester, Mass. The O2 for You campaign highlights the many health benefits of indoor plants, including the production of oxygen to improve indoor air quality both at home and in the workplace. For more information on O2 For You, visit

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