Laurie Scullin of the New Product Group shares news of two exciting marketing and research partnerships he is involved in. He has founded Hort Consumer Research with Michigan State University’s Bridget Behe and Relevance In Hort with Frank Zaunscherb of ZMI.
Hort Consumer Research is an independent market research company co-owned by Behe and Scullin. Behe has conducted market research in all areas of horticulture, including work on where and why shoppers are buying bedding crops through to the actual value bedding adds to home values. Scullin, a frequent contributor to Greenhouse Grower, has more than 30 years experience working with Canadian and U.S. retailers and consumers on horticultural crops, including ongoing programs with The Home Depot and Loblaws.
Together, their objective is to help growers better understand retail and consumer markets, so they can position products to increase retail turns and margins throughout the supply chain. “Hort Consumer Research is a synergistic partnership of academic and practical horticultural consumer researchers with many years of experience with the products, consumers and retailers that impact today’s growers,” they say. “We are focused on practical, useful, timely results clients can incorporate into a fast-paced business environment.
“We strive to develop and implement methods that could meet with rigorous peer review but will respond faster than academia, knowing the business climate has changed to a faster pace. We see the need for short-, medium-, and longer-term studies to bring businesses closer to their consumers in a meaningful way.”
While this venture focuses on market research, Scullin and Zaunscherb are on a mission to keep plants relevant and in demand. They proclaim Relevance In Hort to be a “wiifm” (What’s In It For Me?) company that offers horticultural firms practical solutions in avoiding obsolescence, supporting clients with a full range of strategic planning and marketing services. Clients of ZMI and New Product Group will both benefit from the expanded service package.
Why does horticulture need to regain its relevance?
“We increasingly see consumers turning away from yard work and slowing their purchases of traditional plant and gardening products,” Zaunscherb says. “A garden center full of plants in plastic pots with tags in Latin is not the best way to entice new customers. What’s exciting about that? What’s in it for them?”
Scullin notes Gen X and Gen Y have not been exposed to gardening the way their parents and grandparents were. “My grandfather taught me how to garden back in the 1960’s, and that is just not happening today,” he says. “If you believe TV ads, all the grandfathers are too busy deciding if Viagra or Cialis is ‘right for them.’ They are certainly not out in their gardens teaching the next generation. First and second-time home buyers are now the Gen X and Gen Y kids we had to learn to understand as parents.”