Winning Consumer Dollars

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This is not an article on horticulture joining forces for a “Got Milk?” campaign. Those activities look like they are taking shape … maybe? In the meantime, we decided to focus on showing how to make an impact at the local level where the shovel hits the dirt.

First, the numbers: The average U.S. consumer spent $46,409 in 2005 after taxes, and most of this went to housing, transportation and food. About $12,000 was left for discretionary items, and that’s what we are competing for.
Discretionary spending is pretty interesting. Consider the average U.S. consumer spends $2,634 on food away from home, $426 on alcohol, $1,886 on apparel, $2,388 on entertainment, $126 on reading materials, $319 on tobacco and $5,204 on personal insurance and pensions.

Forty years ago, spending more on going out to dinner than clothing would have been shocking. Today’s Americans are dressed down and casual. Are they ready to go outside and garden? Or head to a favorite restaurant?

Tobacco is bouncing up and down. Whether the result of increased taxes on tobacco products is causing all of this is not important; the dollars are spent variably. But how does this relate to attracting more consumer dollars at the local level? Where is the best target to take consumer dollars? Restaurants? Other types of entertainment? Alcohol? Apparel? Personal insurance and pension? Tobacco? All of them are susceptible to penetration. The question is which are the most efficient places to attract dollars from consumers at your level?

This article proposes two strategies for winning more consumer dollars. Each goes after big money in different ways and, one or both can be used simultaneously.

Align & Merge With Growth Segment

Americans are racing for time. When they create this time, they are spending it on a wider range of options: electronics, sports, dining out, shopping for clothes, video games, iPods, cellular products and health clubs, just to name a few. These are trends, but Americans are deeply moved as well: Americans are insatiably optimistic about creating a better tomorrow. We are a force for a better world. So here, we discuss tactics within the two strategies that will win you more dollars.

First, you need to communicate – advertise and promote – to your customers where they spend discretionary time elsewhere. You can communicate at high school football games on Friday nights, at soccer fields on Saturday mornings, at pet stores on adoption days.

You can also help consumers save their time. Offer installation or design services – and charge for these. Sell bigger containers for instant gratification. Use containers that can go in the ground with the plant. Rent digging equipment on weekends when rental companies are closed.

Beyond saving time, you can co-brand plants with a specific popular person, place or thing, like a sports team mascot, a holiday, a musician, a celebrity, heroes or technology.

How about putting a modern spin on coupons, rebates and rewards? Offer students a chance to wash cars as a fundraiser in your garden center once a month. Consumers enjoy the time savings, while kids get introduced to gardening and help drive traffic to your location.

Or, give away a free car wash with the purchase of a certain amount of products. You could even tie in coupons with major events like county fairs, or offer rebates on returned pots. Whether you re-use them or not, you want them coming back to your store again. Give them an excuse to come back.

Make Gardening A Must

Gardening itself is a cause no one can argue with. It’s healthy, good for the earth, important for children to understand and appreciate, entertaining, relaxing, beautiful and economical. So here are three cause-based campaigns you can run based on those sentiments:

• Invite preschool or elementary classes to workshops for learning.

• Get your community involved in projects like America in Bloom.

• Kick off an urban renewal project

In each of these campaigns, put signs up showing before and after with your logo everywhere. Make the American consumer a bigger, more special part of your business. Make the American consumer a part of your cause.

Doug McQueen is vice president of McGregor Plant Sales in Carlsbad, Calif. You can reach him by eMail at

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