Taking Our Industry’s Pulse

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Did cool weather arrive earlier than usual in your region this year? Later than usual? Did summer seemingly skip fall and become winter overnight?

Odds are the weather did not completely cooperate with your mum production schedule if you’re even growing mums. Fortunately, at the time we surveyed growers in mid-September about their mum crop, the majority reported mum sales increasing over last year.

Growers have a range of expectations about poinsettia season, though. Thirty percent of growers we surveyed expect poinsettia sales to be about the same as last year, but the remaining 70 percent is split: 35 percent expect sales increases while 35 percent expect decreases. We’ll know more about those sales numbers after next month.

In the meantime, read on for a review of mum season and a look ahead to poinsettia season. In our latest Industry Pulse survey, we asked growers when they shipped mums, how their 2009 mum and poinsettia production compares to last year’s production and if they have any suggestions for other growers looking to improve sell-through with poinsettias. Their answers and more survey results are ahead in this article.

Mums
One question we asked growers regarding mums was when they began shipping them. We had heard a few rumblings about the spring season extending into the typical start of mum season for some growers, but our survey results don’t indicate any dramatic delay in the start of mum shipments.

The majority of growers (61 percent) report shipping mums this year around the same time they did last year. Twelve percent of growers report shipping mums zero to two weeks later, and 3 percent say their first mum shipments occurred two to four weeks later this year than last year.

Perhaps the most interesting statistical takeaway regarding when growers first shipped mums is the percentage that shipped them earlier than last year (25 percent). Some growers view early mum shipments as an opportunity. Others, however, believe mums shipped pre-August 1 affect other industry products negatively.

“It is very hard to compete when there are mums in the marketplace August 1,” writes a Connecticut grower-retailer. “It is starting to hurt our summer color and perennial sales.”

The majority of growers who took our survey did not ship mums before August 1. The majority (33 percent) began shipping between August 16-31, and another large percentage of growers (26 percent) began shipping between August 1-15.

Still, 16 percent of growers report first mum shipments being made before August 1. Three percent say they began shipping mums before July 1.

As far as how 2009 mum production compares to 2008 production, 30 percent of growers say theirs is about the same as last year. The growers who report increasing production (41 percent) outnumber those who report decreasing production (29 percent).

Poinsettias
Poinsettia production, on the other hand, is down for many growers this year. Fifty-five percent of growers who took our survey report producing less poinsettias this year whereas 26 percent report increasing production. And production isn’t just down a little: One in four growers report poinsettia production is down between 5 and 10 percent, and one in five report cutting production by more than 10 percent.

Could decreased production be a direct result of the number of poinsettias many growers dumped last year? Our survey results indicate 2008 poinsettias dumped likely were a factor in this year’s planning, as 42 percent of growers report dumping at least 5 percent of all poinsettias produced last year.

Another factor leading to decreased poinsettia production is increased competition. Two wholesale growers and the grower-retailer sourced earlier in the article–all of whom are small-to-medium-sized operations–say demand for poinsettias has diminished.

“Cheap poinsettias at mass marketers have about killed demand,” writes a Colorado wholesale grower.

A New York wholesale grower writes: “We did poinsettias for the last time last year. It’s impossible to compete with the huge guys nowadays.”

The Connecticut grower-retailer echoed those sentiments. He wrote: “It is very hard to sell a high-quality retail plant when our local drugstore has them for $4.99.”

If poinsettias are posing problems for you, here are a few suggestions from other growers on how sell-through can be improved:

–Differentiate your product. To the consumer, many poinsettias are alike. What makes your product stand out?
–Grow less yet higher-quality poinsettias. Cut production costs and improve your product at the same time.
–Try unique containers. Are there non-standard pot sizes you can finish poinsettias in? They may be the factor that sells your product.
–Target secondary customers. Schools, clubs and community groups may have an interest in making large purchases.
For more results on mums and poinsettias from our Industry Pulse survey, visit GreenhouseGrower.com. You’ll find more  survey results with more stats that indicate how the industry did this fall.

Kevin Yanik is the former managing editor of Greenhouse Grower.

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