Is It Time To Reinvent Ourselves?

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Does our industry need a makeover? Gardening and landscaping feel too much like work for many consumers, but decorating with flowers and enjoying your outdoor living space while eating home-grown food–well, that sounds like a lot of fun. The activities are different but the end results are almost the same.

One question posed at the Grower Town Meeting at OFA’s Short Course was, “What business are you in? We all think we grow plants, but what business are we really in?” 

Living The Good Life

One grower declared he’s in the lifestyle business. “People want plants. It’s all about how we package them and market them. Our products must fit into their life,” he said. “We need to provide the wow factor so consumers want to take it home. Do our products deliver the wow factor?”

He shared that during a consumer focus group at an independent garden center, one woman said her idea of gardening was taking a mixed planter home, putting it on the patio, drinking a martini and having a cigarette. “I’m telling ya, it’s a lifestyle business,” he said. “She wants a martini with her plants.”

Gen X-ers on the Consumer Buzz Live panel also said they liked the idea of partying with plants–having friends over for margaritas and to plant up containers. 

Followers Of Fashion

Another grower said he used to be in the home décor business but that he really needs to be in the home fashion business, which provides more value. “If you open an issue of Vogue, you’ll see clothing designers change their product lines every six months to get consumers excited,” he said. “If you’re doing the same thing year after year, you’re boring the consumer to death and get what you deserve!”

Even when growers develop products women under 35 would respond to, like plants painted with glitter, the floral buyers are more comfortable with traditional products. “It’s a challenge to get innovation in the door,” he said. “How do we reinvigorate our business and get people in positions who know what ought to be selling, what’s hot and what’s cool?” 

Just In Time Delivery

One grower who is a leader on the logistical side, coordinating shipments from many growers to serve large retailers, said he’s in the replenishment business.

“Unlike other agricultural products, ours are not processed and are consumer ready,” he said. “We have highly perishable items, and the retailers are looking for assistance to feature our product. Our competition is all other items being sold at the store. How can we build sales in the retail environment to sell everybody’s plants?” 

Growing The Next Generation

Perhaps the best anecdote at the Grower Town Meeting was about a grower who hosted children in the local 4-H floriculture group. Each child received a plant to take home to mom and was told to pay attention to her reaction when she received the plant. The result? Mom smiled. “We’re not growing plants. We’re growing smiles,” the grower said.

The Society of American Florists has been commissioning “happiness studies” with leading universities on the good vibrations plants and flowers bring to the home and the work place. Let’s leverage the results to grow more smiles.

Delilah Onofrey directs Flower Power Marketing for the Suntory Collection. She can be reached at

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