Make 2009 A Turning Point

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Surprise, surprise! We’re officially in recession mode now, and we have been for more than a year. The National Bureau of Economic Research made the formal announcement as we prepared this year-opening issue for press, but the story seemed more like back-page news at the time because American consumers were busy making a contradictory statement on Black Friday and the days that ensued. Consumers made their statement with their hard-earned dollars, flooring analysts who expected to hear cricket chirps in the early mornings at retail stores across the country.

Black Friday, of course, is an aberration in the retail world, but it’s always been used as a gauge for our willingness to spend over the holiday season. This most recent Black Friday should, however, serve as a barometer for even more to our industry. Last year was rough for some growers, yes, and the economic forecast for this year is still a bit cloudy. But the fact that consumers stormed stores in droves–just like they have for years–should be an encouraging sign to growers who’ve cut back production with the assumption that the waters of 2009 will be the choppiest they’ve experienced yet.

As I waited endlessly in checkout lines at several stores on Black Friday, I struck up conversations with consumers whose shopping carts overflowed with big-screen TVs, digital cameras and laptops made available in some places at record-low prices.

Price was one factor that pulled those consumers out of bed that day, but necessity was another. And that second factor is at the core of any purchase, especially now.

Make Yourself Relevant

Ours is a wants-based society, but we tend to confuse items we want for those we need. The electronics spilling from those carts and a couple of consumer responses to their purchases is one example that backs that gotta-have-it sentiment. One middle-aged man told me he “needed” a 32-inch LCD TV because the television in his third bedroom had busted. A couple of teenage girls “needed” to purchase $119 digital cameras because their friends had the same models. And another middle-aged man braved some early-morning wind chills with me because he “needed” a laptop in case his other laptop suddenly crashed.

Their rationale might seem senseless, but doesn’t their approach speak for many of us? We complain about mortgages, car payments and the cost of education, yet we’ll spend, spend, spend on consumer products because of some senseless reasoning we’ve manufactured. We tell ourselves we can’t be happy without those items. Why shouldn’t consumers feel the same way about your products?

The short answer is they should, and industry organizations are rallying growers to promote their flowers and plants as necessities–just like those gadgets rounded up by the thousands on Black Friday. So if you’re sitting on the industry’s sidelines anticipating the worst, find a way to make yourself relevant. You grow because you love it. Relay that energy to consumers, and give them something to love, too.

Sure, 2009 might not be your best yet. But an optimistic outlook and a little involvement could make 2009 the turning point for your best years to come.

Kevin Yanik is the former managing editor of Greenhouse Grower.

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