Christmas 2015: Fresh Greens And Personal Gifts Were A Hit For Garden Retailers

Christmas 2015: Fresh Greens And Personal Gifts Were A Hit For Garden Retailers

Ian BaldwinAs the last of the “50% off” sales straggle to a sad end, and intrepid buyers of all-things Christmas are shopping at the “Market” (as AmericasMart’s The Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market is euphemistically known) and other gift shows this winter, I thought it might be worth sharing some observations from the holiday business 2015.

It seems to have been a happy Christmas season for most garden retailers, despite a falling stock market and burgeoning online sales. The spending patterns of the American consumer for 2015’s Christmas reflected the greater changes seen through the year by the independent garden retailers that we know.

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Average spend per customer in November and December was up on the previous year by a range of 2% to 12%, while the favorable weather across much of the country drove customer count up by an even higher range for the majority. While predictions for general retail spending in the malls were modest, garden retailers seemed to beat the street. Did consumers trade savings at the pump for a bigger wreath? J.P. Morgan Chase says that the average household is saving over $260 per year on cheaper gas and that they will spend up to 80% of it!

What consumers spent their money on is important as buyers head for Atlanta and Dallas, hoping to predict what shoppers will drool over in 10 months’ time – never easy. Christmas merchandise has but one chance per year to wow the consumer. It takes real talent to repurpose a Nutcracker as a garden gnome five months later!

Lowe's Greenhouses fresh greens 2015

Lowe’s Greenhouses in Chagrin Falls, OH, enjoyed a big increase in fresh greenery sales.

Fresh Is “In”

Feedback from our networks and clients was of strong and consistent traffic across all regions, demographics and store sizes. Fresh was “in” everywhere — fresh cut trees, greens, roping, and wreaths, the bigger the better, and the more unique the better in all categories. Customized wreath-making stations were selling them as quickly as they could be made. Where buyers could find them, re-orders sold out on cut greens, wreaths and outdoor “porch pots.”

Meanwhile, artificial trees were only strong at the top of the price range, and what was once the very essence of a retail Christmas — ornaments and collectibles, especially collectibles — languished inside many stores. This last category, known to some of my English friends as “landfill,” may have seen its best days for a while as the collectors of such things as nutcrackers, carolers, nativities, Victorian nostalgia and so on, fade away themselves. And younger consumers may be turning away from decorative “stuff” to spend on other, more practical or experiential, things.

A Department That Keeps On Giving

Given the (expensive) buying expeditions underway to the shows, it might be helpful to know what those other things are!

Sales of all sorts of personal items, presumably destined for under-the-tree gifts, were very strong. But the key change here is from Christmas gifts to all year round gifts. As one owner said “I want something I can sell into March, not just up to December 25th!”

Despite the warm weather affecting sales of winter-wear in the malls, sales of scarves, gloves, socks, sweaters and jewelry in garden-stores were extremely good in November and December. Any retailer with new or unusual styles of existing items such as super-cold drink containers sold out, and local-made apparel, food and drink were hits across the country.

I am not sure if I have a conclusion from all this information as you work the booths at market, but caution is advised; change is in the air for Christmas “gift” shopping. One of the big winners at Christmas was gift cards for future experiences: eating out, concert tickets, classes (glassblowing, cocktail making, etc.) or taking a trip.

Take Care With Those Bears

Sure, consumers are still going to decorate with lights, trees, ornaments or swag and will still buy lots of stuff. They will still change color schemes and update their homes each holiday season. But the highlights of their spending now seem to be less on Christmas-, Santa-, and holiday-themed products and more on giving personal all-round gifts or new exciting things that are not necessarily connected to the specific season. Consumers are going for fresh, honest and, where possible, local products, if they give products at all.

Sooo, buy carefully in the next few weeks: it’s hard to turn the boat back to China once you have confirmed!

Reprinted, with permission, from IanBaldwin.com.