The New Mexico-based Osuna Nursery invites all its vendors to meet its customers one day a year, giving customers access to deeply knowledgeable representatives, and giving vendors a chance to meet the public in a way not usually available to them. This year will be the third time Osuna hosts a vendor day. So we chatted with Vanessa Sanchez, Osuna’s Marketing Director, to find out how the event works and what changes the team will be making this year.
Q:How many of your vendors do you invite?
A: We invite quite a few — from tree and shrubs, to bedding flowers, to soil menders. It requires a lot of follow up. Last year we invited the whole list of vendors, about 30 to 40 vendors. Only about 7 to 10 showed up. Some it was scheduling, so we try to set it up early. Even though the event is in June, we’ll be inviting them by the end of the January. We also invite area garden clubs and all our customers.
Q: How does it work?
A: We normally hold it during peak hours, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., on a Saturday (this year it will be on June 4). The vendors are there just to give our free information for anyone who would like it. The customers who attend want advice on their gardens, to meet and to talk to experts who can help them decide what they need to do. We’re on a 6-acre property, and we rent tents and place a table and chairs under each tent for the vendors. They are allowed to brand the tent area however they like to represent their company. Our customers can walk around the property to visit each tent, which are mostly clustered together.
The other thing we’ve done is to ask for vendors to donate products for us to give away as prizes during the event. Last year, we got 100 to 200 donations. We had enough products to give something to every customer that weekend. We placed jars at each register, and the customer would draw from the jar, and would see what they won. It could be a fountain, a four pack, perennials, or some tools. We had an employee dedicated to distributing the prizes. It was a lot of fun. Everyone likes to win free things.
Q: Are you planning any changes this year?
A: I think we’re going to attempt having a podium where vendors can do presentations. They would be give 5- to 10-minute talks about plants during the day. That gives our customers a chance to know what kind of expertise each vendor has, so if one has a question about trees, they can go to the Monrovia booth later on. We invite garden clubs, too, so I think someone from each club would work well as speakers, too. To draw attention to the talks, we’d want to give away prizes from the podium.
Q: How do you market the event?
A: We also do online calendars. We go full force and get the word out. There’s a few different ways to promote: Facebook, email blasts, our website, handouts, and just telling people about it. We have good relationship with master gardeners in town, and they are a group that’d be most interested in our vendor day. They’re doing extra curricular activities in the green industry. More traditionally, we’ll advertise in the paper occasionally. The most successful way is word of mouth and handouts.
Last year, we had a local soft-rock radio station set up a tent in our parking lot and it did a live broadcast. It’s live and they’re talking about your store. They gave away pizza and prizes. It drew some people, though their main draw were the give-aways. This station has a mainly female audience, so it is a good audience.
Q: What do you think makes this work so well?
A: I think every year, we get better at it. It’s an outside event, so picking the right time of year is really important. Customers won’t come if it’s windy, if it’s too hot. June is a good month for it, as it’s still a good temperature.
Another advantage of holding it in June is it brings in people after our spring. Our peak time is March to May, so June is right at the end of the season. Holding it then means we have a little more time to dedicate to this event and to continue getting people interested in gardening.
Another reason these work is that the vendors are really interesting. They normally have a fun back story about one or more of their plants. They can tell how this rose got this name, and another got discontinued..And these kind of stories fit in nicely to a program we call Osuna University. We have free classes from 10 to 11 on Saturdays from March to June. So this event correlates with that.
And, of course, the prizes are a big draw. We also want to bring everyone in the green community together, so different plant groups get to know each other.
Q: What advice would you give to others who want to host a similar event?
A: Planning and prepping is key. And communication. And a lot of work. I think it’s a good event to plan, it brings your community together, and that alone makes it worth it. As a bonus, it’s good to build your relationships with vendors.
I would suggest listening to the advice you get from your vendors. From all their suggestions, we’ve tried to implement something each year. It was really windy the first year, so we found a different place to set up the tents. We also learned to work with vendors with products that need a little more time. If you have heavy products, it’s best if they’re prepared before the event to reduce labor.
One of the suggestions we got was to allow vendors to speak, and I’ve already mentioned how we’re going to do that this year. One of the other suggestions we’re considering is to give our customers a worksheet that they can use to get a signature from each vendor. We have to figure out how do you make that worksheet,
I think the donations were excellent for the success of our vendor day. We even had product left over, and we were able to donate the excess to the community.