Charting A New Course

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For several years, we’ve been collectively lamenting that our industry has reached a mature stage. USDA numbers show production output and dollars per unit have been flatlining for some time. Although there are businesses that are growing and aggressively making strides, most of what is happening is growers taking market share in a game of winners and losers. The industry as a whole is not growing and that concerns us.

At some point, the economy will improve and lead to increased sales of plants and flowers. (I’ve heard we also have to ride out the population slump Generation X brings demographically, which is impacting all industries.) But we cannot afford to sit back and wait for things to improve, or worse, sit on our hands and watch our industry decline. We need to be proactive in identifying opportunities for our industry to grow.

That’s why we convened our first Grow Summit in late August to serve as a catalyst to create forward-looking dialogue to look at ways to increase demand and improve margins. We had great minds in the room – a good cross-section of growers, their suppliers, academia and the big three national association directors – OFA, American Nursery & Landscape Association and Society of American Florists.

We had frank discussions about what keeps us up at night and how the world and industry have changed. One fun exercise was  the “story of Merlin,” envisioning what the industry will look like in the year 2020 in terms of value and service, and how retail and the consumer’s experience will evolve. Then we reached a consensus on priorities and suggested action items.

Focusing on consumer success came out on top. This includes doing the necessary resarch to determine what matters to consumers, educating them to be successful and producing products that perform.

Another was creating demand by:
• Finding ways to get new customers.
• Establishing connections with and learning from other industries.
• Creating an industry marketing board to work on collective promotions.
• Marketing to real estate developers and urban planners to promote greening and beautification.

Others were on the business side – better business management, reducing shrink and pricing and selling on value. Another was to become more involved in regulatory and legislative issues and define sustainability before an outside group does it for us.

I’m really encouraged because we can point to efforts individuals, groups and corporations are already doing to advance these objectives. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. For instance, the Institute for Floriculture Innovation Charles Kosmont proposes on page 22 is a great starting point for an industry marketing board. America In Bloom is the perfect segue into doing more with developers and city planners.

So what will all this mean to you as a reader of Greenhouse Grower? Everything we do will be filtered through a new lens with these priorities in mind. We’re going to be using all of our offerings as a platform to advance this industry growth initiative – in print, online and in person. When you see an article, it will be clear why it makes a difference for your business or how the topic relates to moving the industry forward. In all our content decisions, we will be asking ourselves, “How does this make a difference for growers and the industry as a whole?” – the “so what?” factor. This is something we’ve always done but in a less obvious and less focused way. Now we’re on a mission to drive these messages home.

As always, we’re going to support activities that benefit the industry. The Grow Summit laid the groundwork. We’re looking forward to converting this group’s ideas into action in the coming year.

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