Looking forward, marketing itself effectively will continue to be the biggest challenge the floriculture industry faces, according to Dr. Allan Armitage, professor emeritus of horticulture at the University of Georgia, where he taught for more than 30 years.
“We have to be more creative and market ourselves,” he says. “Until we get a national marketing program that everyone throws money into, we will not go anywhere. We need to promote the message that using our products is healthy and makes people feel better. We have to focus on the young people. We need to have a message for them – that they need plants, they need us – and it has to reach them on TV and social media.”
The garden of tomorrow is all about lifestyle and ease, and it doesn’t go much further than the deck. That means growers need to produce more lifestyle plants and “paint-by-number” combinations that customers can use to decorate their homes, Armitage says.
“Young people don’t want to put up with all of this,” he says. “They want to buy something and walk out of the store. There’s no time to do it themselves now, when they have to take their kids to soccer practices and baseball games. Families are much busier than they were 20 years ago and now, there truly is no time. If they want to make the house look nice, they hire a decorator. There are always going to be people who love to garden, but they’re in the minority now.”
To accomplish this and bring the industry forward to meet the challenges of selling to a younger demographic, Armitage says what we need are influential leaders to bring all of the different sectors together, and change the face and the perception of the floriculture industry. Who are the influential leaders who will bring us all together and lead the floriculture industry into the future to capture the attention of the next generation of consumers? Armitage says he wants to see big growers step up and be the change.
“Who is the pied piper out there? I think the leaders of today are the big growers,” he says. “As an industry, we have to do something together to tell people our message. The biggest issue now is who is going to do it? When I think of the leaders of yesterday, those who have brought this industry to where it is today, I think of people like Paul Ecke Jr., Glenn Goldsmith and Will Carlson. They took people by the shirttails and dragged them into modern horticulture. We can sit around and talk about them and some of these guys are still around. But the fact is, there are not a lot of vocal leaders in our industry anymore.”
Armitage has been an influential leader of the industry for many years. View the slideshow below to find out what some of the people he has impacted most had to say about him.