Plan to Pursue Something New
It's September and time for school, football and final program planning. If you have waited until now to think about new products, you may have waited too long — but there may still be hope.
Defining What's New
As I made the rounds to see all the big boxes this summer, I noticed there was one question they all had on their minds: What's new for next year, and can the company get an exclusive on it? One large retailer I talked to is looking for 4-6 new items from every major supplier. Another hopes for as much as 15 percent of next year's sales to come from new products.
Of course, I have to ask one question: What makes a new product good? Plant breeders would answer new colors, habits, improved performance, larger/ smaller flowers and improved garden performance. Plastic manufacturers would answer different pot sizes, colors and handles and matching tags and unique shapes. Some retailers believe "new" means creating a brand name.
With all these "new" interpretations, it is hard to know the right definition for our industry, but take a step back. Let's ask the end consumer (our true customer) what makes a difference and what persuades them to buy our products. It turns out they appreciate healthy, quality flowering plants at a fair value.
With the end consumers' wants in mind, how do I satisfy my big box retailers and their appetite for the new?
- Look for ways to offer the basics, and keep it simple.
- Get professional help. Mas-terTag, The John Henry Company and Horticultural Marketing & Printing offer professional design services for tags as well as total consumer product design.
- Get everyone from your spouse to staff involved in new product development. Here's a test: Do you know the hot colors for next year?
- Spend time looking at different retailers and getting to know who your customer really is. Watch what they are buying, and ask yourself: Do my products satisfy a need or, better yet, a desire?
- Do trends research. What motivates people to buy? Do-it-for-me gardeners have doubled in the last two years and will triple in the next two by all estimates. Many of our first-time buyers see gardening as work and not fun.
- Is your retailer providing abundant, quality customer service? If not, maybe new does not relate to products as much as it does service.
No Slowing Down
Summer is over and September is finally here: Quotes and final pricing are due. Pot and tag orders are overdue.
But while the fall is turning out to be just as busy as summer, I know I have already given plenty of thought to 2007. In my book, "new" means understanding the ultimate consumer and satisfying their needs for good-quality, well-valued products.
More "New" News
It looks like the big boxes are not just looking for new products from their suppliers; some of them are searching for other new ways to get and keep customers in their stores. Several months ago I suggested that the big box that will ultimately win the sales battle among competitors will be the one that realizes the importance of having more customer service.
With this in mind, I hope you did not miss the announcement on Aug. 15, 2006, from Home Depot. The company is adding an additional 5.5 million hours of customer service in the last half of 2006. That's more than 2,750 hours per store, which is a big step toward making a real difference.