Not sure about you, but at this time of the year I start to reflect on the past 12 months in our industry. So, with that in mind, I would like to share some observations, a few suggestions and a couple of thoughts.
I travel throughout the United States and Europe to a lot of trade shows and industry events. It is truly an understatement when we say that we’re members of a worldwide community. Plants, pots and miscellaneous supplies come into this country from every corner of the world. And in the past few years, I have really become a student of retail — studying not only what consumers are buying, but why they are buying. Of course, my real motivation — being the capitalist that I am — is to try and figure out how to get consumers to buy more of our products.
Our industry is facing a crisis; fewer people are buying our products, and those who are buying are buying less. Neither of those is a good thing. Our industry has moved from a production-driven industry to a sales-driven one. When that happens, it is imperative that you understand what is driving consumers to purchase.
For the past two years, I have stepped out of my comfort zone a little to attend a trade show and seminar called the In-Store Marketing Expo, conducted and managed by the In-Store Marketing Institute.
This year, the trade show floor was covered from end to end with unbelievable ideas (displays) for attracting consumers and helping them make good buying decisions. By the way, there was not one display that related to our products. But there were many great ideas that we could certainly use. Each year, the In-Store Marketing Association also sponsors the “Design of the Times” packaging on POP competition for the best of the best in retail packaging. Hundreds of displays were entered into the competition. If you are looking for some new ideas, this is the spot.
Of the two-day visit, I got the most value from some seminars I attended:
Every talk was an eye-opener — even for an old guy like me! Mark you calendar now for next year — In-Store Marketing Expo, Nov. 13 and 14, 2008 (www.instoremarketer.org  or www.instoreexpo.com ).
As this issue went to press, the fires in California were finally getting under control for this season. For all our friends in those drought-stricken and fire-ravaged areas, our prayers were with you and will continue to be with you as you rebuild. With that said, I have to wonder how this will affect the consumers in those areas. One school of thought suggests there will be a huge demand for replacement material, including shrubs, trees, perennials and annuals. I suspect that is correct. So should we, as an industry, take a step backward for just a moment and think about how we educate the consumer related to buying and growing material that requires less moisture?
The bigger concern is that they will not be allowed to replant lawns, shrubs and trees. Will our industry take a big step backward? It will, if we don’t think about a solution and become active to make sure it does not happen. I have seen several letters to the editors written by retailers and growers whose businesses have been hurt so badly that they are closing forever.
I hope you will take a moment to reflect on the challenges. Please take the next steps and become involved locally, regionally and nationally to address these challenges. As an industry, we can make an impact.
Take time to enjoy the upcoming holidays. In spite of the fires and droughts, we still have a lot to think about and be thankful for.