In a few short weeks 2012 will be in the books and if you are like me you will step back and ask yourself questions like “what happened to this year” or “where did the time go?” You might even make a statement like “I did not get near as much accomplished as I had hoped for this year.“ As my dad used to say, “Thank goodness for next season.” Without next season and the hope for an even better year my guess would be that some businesses would simply throw the towel in and call it quits.
I enjoy this time of the year because it gives us all a chance to reflect on what happened in 2012 and start to formalize our thoughts, plans and hopes for the year to come. Take a second to look at the definition of “reflect” and even better the word “reflection.” Webster defines it as: a thought occurring in consideration or meditation. Another definition – a fixing of the thought on something, careful consideration. As I reflect on the year 2012 I would describe it as a year of changes.
Changes Affecting Horticulture
We certainly had changes in our industry in 2012. Continued consolidation at both the grower level as well as at manufacturing level, some of the highest freight rates in history, hottest and driest weather on record, retailers closing their doors, price pressures on both the cost and retail side of the equation, senior management changes and reorganizations at several mass market retailers, and a conservative consumer are just to name a few of the highlights.
While those may sound negative, there were certainly many positive changes in 2012 as well — great early spring weather in several major markets, a great year for new plant varieties coming from almost all breeding companies, extension of plant brands and awareness by the end consumer including Proven Winners, Viva and Burpee Vegetables to name just a few.
Another change I noticed in 2012 was how the good companies became even better in how they approached working with their customers and delivering value in products and service.
Changes at the Retail Level
Certainly in 2012 the world of retail has changed. The better we understand and adapted to those changes the more valuable we will be to our customers. The following list of changes came across my desk the other day and I want to share them with you.
1. Weekday convenience and weekend experience
Both of these are major drivers. Consumers expect retailers to provide convenience as well as entertainment on the weekends. Retailers will need to provide both the steak and the sizzle all at one time.
2. Avoid the big ticket items
Consumers will continue to be frugal with their money. That said, there will be plenty of opportunities for retailers who profit from the “stay at home” trends including cooking and gardening retailers.
3. Social media de-cluttering as a marketing tool
Social media gurus are predicting that business people will start analyzing which social media channels are really working for their business. They will discard some and focus on others.
4. Video and pictures will grow as marketing tools
Business will be putting more videos and more pictures online to sell their story to consumers. This will be a great area to learn new skills.
5. Fewer, but better, staff
Retailers have forgotten how important their people are and are not spending any time on training them to be the best they can be at helping customers. Employee and customer interaction are key for success.
6. Network with other businesses
Businesses simply cannot survive on their own. It is critical to network within both your industry as well as community.
7. Price flexibility
Research shows that price can be a driver. Businesses with price flexibility will continue to grow. This is not to be confused with discounting. This really refers to creative special offers and everyday special values.
8. Seasonality has reappeared
Retailers have re-embraced the seasons and are using it as a marketing opportunity.
9. Consolidation will continue
That means there will be fewer businesses that do what you are doing. Those businesses that survive will be stronger and will be in place to take advantage of the market.
Some Basic Fundamentals
As I reflect on our many friends and clients in the industry, I am reminded of where they started. Most of them have roots that reach back to a family business. In working with family businesses some of the fundamentals have not changed and it’s important that we reflect on them as well:
• Treat all employees as family. It will result in everyone working well together for the benefit of all and towards a common goal.
• Never compromise family values.
• Understanding the value of customer service and if we take care of our business, the business will take care of the family and employees.
• Provide personal service.
• Appreciate and nourish longstanding customer relationships.
Last, I am reminded of an acronym that I heard a speaker share many years ago:
VIRTUE — Vision, Integrity, Respect, Understanding, Excellence.
Maybe a goal for 2013?
I hope you will enjoy your holidays and I hope you will take the time to reflect on your business.
Encourage change in your business now for a successful and rewarding new year.