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Strategies Blog Updates: Really Cool Stuff and More

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This post is to let you know What’s Coming and to Fill You In on how some features work on Strategies Blog so you can get more out of your experience here today and in the future.

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What’s Wrong with this Message?

Enough about the economy stupid.

Yes, we need to be empathetic to the consumer’s need to save, but the problem is amplified and exacerbated when everyone who is marketing has the same basic message across all communication channels. A basic tenet of marketing – differentiation, is lost.

Shouldn’t your brand be all about helping consumers escape the everyday issues of life? Keep in mind that when your advertising messages remind your own brand constituents of the harsh realities of living today, and that they should save money every time they buy you are NOT making them feel like they need to have what you’ve got. Continue reading

A Hobby That Got Out of Hand

I’m like the majority of you. I’m in the business end of this business and still have a love of the root of the business in my heart. Having been spoiled with free plants and wholesale prices most of my life I’m often faced with retail when I see something in my client’s inventory that I just “have to have”. It’s a very satisfying curse.

So I thought I’d play in the business while leaving the business side alone a little while. There are tons of great plant finds on the Internet. I won’t try to prioritize favorites, but here are a couple that had me spellbound far longer than I intended, and wishing it was time to plant.

Tim Wood’s The Plant Hunter blog

Bailey Nurseries online catalog

So please click on “Comments” below and share your best finds.

Prevailing Wisdom?

Please pardon this rather long posting on the Christmas Economy of 2008 today. I think it is worth the time and space.

The majority of the news reports, ads, and word of mouth about shopping these days is all about the shopping deals and discounts. While this would qualify as “prevailing wisdom” in the greater retail world is it really so wise? And who is it wise for?

The need to feed shareholders and Wall Street is so great for public companies that they are often compelled to drive the business at all costs in order to bring in the quarter as expected, otherwise, sell orders and sell-off ensue. Their executives receive performance bonuses that reward them for very narrow and short-sighted outcomes. Many of them will come out on the other side in better shape than they deserve because they have superior retail locations and traffic. But the reactions of these retail giants saturate the news and get too much attention from the local-owned independent retailer who is looking for answers and direction.

Smaller privately held companies often fall victim to the aggressive price and discount schemes in the marketplace in two ways. First, there is an adjustment to inventory demand in response to the aggressive discounts of competitors. Second, lacking any different marketing disciplines the easy thing to do is to do what seemingly everyone else does and popular opinion around the water cooler and dining table demand. In other words, it takes a bold and disciplined approach to get through all this with some sense of accomplishment.

One thing for sure is that it will be foolish to approach Christmas ’09 as if things would be normal again. I’ve put together a list of five things to be thinking about Christmas now and in the future. But first, click here to read what the experts on Retail Wire are saying on both sides of the equation.

Here’s my list of five things to consider about retailing Christmas:

1. Commoditized trim-a-tree is d_ _ d. It’s ubiquitous and deeply discounted everywhere it is sold, and it is sold in too many places. The growth trend of these items may have peaked last year, although inventories peaked this year. The profit of handling these goods even at inflated regular prices that are aggressively discounted but still yield good margins is gone. You have to really pick through the non-plant lines to find any “keepers” to sell next year.

2. Consider storing traditional permanent Christmas products that you know you can sell during Christmas ’09 rather than selling out below cost. However, if your projected cash flow demands the money you may have to sell it out at any cost. Traditionally, we’d like to see zero inventory of all Christmas categories, but this is one year where it may make sense to hold onto some of it rather than sell below cost. You can be assured you’ll be paying more to replace it with new inventory for next year, unless you stock up at your competitors below your cost 80% off after Christmas sales.

3. Resist the urge to discount all the way to Christmas on items where your inventory is close to the amount you’ve sold in the past. Protect the value of your core product lines. You will normally put more margin dollars in the bank if you sell what you can at full retail, even if that means throwing the rest in the dumpster.

4. Get creative so you don’t run out of your “never outs” and erode your core customer base in the process instead of getting excited that you’re out and turning your hard earned regular and loyal customers away at a time when they need you most.

5. Review each week of the Christmas season now to determine what went well, what has not gone well, and what you might do to improve results week by week next year.

Click here to read an article about a Seattle retailer in another industry who took a different approach to Christmas. Be sure to give some thought to how you might use some of her thinking in your approach to Spring business in case the “prevailing wisdom” and faulty thinking that you’ll only have sales if you do the discounting is still around.

So with that let’s wrap up this Christmas season and settle in for a long-winter’s nap. What’s that you ask?

People Gather Everywhere

This is the season of gathering – and spending money while doing it. In Grand Rapids, the recession of Michigan looms in the air. If it isn’t sold here on 28th Street you don’t need it, and probably don’t want it. Every restaurant and retail store you can think of reside here. I had dinner in the crowded Panera last night, and came back this morning to finish up some Internet tasks, make phone calls, and as it turns out to people watch. There has been a constant and steady stream of people in line to order for three hours. Tables fill with a few of my type – solo wireless users, but we were far outnumbered by friends and business people meeting up to talk, work, study, and even pray together. One threesome discusses the impact of the economy on their company and clients. I feared the apparently out-of-town boss swooped in to lay off the two salespeople he was meeting with. Thank God I didn’t have to witness a public mass-firing. He didn’t do that but he did set the stage for a long period of hard work ahead. Still, the conversation wasn’t appropriate in a public setting. Two ladies talked about the shopping bargains everywhere. They’re stocking up for household needs, upcoming birthdays and other anticipated purchases to take advantage of all the bargains. They wondered aloud, “who in their right mind would buy anything they need at full price when there are so many bargains to be found?” I have no answer. Another pair discussed a January trip to the indoor waterpark, rather than the usual tropical winter vacation. Only a three hour drive to adventure, and they can take all the kids and grandkids. The conversations all seem to center on talk of the economy rather than the weather as a recent winter storm with “flash-freeze” and overnight snowfall have not once been mentioned. Panera makes a lot of money when people want to get together and talk. It’s going to be a long winter. I think it all means we’re going to see a lot of people in the garden centers in spring.

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Social Media update

My great experiment with trying to ramp up yet understand what’s going  in in the new Social Media world is making milestones. Just today I crossed the 200 connection mark on LinkedIn, and now have 58 friends in facebook. I’ve joined numerous social media groups, including becoming fans of several clients, industry organizations, and other network groups. I can see the number of these could mushroom seriously so I hope it doesn’t become overwhelming. Well, more overwhelming.

The intent is not to brag about what I’m doing but to set the stage and ask what you’re doing in the social media. So go ahead and click on the comment link below this  post and tell us what social media you’re on and what you’re learning about it.

Sid Raisch's Facebook profile


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