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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

Horticulture Zombieconomy

Mr. Umair Haque

Mr. Umair Haque

There has been a quiet but growing sound  of discomfort over something a gentleman you have probably not heard of said about the state of the response of American business to the economic situation. His characterization was about the Zombieconomy, and those comments were subject of a Harvard Business Publishing Ideacast.

Mr. Umair Haque may eventually be recorded in history with the likes of W. Edwards Deming, the man who America sent to Japan to help their industry, and specifically their auto industry and Toyota aided by its customers bring down the still misguided and arrogant US auto industry. Actually I think Umair will be much bigger. More importantly, he may do it better than Demming and wake us up before it’s too late. Continue reading

Mountain Lion or Dead Deer Walking? What is the Independent Advantage?

Dead Deer Walking

Photo taken in Montana by Sensor Camera

Are Independent garden centers like the dead deer walking just ahead of the mountain lion representing the predatory discounters and big-boxes it in this photo? Many of them are exactly like that deer. Others will be the next prey. Some will remain keenly aware, agile, and will stay ahead of the impending threats to their existence.

Sid responds to an article about the competitive advantages of independent garden centers over big box retailers by Jennifer Polanz in the April issue of Today’s Garden Center. Click here to read it

Why This Business Gets In Our Blood

ofa-june-2006-048

My colleague, Judy Stapler is an accomplished market researcher, a consumer advocate, and a great addition to our team. Judy recently commented to me that she has observed how exceptionally passionate she has found the people in the horticulture industry to be about what we do (as compared to people working in other industries) . We do not need to get into a deep theological discussion, or raise an argument on the reason why people in horticulture become obsessed with horticulture. Can we just agree that we are?

Continue reading

Should you be a Publicity Hound?

© Milosluz | Dreamstime.com

© Milosluz | Dreamstime.com

Yes, it is uncomfortable tooting our own horn. Mom said not to brag and we are all maybe a little too good at not promoting ourselves. However, the art of shameless self-promotion doesn’t have to be shameful. Remember, mom also said to “stand up for yourself if you’ve got something to say.”

The passion in our industry is based on the real benefit of plants to people. There is a physiological need, as well as a financial benefit from what we do. Promoting what we do is not only important, it is essential. One of the saddest things I have witnessed in the past 30 years is the fact that our industry has silently allowed an entire generation of American people to grow up and become adults without much of the required knowledge or the desire and interest to garden.

Continue reading

You Are One of Us – Are you Indie Bound?

indiebound

The “Buy Local” movement may be picking up some steam. Whether an anti-homogenization movement, to better sustain local economies, or organized for self-protection of locally owned business it is a good idea in my opinion to get involved. Local, community based marketing fuels positive word of mouth.

Continue reading

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?

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