Using technology, such as smartphones, to aid shoppers in the garden center will become more commonplace.
The next step in the initiative is cultivating new customers. Again, time and money play a role in this: Generation X has less disposable income and more demands on their time. Growers must integrate their products into stores other than just garden centers. Also, growers typically pushed plants on the buyers that they believed to be the best for the consumer, without listening to what the consumer wanted.
The third part of the growers' plan is to demand quality. This goes hand-in-hand with the first goal of consumer success. According to Greenhouse Grower, "In an atmosphere where we need to give customers every opportunity to succeed, providing the best possible plants, specifically selected to thrive in a specific region, is a must." They suggest changing the focus from price to how beautiful and unique the product is to entice buyers.
Sharpening business management is a focus the panel sees as necessary for the floriculture industry. And finally, the group recognized that it must invest in the industry. "Regulatory issues make operating increasingly difficult," according to Greenhouse Grower. "Mass-marketing for our products is virtually non-existent beyond the efforts of the big boxes. Funding for university research shrinks year after year in state after state. Fewer young people look to floriculture as an exciting career opportunity ... as a group, and as individuals, we must devote time and money to turn these potential problems into opportunities for growth."
One summit participant, Tom Smith of Four Star Greenhouse, pointed to Apple products (the computers, not the fruit) as a guide for the plant industry. He noted that his 91-year-old father and a toddler can use a iPad. He believes that if the industry moves its focus from price to consumer success, it will create a new generation of gardeners. Making purchasing simple, creating healthy and vigorous plants, integrating simple growing instructions are all ways to help new gardeners. As Smith explained, "If a customer fails, how many times are they going to try before they give up and go on to something else?"
Smith said there is a reason why people wait outside Apple stores for days to get the newest Apple products. "They can't wait to be successful -- a business lesson we can all learn and embrace."
Throughout the coming months, I'll touch on some of the other ways the gardening industry is working to entice a new generation of gardeners while keeping the old friends happy.
Reach Sara Busse at sara.bu...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.