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Bling – are you selling it?

January 4, 2010  By John Stanley


Bling – are you selling it?

John Stanley recently spoke at the New Zealand Nursery Conference and talked about how adding "bling" can make products more attractive to the Gen Y crowd.

Jan. 4, 2010 – I recently spoke at the New Zealand Nursery Conference and seemly caused quite a debate.

During my presentation, I mentioned we need to be seen as the garden experts, a source of knowledge, trust and credibility. At the same time we need to address the needs and wants of each target group in our community. This means understanding and addressing the needs of Gen Y’s, Gen X’s, Jones Generation, Baby Boomers and Greying Tigers if we perceive these groups to be part of our target market.


I then gave examples of retailers that addressed in my view, these target markets exceptionally well.

Italian Bling

I used the Italian growers and retailers as an example of a horticultural industry that addressed the Generation Y market exceptionally well. Nearly everyone in the audience was in agreement, except for one grower who was exceptionally disturbed at us addressing this market with “bling” plants. This became THE debate of the conference. For those of you who are not in tune with “bling”, basically its adding tinsel to standard products to make it attractive to the Gen Y age group.

“Bling” can be seen on portable phones, artificial nails, lipstick and t-shirts. Look around, for example, a boutique pet shop and you will see sequins decorating dog and cat collars as well as sequined clothing for your favourite animal. Bling is big business.

Horticultural “bling” has been slow to come along. Probably because growers and retailers believe plants should be a lot more serious, plus Gen Y’s will never buy plants anyway. This is where the Italians will disagree.
The first time I visited Milflor, Padua, one of the Italian trade shows, I came across African Violets covered in glitter. Although, I wouldn’t buy one, I was fascinated by the concept.

On returning home I mentioned this to my local florist. He took some standard African Violets, retailing at $14.50 and sprayed glitter over them to monitor sales… and he put the price up to $24.50. An extra ten bucks.

To both his and my surprise he sold out of glitter plants, plus even more to my surprise my Gen Y daughter thought they were exceptionally cool. When we showed the plants to the local nursery retailers, we got a very negative response based on it spoiling the natural appeal of the plants.

In September, I was invited back to Milflor to speak at their conference. This time there were more “bling” styles on plants to choose from.

Is “Bling” For You?

Most garden centres will not sell “bling” plants because they do not attract Gen Y customers. The majority of these plants end up in florists and supermarkets where their target customers accumulate. But, if you do want to down age your customer base then introducing some “bling” would be a good strategic move.

The key is to take a low dollar, small plant and add value to it via decoration. I’m coming across plants that have been spray painted, glittered or put in fun containers. I do not think it detracts from our credibility if done professionally, but I realize some retailers will disagree, but that is the key.

Supply products based on your customer’s preferences, not your own preferences. It may be our taste that is in question, rather than our consumers.

John Stanley is a retail business coach, consultant, speaker and
author.  His specialist areas are customer focused layout, customer
focused merchandising, customer focused marketing and branding, and
customer focused selling and service.  Email John at

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or visit his website

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