FROM THE EDITOR: December 2007

January 15, 2008
Written by
Tis the season to be jolly. And to be overwhelmed with retailing messages in print, radio and TV. You’ll see a lot of home electronics, jewelry, toys, chocolates, wines and spirits, fashion, sports gear, etc., being heavily marketed this season.

What you won’t see, hear or read about are holiday plants. And that’s a shame, because plants are a big part of the season.

No one is mass marketing house plants or cut flowers at this time of the year, nor at any time of the year for that matter.

Advertising and promotion works. One example earlier this decade was the Flower Promotion Organization, an alliance of Colombian and U.S. cut flower growers. Five major markets were selected. A variety of marketing strategies were applied, including TV, radio, billboards and instore advertising. “Targeted consumers in the initial five markets purchased flowers 26 per cent more frequently than in the control markets due to the FPP promotion,” noted a follow-up report.

Results like that get your attention.

The Floral Marketing Funding Initiative Coalition in the U.S. got off to a promising start in mid-2006, before stalling earlier this year. There are a number of trade issues that need to be addressed by importers before proponents feel they would be confident enough to seek industry acceptance. The program may be revived early next year.

It’s not that the industry is in a spiral. The 2007 Changing Floriculture Industry report of the Society of American Florists estimated the size of the U.S. floriculture industry at some $19.4 billion in 2005, well up from 2001 totals of $18 billion. That’s a lot of plants.

But let’s be careful with those numbers. Remember that 2005 reflects the considerable buying power of baby boomers, who have long been big into plants. What happens in five to 10 years when generation Xers have the money? So far, they haven’t shown much enthusiasm for plants. If more of them aren’t converted into green thumbs soon, sales will be stagnant at best.

On the positive side, what we do have are national civic beautification programs in both Canada and the U.S. that continue to grow in popularity. Communities In Bloom and America In Bloom have been wildly successful, and plants and gardens are major components. CIB has grown from 29 municipalities in 1995 to more than 500 today. The smallest villages through to the largest cities are involved. It gets people talking about gardens and municipal green space. The promotional campaigns are quite extensive. People are being introduced to the power of plants, and they’re responding enthusiastically. It’s bare-bones and low-cost marketing, and it works.

And they’re really all we have at present in the way of mass marketing plants. Both campaigns deserve more attention and support from the industry. Helping expand them would produce major dividends over time.

They may even attract generation X.n

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