Inside View: November 2009

November 16, 2009
Written by Gary Jones
Mer-chan-dis-ing – noun and verb: the planning and promotion of sales by presenting a product to the right market at the proper time, by carrying out organized, skillful advertising, using attractive displays.” (www.Dictionary.com and Chambers Dictionary).

It seems that in North America, we live in a society that values material things. Just ask Madonna. We are constantly bombarded by advertising. We are driven to go buy “more.” More of anything, whether we need it or not. Failure to succumb on this front risks excommunication from the church of the golden idol.

Of course, anyone in business needs to make sales, and there is absolutely nothing wrong in that. That’s why we’re in business after all! There are some great advertising opportunities to open sales doors these days. Here are just a few:
  • Newspaper ads (local, national).
  • Trade magazines.
  • Flyers (to target a specific local community).
  • TV/radio (donate your poinsettias/lilies/fresh flowers to your local TV channel for placing next to the evening newsreader: just like the “…clothing provided by…” idea.
  • Cinemas (prior to the “Main Feature”).
  • Events, demonstrations.
  • Conferences, exhibitions, trade shows, trade fairs.
  • Classes (e.g., paid-for cookery classes in retail shops to place your product).
  • Retail outlets (malls, farmers’ markets).
  • Billboards, transit vehicles.
  • “Wrap around” vehicle ads.
  • Legitimate ads on washroom wall space (you’ve all seen them!).
  • Corporate sponsorship of (sports) teams.
  • Hoardings at sports events.
  • Web merchandising (banners, increasing traffic to your site by getting in the top 10 (i.e., first page) of Google™ search results for a topic).
  • Corporate merchandising (pens, mugs, calendars, shirts and baseball caps).
  • (… dare it be said … ) Telemarketing.

‘THE RIGHT MARKET AT THE PROPER TIME’
But advertising is only part of the larger picture of merchandising, at least according to the above definition. “The right market at the proper time” includes the element of timeliness. Christmas (if you’re selling poinsettias), Valentine’s Day (roses), Easter (lilies), Mother’s Day (cuts) and Father’s Day (lawnmowers?) are obvious ones.

However, outside of these special occasions, there are great opportunities to use larger events. For example, Vancouver is hosting the Winter Olympics in February 2010, just a very few months away. What’s the right horticultural product for the Olympics (everything!)? Do you have it (of course you do!)?

How can you merchandise it at the right time for maximum exposure? What “free” marketing/advertising opportunities can you develop – e.g., eccentric horticultural stories – to attract local radio? What other merchandising event opportunities are on the horizon?

At the other extreme, perhaps we can return to simpler times in pursuit of ways to exchange goods. September is apple season here in British Columbia. There are apple fairs, open houses, tastings and orchard walks just about everywhere. Having secured 30 pounds of my favourite English varieties (Bramley’s and Cox’s Orange Pippin, if you’re wondering) from my friendly and local family-run orchard, I picked a similar amount from the somewhat neglected five-year-old tree in the backyard, and was offered even more of a local variety by a friend.

Clearly, I was blessed with more apples than I could possibly eat now, or indeed sensibly freeze. So, armed with bags of apples, I ventured to the neighbours’. Upon handing over said bag to the first neighbour, he presented me with a handful of red, ripe, mouth-watering tomatoes just picked off his plants. There was a similar response from neighbour number two, who dragged me to the back of the house and filled my open arms with bundles of fresh cut oregano.

Clearly there is something that makes us want to return the favour when given something. Furthermore, it seems that many of us have more than enough of something and are just waiting for the right opportunity to share it with others.

Is that another form of “merchandising?” Probably not, since it doesn’t exactly trade my product for monetary income. But it did provide me with something useful at only a small opportunity cost. Of course, I am not encouraging a return to bartering as a serious way to run a business. But I did happen to adequately “merchandise” a surplus of my product and turn it into something I could use more readily at that time.

And isn’t timeliness the very essence of successful merchandising?


Gary Jones is Chair of Production Horticulture at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Langley, B.C. He serves on several industry committees and would welcome comments at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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