Marketing Poinsettias

April 14, 2008
Written by Brian Minter
As the mass merchants and ‘boxes’ work hard to make poinsettias a commodity, we need to work even harder to differentiate the poinsettia experience.
Offer Your Customers a Unique Alternative on a Traditional Favourite

As the mass merchants and ‘boxes’ work hard to make poinsettias a commodity, we need to work even harder to differentiate the poinsettia experience.  The most important issues are moving away from ordinary six-inch pots and specializing in unique sizes, funky new varieties, value-adding and colouring the daylights out of them.  It’s all about creating something unique for our customers, for their own homes and gift giving.

In troubled and stressful times, folks tend to move back to things more traditional, such as red poinsettias, green trees and gold accessories.  We live in stressful times!  In spite of all the wonderful new varieties out there, growers still produce about 75 to 80 per cent red poinsettias because they provide the needed sell through. The supermarket, discounters and home improvement sectors will follow this lead and blow through sizeable numbers.

I see this as a great opportunity to provide a unique alternative.  Multiple sizing is crucial.

We do huge numbers in three-inch pots.  Unlike a two-and-a-half-inch pot, they hold up better and make wonderful small thank-you gifts that folks buy in multiples.  They are also perfect for window sills, desk and tabletops and home decorating.  Kids love them too.  They open up a whole new category.  In numbers sold, they are 50 percent of our poinsettia sales.  Pinched four inch are also becoming hot because of their versatility and price range.

We love to accessorize them and value-add with ceramic pots to the degree that the ultimate price point is above a six inch.  Seven- and eight-inch pot sizes are ideal for larger gifts, especially if they are accessorized well.  The big guys have also commoditized ten inch pots, and it’s important to look at the twelve-inch pots.    Large poinsettias combine well with big ceramic pots; tall, thin-styled pots; and giant baskets.  They make a statement and position themselves as importantly as the second Christmas tree.

If the big guys sell 75 per cent red, that creates a wonderful opportunity for garden centres, leaving the door open for all the new stuff.  I like Fischer’s ‘Cortez Burgundy,’ an amazing deep, rich Christmas colour; the red ‘Carousel,’ with its red wavy pointed bracts, and their ‘Sonora White Glitter,’ with its unusual red and white flecked bracts.

Ecke has some of the best novelties on the market.  Surprisingly, the pink, ruffled bracts of ‘Strawberries n’ Cream’ has been near the top as has ‘Jester Red,’ with its deep red, unusually feathered bracts that look for all the world like a jester’s hat.  ‘Jester’ is also one of the longest-lasting varieties.  ‘Winter Rose,’ the tiny, ruffled double, that comes in red, pink, white and ‘Jingle Bells,’ is still growing in popularity and has good repeat sales.  The sleeper this year just may be the introduction of the ‘Shimmer Series.’  ‘Shimmer Surprise,’ a red speckled white and ‘Shimmer Pink,’ a rich salmon flecked cream, are going to be hot.  Both have very large bracts and a  unique look.  ‘Visions of Grandeur’ is a new creamy peach colour with very large, showy bracts.  It was voted one of the top choices by growers, researchers and consumers in 2004 trials.  Dummen has some great novelties as well.  Their red and burgundy ‘Merlot’ is, by all accounts, the hot new kid-on-the-block, due to its deep, rich colouring, compact habit and very dark foliage.  Their ‘Twister Red’ is a larger version of Ecke’s ‘Winter Rose.’  ‘Red Fox,’ ‘Malibu,’ ‘Spotlight’ and ‘Premier Picasso’ are great novelties similar to Ecke’s well-known ‘Monet Series.’

In terms of red, there are lots of great choices.  Well-grown Fischer’s ‘Orion’ is one of the tops, especially for early sales, as is ‘Prestige’ from Ecke.  I’m a huge fan of Fisher’s ‘Cortez Series’ and ‘Sonora Dark Red’ for late plants that look fresh.

Remember: it’s all about having well-grown plants that provide great consumer performance with minimal care.  One of the greatest opportunities to differentiate this year is poinsettia painting.  The Gloeckner Company in New York made a huge splash at the Ohio Short Course in July by taking poinsettia painting to the next level.  We’re talking every colour in the rainbow, layered to create some stunning effects, from  marbled ‘Blue Splash’ and shaded orange ‘Golden Melody’ to lilac tinted ‘Fantasy Ice’ and green and turquoise ‘Fantasy Brazil’ – poinsettias will never be the same.  It’s a whole new ‘wow’ look that will blow poinsettias out our doors.  The Ball Company has also come up with easy-to-use sprays that can create a whole new look.  Order far more whites now and get those painting parties going!  This new style of painting poinsettias can also take poinsettias into other seasons of the year.

Finally, to capture our share of the poinsettia market, we need to value-add.  This is our territory, and we can do it best by using ceramic pots for a classy look and by adding sparkle - doing the ‘bling bling’ thing with glittery ting ting, and so on.  It’s where we need, not to dabble, but to become serious value-adders.

Christmas is an emotional buying time.  Our stores need to reflect that better than anyone else, and poinsettias should dominate our indoor colour sales both in devoted square foot space and effort. 

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