Non-traditional plant marketing

February 04, 2009
Written by
How do we get plants in more places, beyond the traditional retailing venues of big box chains, independent garden centres, and florist shops? How do we put more plants where potential customers are, in places plants are not commonly found?

The numbers are probably out there somewhere, but I’d suggest convenience stores have great growth potential in plying plants. Those convenience stores already selling plants are great marketers of plants. The owners are hands-on retailers, and take great care in their stock. Overall margins are such they can’t afford “loss leaders.”

I know of a pair of convenience stories in my hometown that do a great job of selling containers in spring, summer and fall. The one store has a great homemade benching system – OK, it’s a bunch of 2x4s nailed together, but it does the job. The other retailer sets his/her plants along their storefont in rows two to three containers deep; regretfully, I suspect our nine-year-old Yellow Lab irrigated a few of them while I was distracted in checking on flower quality. The plants at both locations are well maintained, seemingly on par with many garden centres. And the reason they’re maintained to these standards, I’m sure, is because these retailers sell a lot of them.

Terminal One of Toronto International Airport is a busy place. It’s the home terminal for Air Canada, among others, in Toronto. On one side of the Arrivals doors is, of course, a Tim Hortons location. And on the other side of the Arrivals doors is a kiosk selling magazines, books, snack foods, and  …  now  …  cut flower bouquets. I haven’t noticed them before, so I’m assuming they’re a new introduction to the product line.

It seems a no-brainer. In welcoming a relative to Ontario, you’re not going to say: “Welcome to Toronto, here’s a Macleans magazine and package of ketchup-flavoured potato chips!” But handing them a nice bouquet – and the Terminal One flowers were exceptional; indeed the carnations lasted well over two weeks – seems a much more appropriate gift. (The carnations were obviously imports, but I’m hoping the rest of the bouquet was locally grown.)

Tim Hortons is a good example of comprehensive product availability, at least in central Canada. They’re everywhere. I have four within a two-minute drive of my house, including two across from each other on the same street. The main hospital in town has two Hortons locations, one a full-service restaurant and the other a smaller kiosk.

Gas stations are incorporating more convenience store services, including some with coffee sales. How many of these gas station retailers have fresh plant displays? If customers are there to spend $50 (or more) on a fill-up, an impulse buy of several dollars on flowers to bring home or to take as gifts to friends or family they’re driving to visit would not seem unreasonable.

Do airport Arrivals areas in most centres have fresh cut flower bouquets? If they don’t, they should. Do all convenience stores sell potted plants or bouquets? If they don’t, they should.

If you sell plants, consumers will come. And they’ll buy. So, how do we get more retailers to sell plants?

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