Holiday season sales mixed

February 28, 2010
Written by Myron Love
Very cold December weather put a damper on poinsettia sales in western Canada this past Christmas season. Growers such as Kelvin Vanderveen (Vanderveen’s Greenhouses, in Carman in southern Manitoba), Priscilla Mah (Central Botanical Gardens in Saskatoon) and Jim Hole (Hole’s Greenhouse and Gardens Ltd. in St. Albert, a suburb of Edmonton) all report that their poinsettia sales were a little down from last year.

holiday1  
Jackie de Gues of Central Botanical Gardens, holding an ‘Orion.’
Photo courtesy Central Botanical Gardens.

 
British Columbia growers felt the effects of the Prairies cold snap indirectly. Tom Mulleder, executive manager of Grower Relations with United Flower Growers in Burnaby, British Columbia, reports that poinsettia sales weren’t too bad initially but crashed near the end of the Christmas season because of the influx of supplies from Prairie growers looking for a market for their leftover stock.

In eastern Canada, however, all was well. Terry Colasanti (Colasanti Tropical Gardens near Leamington, Ontario) reports that his operation’s poinsettia sales were slightly above those the previous year, while Tony Gutta of Bradford Greenhouses, north of Toronto, notes that sales were slow at first but, when the snow finally came in December, sales recovered to the level of the year before. “We got a lot busier,” he says.

Michel Senecal, floriculture crop adviser for MAPAQ (Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation  du Québec), reports that sales and prices for Québec poinsettia growers were about the same last season as they were in 2008. Sales picked up strongly in December when winter weather arrived. “In November, when it was still so nice outside, people weren’t buying,” he says.

Darlene Den Haan (Den Haan’s Greenhouses in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis valley) says her poinsettia sales were strong, especially the reds. “The price was stable (at $9.95 for a 6” potted plant),” she adds.

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Kalsettia – a kalanchoe and poinsettia combo – is a popular holiday combination.
Photo courtesy United Flower Growers Co-op.

 
And red again was certainly the colour for poinsettia buyers across the country. “Most people choose red,” Senecal says. “There was some interest in pinks and whites in Québec, but growers here couldn’t sell out the other colours (other than red).”

Colasanti reports that red poinsettias accounted for 80 per cent of his sales, with white and pink fighting it out for second place.

Gutta notes that ‘Ice Punch’ was a particularly popular variety this past season. Mah also notes considerable interest in this variety.

For Vanderveen, white was the next best seller among poinsettias, with pink and marble accounting for the rest.

“Red is the most popular colour,” says Mulleder. “Everything else is a niche market.”

Hole sees a growing consumer demand for more value-added products. “Consumers have been influenced by the chain stores,” he says. “They don’t want just poinsettia in a flower pot. They want their poinsettias jazzed up. They want some glitter. They want some other decorative plants mixed in with the poinsettias. We added more mixed greens this past season.”

Den Haan agrees that consumers are looking for more bang for their buck when buying poinsettias. “We were foiling our plants or putting in stakes with gift cards or holiday greetings,” she says. “People were looking for anything they perceived as an add-on.” ■

Myron Love is a freelance writer and photographer in Manitoba.

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