By Dave Harrison
Coalition wants to sow seeds for consumer market growth
Generally speaking, this was not the best of spring seasons for Canadian flower growers. I chat with many people each summer at industry events, asking “how the spring went” in their regions. This year, some described it as “about average,” while some said it could have been better, much better. Freelance writer Myron Love talked to a number of grower-retailers across Canada, and the consensus was that it was an “OK” season.
In this month’s growing in the green column, Melhem Sawaya lists a number of factors that have contributed to growing challenges for the industry, everything from escalating energy costs to production levels that have outpaced market growth. Garden centre plant sales this past year have grown by about half the industry’s production increase, he suggests.
One of his suggested remedies is that growers should consider growing five per cent less next year.
Reduced inventories should mean higher overall prices.
And he notes that while the industry has done “a great job on production,” it’s fallen well short on marketing. “That’s where the main problem lies. Either we reduce production or we increase demand.”
Per capita purchases of floriculture products in North America lag well behind Europe. It’s customary in Russia, for example, to take flowers as a gift when visiting.
There is now something being done in North America to address the plant promotion issue. The Floral Marketing Funding Initiative Coalition, established earlier this year, has already attracted some heavy hitters. Already on board are the Society of American Florists, FTD, Teleflora, BloomNet of 1-800-Flowers, Asocolflores, Association of Floral Importers of Florida, the Flower Promotion Organization, the Produce Marketing Association (PMA), and American Floral Endowment.
“With shrinking margins, increasing costs and intense competition for floral products weighing heavy on the minds of floral business owners,” explains a Coalition news release, “there is more of a need than ever before for a viable industry marketing effort. While the challenges are great, the opportunity has never been better for promoting flowers.”
The group points to research that “scientifically proves” the benefits of flowers on “our emotional well-being and on workplace productivity.” The only reason these positive messages haven’t better been communicated is “limited funding.”
The Canadian Greenhouse Conference, being held Oct. 4-5 in Toronto, is boosting attention to retailing efforts. Among conference themes, three leading retailers will offer their ideas on effective plant marketing. Taking part will be Dr. Peter Konjoian from Andover, Massachusetts, Luc Lombaert of Belgian Nursery, near Kitchener, Ontario, and Andy Buyting of Green Village Home & Garden near Fredericton, New Brunswick.
In addition, the pre-conference floriculture bus tour will visit Niagara area greenhouses which all retail a portion of their production.
Does floral promotion work? Indeed it does, and with staggering results. The best North American example is the work of the Flower Promotion Organization (FPO), an alliance of Colombian and U.S. flower growers. It was developed to increase consumer demand for cut flowers. The initial campaign was launched in 2000, and the program has been extended to December of this year. Advertising campaigns were conducted in several U.S. cities, and they resulted in 26 per cent more purchases in those communities compared to control markets.
“It is quite amazing to see such dramatic changes in the frequency of purchase after just a few weeks of promotion,” said Dr. Ron Ward, an independent researcher who has studied the campaign. “Any marketer should be thrilled to see such a strong link between their strategy and the end-results, especially when the results are so profound.”
The more groups who become involved with the Coalition, the better its chances of growing the market.