By Michelle Brisebois
By Michelle Brisebois
What hot items you should offer your customers. Nothing feels better than watching an item fly off your shelves. It’s
great to see your spidey senses rewarded for just knowing that
something’s going to be a winner. With the new buying season upon us,
it’s natural to start wondering what the next “best thing since sliced
bread” will be.
|Verbena ‘Lanai Blue ‘09’|
What hot items you should offer your customers
Nothing feels better than watching an item fly off your shelves.
It’s great to see your spidey senses rewarded for just knowing that something’s going to be a winner. With the new buying season upon us, it’s natural to start wondering what the next “best thing since sliced bread” will be. It’s encouraging to understand that if you know where to look, emerging trends are right under our noses.
Trial and error in the garden
The University of Guelph trial garden sees many contenders for plants vying to be “the next big thing.” Think of it as gardening’s version of Canadian Idol. Various companies tap into the trial garden as a means of testing various growing conditions for their plants. The trial garden is a collaboration with various plant breeders, growers and suppliers. This year’s trial sponsors include: AMA Plastics, Ball Horticultural Company, PanAmerican Seed, All America Selections, Association of Specialty Cutflower Growers, Ontario Seed Company, Sungro, Plant Products, Benary, Goldsmtih Seeds, Syngenta, Dummen, and Proven Winners. The trial garden tests out everything from soil mix to disease and nutrient strategies. “During the course of our trials we do see the new plants being developed by the breeders,” explains Rodger Tschanz of the Department of Agriculture at the University of Guelph. “We’re seeing more colours of the trailing petunias being developed. The notion of a “second bedding season” is big in the U.S but hasn’t come on strongly here in Canada yet. We’re watching for it to possibly emerge. We did try icicle pansies but Canadians aren’t used to seeing snow on top of their flowers so it didn’t really take off. We are however seeing rex begonias used more and more for outdoor applications. Anything that creates that outdoor living room is big.” Tschanz confirms that the trial gardens are pushing the boundaries regarding sun and shade tolerance of plants. “We’re working to make shade loving plants more sun tolerant to give consumers more chance of success in sunnier conditions,” says Tschanz. The trial garden is on display to both the trade and the public. A late summer open house allowed attendees to vote for their top picks. “I have a flag system where people can mark their favourite plants as they go on the tour,” says Tschanz. “At the end of the open house, I have a pretty good idea as to what the favourites are.” This is a great resource for garden centres to tap into. A quick trip to the trial garden will allow you to see first hand what’s in development, how the trials are going and what consumers are attracted to. You can marry this information to your own market conditions and have a pretty good idea as to what will probably resonate with your customers. This leaves the accessory side of the business. What are the trends for this sector?
|Sedum ‘Xenox’||Coleus ‘Henna’|
Creatures and textures for Christmas
Suzanne Simmons of Bump Creative Partners Inc., a Toronto company that specializes in unique seasonal and gift items, attends many buying shows internationally and sees the environment as continuing to be the primary cultural issue driving accessory and colour trends. “For Christmas we’re seeing the return of a Norwegian themed trend,” says Simmons. “It’s very homespun with red berries, ginger bread, pine cones and twigs. Think Saint Nichola rather than Santa.” Woodland creatures show up in decorations and as images on giftware. Reindeer, owls and the noble moose all marry the Scandinavian theme with the environmental consciousness. “Stranded knitting is showing up on tree skirts as is fur.” Candles are still in vogue but are thin and tapered and neutral in colour. Pillar candles with birch bark wrapped around the outside were emerging last year and remain popular this year again. Insects and country ducks are passé as far as trends go but polar bears are popular images to again nod to environmentally conscious issues. When it comes to hot hues, according to the Pantone Color Forecast for spring and summer 2009, muted shades of brown, clay, teal, fuchsia and steel gray will be prominent stories. Bright yellow will accent the muted pallet. “Peacock blue is emerging this fall as a big colour and continuing into next year,” confirms Simmons.
|Cleome ‘Sparkler Lavender’|
|Zinnia ‘Uproar Rose’|
Outdoor living all year round
Further to the “living outdoors” trend, Canadians are continuing to use their barbeques frequently and all year round.
According to the Barbecue Industry Association www.hpba.org, more people are barbecuing year-round than ever before. Their data also indicates that approximately 17 per cent of gas grill owners now use smoking wood chips to enhance barbecue flavour. How can you capitalize on this trend?
Consider looking into products like containers for the winter patio or materials that are resistant to weather to help your customer spend more time relaxing outside year round.
‘Still made here’ movement
Shopping local continues to gain momentum. Gas prices, economic uncertainty and environmental concerns have collided to create a perfect storm of opportunity for the local merchant to wrestle back the upper hand in the supply chain. Trendwatching.com refers to this trend as the “still made here” movement. One example of this trend plays out in the company Blank. This business launched in 2005 and sells clothing and accessories for men, women and children. It’s objective is to create Quebec-based jobs while promoting local talent. The entire process, including the manufacturing of the fabric as well as cutting and sewing is done in Quebec. The company operates two Montreal stores, both of which also serve as production sites. Large windows at the back allow customers to see the clothes being made. Almost 18,000 garment jobs were lost in the province between 2003 and 2004 (Institut de la Statistique) but because of their unique strategy, Blank’s sales doubled in 2006, allowing it to open more locations.
Environmental concern here to stay
If there’s one key influence driving the world’s direction these days – it’s global warming. Whether it’s about creating plants to withstand it, adorning giftware with images of polar bears to remind us of the huge price for not addressing it, or buying from local suppliers to leave a smaller carbon footprint – all roads lead back to mother earth. So as you think ahead to what items you’ll be looking to offer your customers in the coming year, consider how these trends will affect your centre. Devise a clear and concise merchandising plan and chances are you’ll have to worry more about restocking your shelves rather than clearing out old stock.