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Pumping Up Pumpkins


October 1, 2009
By Andrew Hind

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There’s something magical about Halloween, and it’s not just felt by the legions of trick-or-treaters racing pell-mell up and down the streets. Halloween conjures up the trickster in all of us. It’s the one time of year when even adults have permission to be silly, to explore the boundaries of our imagination.

There’s something magical about Halloween, and it’s not just felt by the legions of trick-or-treaters racing pell-mell up and down the streets. Halloween conjures up the trickster in all of us. It’s the one time of year when even adults have permission to be silly, to explore the boundaries of our imagination.

p14_pumpkins  

Garden centres have endless opportunities to profit from Halloween by tapping into the excitement of the season. One of the best ways, and yet the most unexploited, is the sale of pumpkins.

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Pumpkins are the symbol of the Halloween season, whether it’s the leering visage of a Jack-O-Lantern or the sight of orange orbs dotting fields amidst snakes of green vines. Every house seems to have two or three on their porch.

Unfortunately, every retailer – from grocery stores to big-box hardware chains to mom-and-pop corner shops – seems to sell them as well. As a result, to make a profit with pumpkins you need to set yourself apart from the competitors and do things only garden centres can.

It’s no longer enough to simply display your pumpkins on a bed of straw and hope they sell as impulse buys.

First, while it’s important to have available a selection of pumpkins at various price points, you’re better off focusing on larger pumpkins or those of unique coloration and shape – the higher value items, in other words. You want your product to stand out, which in turn causes your centre to stand out.

Also, keep an ample supply of mixed ornamental squash, pumpkins, dried corn and gourds near the pumpkin display and sales counter – these are good impulse items at this time of year and can be used dress up a pumpkin display.

If you want to go beyond impulse sales – and if you want to take full advantage of the season, you really should – you need to let your customers know that your garden centre is the place to go for pumpkins, especially if this has traditionally not been an important part of your business. Newspaper ads and sales coupons will help lure customers in. So too will word of mouth, so consider hosting a special event such as a harvest festival or pumpkin carving contest with proceeds going to a worthy cause. News coverage is essentially free advertising, so consider donating some pumpkins to needy children or hosting a pumpkin carving party for disadvantaged kids.

Most important, you need to inspire customers. Selling a single pumpkin to each household is easy, as most families have a jack-o’-lantern. But that’s not enough to generate impressive sales. What you need to do is convince customers they don’t just need a single pumpkin, but rather four or five! Show them how to dress up their yard in a truly spook-tacular fashion by creating stylish displays.

For example, set up a birdbath with a selection of pumpkins and gourds within the basin, and use fall-foliage garland to dress up the stand. Now surround the birdbath with bales of hay, mums and kale, stalks of corn, and more pumpkins. It’s guaranteed to get customers excited, and guess what? If they copy the design, you’ve just sold $40 or $50 dollars in seasonal items, and perhaps even a birdbath as well.

Another example of a design sure to attract attention and inspire customers is a hollowed out pumpkin that serves as a stylish pot for kale, mums, and asters (see sidebar for details).

Both examples demonstrate how pumpkins, a low-price-point item and relatively unprofitable on their own, can be used to generate impressive profits simply by cross-merchandising. Always look for such opportunities; flipping through gardening and décor magazines will undoubtedly spark ideas of your own.

Pumpkins are a beloved symbol of the season. Send a haunting signal to your customers that you love autumn by embracing pumpkins and, with a little effort, you will be rewarded by equally enthusiastic customers who will help drive your seasonal sales to new heights.

Creating Pumpkin Pots
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The beauty about pumpkin pots is
you don’t have to be particularly creative or have a green thumb to
successfully make one. They look great and they’re simple to make.

Consider designing an information sheet with step-by-step instructions
that can be distributed to interested customers. Or perhaps host a
seminar; half an hour is more than enough to make one or two pots.

To make a pumpkin pot, begin with relatively large pumpkins. They’ll
need to be big enough not only to hold a root-ball, but also to
visually balance the fall flowers they’ll be holding.

Next, choose a fall bloom to plant within the pumpkin. Yellow mums and
purple asters work well against the striking orange of the pumpkin, but
feel free to experiment.

Set the flowerpot on top of the pumpkin. Trace around the bottom of the
container, and cut a hole along the tracing. Scrape the inside of the
pumpkin clean and finally plant the flower. If the pumpkin is large
enough, you can simply put the flower, plastic grow pot and all, into
the cavity. Otherwise, take the flower out of its container and plant
it directly inside the pumpkin.

You can expect a carved pumpkin to last about three weeks before it begins to rot.