Greenhouse Canada

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Trick or Treat?

April 25, 2008  By Stephen Head

With its origins as an ancient pagan festival, Halloween has been
transformed into a retailer's dream by offering customers an array of
merchandise for all their trick or treating needs.

10Helpful Tips to Promote Halloween at Your Garden Centre

With its origins as an ancient pagan festival, Halloween has been transformed into a retailer's dream by offering customers an array of merchandise for all their trick or treating needs.  Halloween has taken on a marketing life of its own, particularly in North America. In Europe it is still a less significant event in the retail marketing calendar, but growing. Halloween’s origins may be masked, but they’re not entirely forgotten – gardens and homes are always elaboratly decorated in October. It’s a time when young and old don creative outfits, all in the effort to acquire sack loads of candy. In our house, we have a candy tax, which has to be paid to dad before he checks over the spoils of the evening, although this is meeting more resistance as the kids get older.


Halloween, not unlike Christmas, seems to come to us earlier each year, with displays popping up before summer has even ended. With temperatures soaring to 35 degrees or more, it does not quite set the scene, but as with any celebratory occasion, forward planning is essential to manage a successful event and create awareness. This is one of those times of the year that presents opportunities for extending the traditional garden selling period and get an extra buck out of your facilities.

These events offer opportunities to draw visitors from further away than the traditional areas garden customers come from. It’s an opportunity to create something unique, as well as showcasing the garden centre and present other topical merchandise and coming events, Christmas for example. It is so easy to get wrapped up in one event, that we forget to take advantage of the extra customers and opportunities to sell other merchandise and promote other events and activities at the garden centre, giving these new found visitors a reason to travel back to us before next Halloween.

Spring pretty much sells itself, but winter celebrations need a bit more help. To get the most out of fall, we need to work harder by creating promotional innovations to stand out, providing ways to sell products, and also sell entertainment to visitors Agri-tourism, as it has been coined, is a booming industry; not only are garden retailers capitalizing on this opportunity to sell Halloween merchandise, many small ag businesses are jumping on the band wagon, offering not only pumpkins for sale, but entertainment for the whole family.  The competition is heating-up. 

In B.C., there is a former greenhouse that was lying empty, which now has been converted into a ‘Haunted Attraction’ drawing visitors from far and wide ( Over the years this has developed into an ‘Event’ that visitors go to each year to see what’s new.

Traditional pumpkin selling has taken the way of most commodity products, low prices and volume sales through mass merchants and roadside vendors, Halloween bunting can be found in many department stores and mass retailers, often at prices that are hard to compete with. Today’s consumer wants value for their money, but they’re also looking to be entertained, something Brian Minter of Minter Gardens in BC does very well. This destination garden centre, located about 90km East of Vancouver, draws visitors from far and wide. They offer train rides, a nature reserve, and many seasonal attractions in addition to their garden sales, giving people a reason to drive further, for the entertainment and perhaps shop for other products at the same time. Why? Because it’s experience retailing.

( halloweenmhtm). In Ontario, the Howell Family have created a Halloween experience on their Pumpkin Farm (www.ahow  They have created a business around Halloween, attracting visitors from far and wide. A pumpkin is just a pumpkin, until you visit some of these wonderful extravaganzas! Minter’s decorates the grounds of their 18 acre site and garden centre, with some very innovative ways to get visitors to explore the garden centre.

Offering pumpkins for sale as visitors end their experience, gives them a good chance of being sold. After the family has enjoyed their visit and the kids spotted the perfect pumpkin, what parent is going to tell them they cannot have it because pumpkins are cheaper at the grocery store?  That is if they even remember the store price, after they have had such a good experience.

Attractions that visitors interact with can also bring visitors coming back several times, perhaps telling their friends, who in turn bring more visitors. I visited a farm in Ontario who had the most wonderful display of carved pumpkins arranged on the side of their property, cars cruised past at dusk to see them lit, and the farm owners offered hayrides and mazes (for a charge). Pumpkin carving was offered as a craft, staff were on hand to help. Visitors  bought their pumpkin, got to carve it, and then take it home – great added value.  Parents can help with the carving if they like, with lots of patterns on hand to choose from. What relief for those of us who are carving challenged! With experienced help on hand, we could help the kids carve, but did not have to worry about chopping off the wrong bit and creating a monster rather than a cat.

What turns an ordinary attempt into a successful event is the experience it gives the visitor, a reason to come and come back each year. It is an opportunity to show off what else you do, bringing them back in other seasons and developing relationships with the customers.  

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