It’s Not Over Until the Fat Albert Sings!
Memorial Day and it’s only the 26th of May? We should thank the Calendar Gods for this unusual turn of events, a week of May left after this holiday. AND getting another Saturday (retail’s best day in our best month) is a real bonus. Thank you, thank you.
For those working in warmer climates who have been chasing their tails since February, it is tempting to breathe out slowly, look up to the skies and say “….ahhh, it’s over for this year.” But after a long and brutal winter, much of the garden industry team is hoping to keep the momentum going.
“Help Me Catch Up”!
On my recent coast to coast travels I have seen more consumer excitement this year than for several years, while the “sales numbers” are close to 2007 levels, even if overheads are now at 2014 levels! The season seems 2-3 weeks behind the recent normal, so in the colder climates many homeowners are just now making their first visit to a garden store. We missed the crabgrass control and the seed starting business there. Ah well. Maybe we help them catch up on the very late season by suggesting a 1 gal tomato or even a nice pre-caged 3 gal complete with green fruit rather than that little 4” pot they were considering. Maybe we should tell customers to jump the smaller perennials and packs of annuals for bigger instant-show sizes. It feels like April-May happened in a week and it could be 92 degrees tomorrow.
But in most of the country, Memorial Day kicks off summer entertaining and outdoor living: so consumers should now be decorating for next week, not next month. Those market packs and 4 inch sizes just won’t cut it but shoppers may not know that. Merchandising and one-on-one conversations should help customers with that reality. When temperatures climb in today’s garden world, the best laid plans for the bigger spring projects quickly get put aside in favor of decorating and for that they need volume and an instant show!
The truth is that some colder climate stores may have missed one of the (3-4?) yearly trips a consumer makes to a garden retailer. It might be awkward for the merchant or buyer who still has 5 weeks back-stock of small or earlier material but when consumers are playing catch-up, they need help to make that leap from early spring cheer to full summer in-your-face-decoration. That takes some preparation and training by owners and managers. It also takes some skills in silent selling (i.e. merchandising) and in sales conversations to skip those spring projects to go straight into full-sized, lush, restful summer landscapes, patios and veggies.
Meanwhile in the warmer southern areas, garden retail is now well into the summer decoration and outdoor living mode. This means a team focus on entertaining, decorating decks, hiding those ugly areas and having succulent fresh herbs even if there are still lots of unsold April-May material being watered every day. Yard Sale!
In the dry west, it will be harder to raise a cheer from staff who see freeway signs about drought every day and are themselves ready for a few slower weeks. But if consumers can’t get honest, experienced help in successful hot dry gardening, the industry needs to take a long hard look at itself. We should be the go-to resource center for all the concerns that homeowners have. What will the drought do to my mature shrubs and lawn? How do I keep my veggies going just as they are starting to produce crops? What can I replace easily next year or when it rains again?
Just like the farmers faced with less water, homeowners may have to choose between keeping alive short or long term plants. This will need help and support, for instance suggesting investments in long term items like mature trees that by now may be worth hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Employees should ask the homeowner’s priorities, “must-save” plants, how long they plan to stay in that property and so on. Help to reduce drought losses will build loyalty in the future.
Fat Albert Isn’t Singing Yet
So, it’s not over is it?! Now comes the third season of the year: in fact this year’s early Memorial Day might signal a BIG double season; helping catch-up in must-plant Food Gardening products AND a strong confident start to summer living. So plant that 5 gal tomato and fire up the barbeque!