The summer months often mean slower business, but they also bring with them important holidays and a patriotic spirit that, when combined, create unique marketing opportunities for garden center retailers.
While not on the same level as Mother’s Day weekend — which constitutes the peak of the spring season for many retailers — Fourth of July weekend can also be a useful holiday for getting a business through the slower summer season.
Merchandising around July 4 also allows retailers to capitalize on the appeal of American-made products. While celebrating Independence Day, customers may react more favorably to products clearly marked as “Made in the USA.”
Sales in summer?
Frequency of special sales events, as well as the size of the discounts, varies from store to store. Some companies run promotions regularly and others hold sales very conservatively, choosing either to cut prices only on major shopping holidays or not at all. Hall’s Garden Center & Florist in Berkeley Heights, N.J., only runs one sale per year — on Fourth of July weekend.
President Allison Lahoff says the yearly sale at Hall’s, during which all plant products are 50 percent off, serves as a way to encourage traffic in the less busy summer months, with the added bonus of offloading stock and refreshing plant inventory.
“The summer is usually the slowest time for us, so to have a promotion that large — 50 percent off — brings people in at a time of year when we’re usually pretty quiet,” Lahoff says. “It gives us a chance to clean out the annuals and perennials. We do re-stock everything [the following week,] but it gives us a chance to have everything fresh and not stressed out by the heat yet.
“Right after Memorial Day, we just kind of hit this wall where there’s really not much going on and this is just a good way to improve cash flow and really clean out our inventory on a weekend where otherwise we’d only be selling propane and things like that,” Lahoff adds.
Although her company doesn’t run a half-off sale to mark the occasion, Lauren Melka-Rhein, garden center manager at Illinois-based Jim Melka Landscaping & Garden Center, says that summer holidays like the Fourth of July and Labor Day nevertheless give shoppers reasons to visit their local garden center.
“A good amount of people, of course, go away for the holiday, but a good amount of people stay home,” Melka-Rhein says. “Some customers do big plantings [for the holidays], so they come in and get all their shrubs and perennials, or you get some customers who are just getting bagged material, laying down their mulch, freshening things up if they didn’t get to it earlier in the spring or earlier in the summer.”
Whether they’re decorating a patio for a cookout or buying a gift for a barbeque host, the needs of home gardeners don’t disappear after the major spring sales holidays, Melka-Rhein says.
“You’ll get some customers who are kind of looking around for a gift idea,” Melka-Rhein says. “Maybe they’re going to a party and they need a little planter for the host of the party or maybe their hanging baskets aren’t looking to good at this time of the season, so they’re kind of freshening up. Or maybe they’re getting décor for a cemetery, to decorate for a loved one.”
The power of “American-made.”
When Independence Day rolls around, it could be beneficial for retailers to call attention to the products in their stores that are designed and built in the United States. The patriotic spirit of the season can add to the established preference that many customers have for American-made products.
According to a nationally representative survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, 78 percent of people would rather buy an American-made product when presented with an option between it and a similar product made abroad.
“More than 80 percent of those people cited retaining manufacturing jobs and keeping American manufacturing strong in the global economy as very important reasons for buying American,” reads a 2014 entry on ConsumerReports.com. “About 60 percent cited concern about the use of child workers or other cheap labor overseas, or stated that American-made goods were of higher quality.”
With the right signage, garden centers can promote the American-made quality of their products and tie the patriotic message into the spirit of Independence Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day and other national holidays.
Setting the atmosphere.
Product promotion, signage and seasonal sales can help get people through the door, but to take full advantage of summer holidays like the Fourth of July, a little decoration goes a long way.
At her store, Melka-Rhein says the summer holidays are helpful for grill and grill accessory sales, an advantage she capitalizes on with an elaborate barbeque vignette and other American-themed displays.
“[Customers are] getting utensils, or maybe [people think,] ‘Hey, it’s the Fourth of July, let’s buy a new grill’ if they need one,” Melka-Rhein says. “In our main garden center building, where the cashier’s at, of course you have your classic flags and those kinds of things. You try to make displays, maybe some planters that are geared toward the red white and blue. That grabs their attention.”