Got my latest issue of one of the trade magazines we receive every month, Today's Garden Center.Jennifer Ploanz,
editor writes about "Going after 'Crunchy". As she explains, the term "crunchy" is a newer more positive version of hippy. It's about people who shop organic, understand what the term "carbon footprint" means, and live in a way they feel is sustainable. The whole magazine is devoted to "Green", with articles like "3 keys to make eco-friendly profitable" and "32 products to help your customers get greener". It's clear from this publication, and others like it that the nursery industry is starting to see the potential for organics, and natural products.
What are you going to do in another year when everything is "green"? How are you going to differentiate your business with organics when the box store down the street, and your other independent competition is on the bandwagon? Soon "green" is going to be "mainstream", and advertising that you carry organic products won't differentiate you from anyone else. There may still be time to position yourselves as the "organic go to place" if your the only ones in the area that have organics. But eventually others will jump in, and your position as the only place with it will change to the "first" place that had it.
If you want to be known in your area of influence as the "go to" place for organics you will need someone on staff that lives and breathes this stuff. They need to understand about microbes, soil, pest control, and everything else concerning organics. When everyone is selling the same products all labeled organic, what will you do? Make your own fertilizer!
Have you ever made or sold "compost tea"? This stuff, if it's made correctly is a living product that needs to be used within a couple of hours of brewing. I am not going to get into the benefits of tea here. There are loads of web pages devoted to it. The main thing is it needs to be made, and used quickly. The places where it is sold brew this stuff on regular days, maybe Mon., Wed., and Friday. People bring, or buy empty gallon or five gallon containers to be filled on these days. At home they put the tea on the soil, and every couple of weeks it's spayed on the leaves for disease prevention. It's really works!
Here is why we are going to be brewing and selling tea this year. People are asking about it so the demand is there. It has to be made on site, so it becomes "Golden Gecko Garden Center Tea". That makes it one of a kind, and unique. The third reason is it involves people returning on specific days to buy more! Demand, exclusivity, and regularity are something we all would all like in our businesses. In addition it makes people feel good as they are re-using the containers to fill with the tea.
We will be setting up our tea system soon and will post pictures. We're excited as we have done research on compost tea and feel it's the way forward for many. Especially for the locally owned independent garden center it's a niche that will be hard for the box stores to compete with(for now). The tea is brewed very carefully with customer and employee knowledge on how to use it being vital. You cannot just bottle this stuff and sit it on the shelf for days on end.
The way forward for the locally owned garden center will involve more "unique" products, and methods. Here is the most important point about organics. It requires knowledge to do it right. For the last fifteen years in the nursery trade we have been told that the customer want's everything simplified for them. Don't confuse the customer, keep it simple, and sell them a bag of something. That is changing, thank goodness. Customers who are interested in this stuff want to know how to do it right, and that requires knowledge. They want to learn! Let's teach them the right way from the get go.