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Cultivating a Retail Presence
| Ellen C. Wells and Jennifer Polanz
>> Published Date: 8/27/2014
Arguably, there has always been a retail presence at OFA Short Course, now known as Cultivate, which takes place each July in Columbus, Ohio. From retail-focused vendors to its own educational track and a garden center tour the day before the trade show opens, for the past several years retail has been included.
This year, however, the effort became even more pronounced with a 50,000 sq. ft. space upstairs called the Retail Terrace. The space offered display options to vendors who wished to set their retail offerings apart, as well as for those retail-focused vendors who haven’t appeared at the show before. The main challenge for showrunner AmericanHort will be getting attendees away from the massive main show floor to visit the retail offerings upstairs.
So just what exactly did we see at the show this year? Read on for the highlights from four days of trade show action.
Dirt is the New Prozac
P. Allen Smith, a garden writer, television personality and all-around gardening ambassador, delivered the keynote address to kick off the show Sunday morning, and he was charming and entertaining while providing a bit of a kick in the pants.
“It’s been 10 years and a lot has changed in our industry,” P. Allen remarked about his last time speaking at the event, previously called OFA Short Course. “At the end of the day, it’s all about customers and creating pull-through at retail.”
He cited a growing interest in activities that promote bliss and a sense of tranquility. “And we do that better than anybody,” he adds. “There are so many things going on in our culture out there that we do in our industry.”
It’s connecting that’s the problem. And that’s where social media comes in. But P. Allen isn’t a “use social media and be done” kinda guy. He had data to help attendees understand where they need to be in the social media landscape and why they should be there. (Note: If you have to pick, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram are where it’s at right now.) But you can’t just “be” there. You have to engage your audience there and that’s where his team really excels, because by getting an audience engaged, they can become “brand amplifiers.” That means the audience, in turn, promotes the brand and creates the buzz needed to grow.
“If we can contribute in a bigger way to people having a more beautiful environment, that is huge,” he added. “We improve the quality of their lives.”
P. Allen is also a realist. He sees how consumers are looking for simpler, less expensive alternatives to existing solutions. Not the cheapest, mind you, but the best value, in every aspect of their lives. “The consumer is being seduced by lots of other industries besides gardening,” he said. “We have to get in on that.”
Compost Tea Bags from Sustane Natural Fertilizer, Inc. are meant to make adding nutrition to gardens a simple and easy process. Just pop one OMRI-listed, all-natural Compost Tea Bag into a gallon of water, let sit overnight, then apply to plant leaves and soil once per week. Or place one bag under plant roots when transplanting or potting. With 12 compost tea bags per retail pouch, home gardeners can keep their gardens thriving for weeks on end. www.sustane.com
Mobile Marketing from Full Circle Interactive Media allows a retailer to send text message reminders to customers with any message the retailer wishes to send out. Why send text marketing messages? According to Mike Stradiot of Full Circle, 98% of text messages are read within five minutes. Even to delete a text you have to look at it. That means they can be more effective than email or social media, which can be filtered. The program is opt-in and retailers can set up an optional tablet that allows customers to register their cell phone number quickly and easily at checkout. www.FullCircleIM.com
Gardening Goes Modular
MiniGarden from Portugal-based Urban Green Revolution made its U.S. premiere at Cultivate ’14. MiniGardens come in three lines—vertical, corner and basic units—and don’t require anything fancy or out of the ordinary. Traditional substrate and simple hand watering make the system easy for gardeners. The vertical units are modular and stackable, letting users create a living wall the size of their choice. The basic unit is a tabletop version of the growing system, while the corner unit lets gardeners make use of that tricky, hard-to-use space. www.mini-garden.ca
If you’re anything like us, you plant your seeds too close together in the garden. Chaos ensues a few weeks later when beets, carrots or a plethora of wildflowers find themselves growing on top of each other. The Garden Stamp can eliminate the too-close-for-comfort situation by creating evenly spaced indentations on the soil surface, helping to reduce seed waste and also making efficient use of space. www.gardenstamp.com
The aptly named company Very Cool Stuff offers a unique add-on opportunity for hanging baskets in its SPOTlight line of solar accent lighting for hanging baskets and patio planters. The teardrop-shaped solar light hangs via a universal clip from a hanging basket, illuminating the contents of the basket at night. This year the company came out with new pathway SPOTlights that come with a hook to be used as accents around the patio, path or border. www.VeryCoolStuff.us
No, it’s not a person, it’s a new moveable garden container with reservoir from Marchioro, for an elevated, mobile gardening experience. Sally can be mounted onto legs with wheels or be lower with wheels installed directly onto the container. It has a 30-L (nearly 8-gal.) reservoir that when full can provide for plants for 10 to 30 days, based on weather and positioning. Two holes with caps allow Sally to be used inside or outside. www.marchioro.it
Small Plants, Big Style
Live Trends Design Group LLC made its industry debut at this year’s Cultivate’14 with a trendy collection of home décor miniature live goods offerings featuring clean lines and classic colors. The collections include live plant ornaments, magnets and living canvases, as well as uniquely designed decorative living art. CEO Bisser Georgiev, formerly of Engelmann Greenhouses, says the company will have a three-pronged approach, including a design center solution for retailers and growers, as well as provide lifestyle plants for décor. www.livetrendsdesign.com
Home Tweet Home
The Tweet House is a fun way to provide shelter for fine-feathered friends while adding an artistic element to the outdoors. Made from durable recycled polypropylene plastic and 100% recyclable, Tweet Houses can add just as much whimsy as an interior accent or gift bag. Available in both classic square as well as cone-shaped designs and in multiple colors and patterns. www.tweettweethome.com
Speaking of kits, M&M Wintergreens has made it easier for retailers and consumers to create beautiful winter porch pots, extending the live goods decorating season well into the holidays. The company is now offering two different porch pot kits and retailers can either set up pots with the kits to sell them or sell the kits at retail for consumers to set up at home. www.wintergreens.com
For the Faeries
The Faery Plant Kingdom branded plant line was born out of a need to find either true miniature plants or those that are easily pruned to stay right-sized for miniature, fairy, railroad and alpine gardens. The folks at Mulberry Creek Herb Farm in Huron, Ohio, have spent nearly two decades searching for the right miniature trees, shrubs and groundcovers to offer customers. There are miniatures of the following in the line, which is available through multiple industry brokers: Hardy Shade Perennials, Hardy Sun Perennials, Tropical Shade Perennials, Tropical Sun Perennials and Halloween Perennials. Mulberry Creek co-owner Mark Langan notes that the examples in the booth at Cultivate withstood the record cold temperatures of Ohio’s previous winter. www.faeryplantkingdom.com
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