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Home > What's Next? Trends Shaping the Future of Commercial Horticulture

What's Next? Trends Shaping the Future of Commercial Horticulture

anla.gifI’ve just returned from Vail after doing a keynote and workshop for the American Nursery and Landscape Association.

As the session description for the afternoon workshop commented: “Your mind is spinning from the morning’s trends discussion. Now it’s time to turn those trends and challenges into a tangible business opportunity! After 100 years, StarKist finally got rid of its tin-can, replacing it with a new resealable plastic tuna pouch. $200 million of new revenue later, they’ve realized the benefit of aggressive change and innovation. StarKist looked at the trend toward convenience, and modified their product accordingly…. Jim Carroll will roll up his sleeves and work with you to discover what your business’ tin can is…and help you see that opportunity comes from your ability to innovate and change, adapt and evolve, as the very foundation of the industry continues to evolve.”

(The full session description is here)

Like every industry, horticulture and garden retailing is being influenced by a wide variety of trends; some of the issues I spoke about included:


  • hyper-science, including the rapid evolution of new species for particular markets and hardiness zones based on plant genomics. But it’s not just that: the global infinite idea loop is also seeing the emergence of new plant strains, which fuels new consumer desire, once they see the new things they can do in their garden that they could not do before …. imagine hydrangeas that bloom all summer long….
  • marketing to the zero-attention span customer, who now scans shelf-space at an average rate of 12 feet per second! Gardening stores and others in the industry need to focus not on selling plants, but on selling brands and solutions. The customer isn’t looking for a plant by a Latin name — they want branding and design! Some growers are doing exactly that, such as with the “Tropical Splendor” design which involves cool brand names such as “Exotic Tahiti” or “Fiesta Cozumel”
  • the emergence of pre-packaged life, a time in which today’s gardener doesn’t want to do the work — they want an outdoor living room solution, of but which flowers and plants are but a part of an overall design. I identified the outdoor living room trend in 2003 — and today, already, the outdoor living product market is now estimated at $15.7 billion, or 37% of total lawn and garden spending….
  • the rapid emergence of new markets: all of the above means that retailers in this sector are witnessing new products and markets appearing faster than ever before, with the result that their team agility — the ability to respond to rapid market change — is critical to their fuuture successanla.gif
  • upside down retail — as with every aspect of innovation, the retailer is now in charge of the design process, and producers must learn to listen and follow, rather than mandate and dictate.
  • and programmable plants: yup, that’s right! Pretty soon, many garden plants will have the intelligence and connectivity to signal to the home irrigation network when they need water. With water being the oil of the 21st century, the home gardening industry is faced with some pretty big challenges — and science is quickly bringing us some pretty unique developments!
  • Change acceptance is a challenge: I think one of the most challenging issues occurring is that traditional florists/nurseries and gardeneres are having a really tough time dealing with the new consumer. A fellow name Eliot Wadsworth of White Flower Farm commented in the May 11, 2006 issue of Greenhouse Grower that as gardeners, “we were selling a process and a way of life” but that all they are selling now “a canned and instantaneous-gratification product. ” That’s exactly what many consumers are looking for; and even so, many traditional gardeners and florists will remain. Innovation is all about understanding change — as difficult and sad as it might be from an emotional perspective.

All in all, it was a great day and a great session — although I’ll be the first to admit that my energy was seriously drained by the 8,000 foot elevation at Vail combined with 95F temperatures….! That was some heat wave!

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