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With care, potted plants can tap a new market

Potted plants present a promising market for mass-market retailers that want to grow floral category sales. But, just as with cut flowers, care must be taken to realize this market’s potential. As with any business endeavor, retailers should know their market and invest appropriately, advise floral experts from the Produce Marketing Association.

Supermarket floral departments already connect with customers emotionally, selling beauty and color for their homes — and conveniently, doing so in the same place they buy their groceries, noted PMA floral experts Debora Coleman, vice president of floral at Albertson Cos. and PMA Floral Council chair, and PMA floral director Becky Roberts.

POTTED-PLANTSPotted plants present a promising market for mass-market retailers that want to grow floral category sales. Beyond connecting emotionally with customers, the plant market can also be big business. U.S. production of potted flowering plants for indoor or patio uses was valued at $810 million in 2015, with orchids leading the category with $288 million in production, according to the U.S. Department of Agricuture National Agricultural Statistics Service’s 2015 Summary of Floriculture Crops.

“Adding the right mix of green plants to the floral department’s product mix can satisfy a consumer lifestyle that appreciates beauty, color, pleasure and fun while also adding green to the department’s sales,” Coleman said.

This is especially true for millennials who are seeking to celebrate their unique personalities and express their personal moods, reports Coleman, citing PMA floral consumer research. Millennials look to houseplants to complement their focus on health, to help increase their productivity, to clean the air in their homes, to improve their mood, and to just give them something alive to take care of, as the millennial lifestyle site Out of Office NY recently blogged.

“Supermarket floral departments are ideally positioned to meet their needs,” said Coleman.

Mass-market floral retailers are taking note, Roberts reports. Roberts cited responses to PMA’s 2016 industry benchmarking survey report, which indicates retailers will be emphasizing flowering plants over the next year — 31 percent on bedding plants, 22 percent on foliage plants and 22 percent on dish gardens.

How to get started? Coleman and Roberts recommend retailers begin by partnering with their potted plant grower-suppliers. Growers are on top of the latest home and consumer trends, so they can help ensure that the potted product mix will meet today’s changing consumer expectations.

The typical American family leads a hectic lifestyle with less free time than ever before. As indicated in PMA’s benchmarking research report “Trends in Mass Market Floral,” these consumers have high expectations in terms of quality, price, accessibility and effort to maintain plants.

“It is important to have a unique selection at a price point that matches your local demographic,” Coleman said.

PMA research also recommends investing for storewide success. Everyone has seen dying or dead cut flowers and plants on display at retail, Roberts says. That can negatively impact not just floral sales but also storewide sales, according to recent research from the floral industry supplier Chrysal International.

“Consumers related the freshness of potted plants with the freshness of their stores’ other perishable products,” said Roberts. “Consumers also reported they were more likely to recommend a store with fresh plants versus unhealthy looking stock.“

That means retailers should invest in the staff time to water, deadhead and otherwise care for potted plants so that the plants can help sell themselves — and sell the store in general.

For additional floral trends research insights, visit www. PMA.com/topics/floral.

In addition, PMA’s Fresh Summit Convention & Expo Oct. 19-21 in New Orleans will feature workshops on consumer trends, a floral industry networking reception, and a Floral Pavilion at the trade show featuring floral and potted plant suppliers. For more information, visit www.FreshSummit.com.

Lisa McVey is public relations manager at the Produce Marketing Association in Newark, DE. She can be contacted at lmcvey@wpma.com.