February is an important month for the green industry. Trade shows are winding up, we breathe a small sigh of relief, see our families for a few weeks, and then take a big gulp of fresh air before we find the “make it or break it” spring season upon us.

If Northern landscapers are lucky, February is cold and snowy –  it keeps them busy, happy and most importantly – it keeps a little jingle in the pocketbooks. Wholesalers take stock of their trade show orders and add-ons to see if they are sitting pretty for spring. As for retailers who are open during the winter – well, this month abounds with promotional holidays. We have Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day and President’s Day. And while it’s not a holiday, don’t forget Super Bowl Sunday!

Did you know that Groundhog Day was originally celebrated on the 14th? No joke! As you know it now falls annually on the 2nd of February where Americans wait with bated breath to see if winter will continue for six more weeks. While not normally a retailer’s holiday, it certainly could be a gimmicky sales idea, no? Break out of your competitor’s shadow with some creative marketing strategies!

February 14th, Valentine’s Day, is the “Hallmark” holiday. The feast of St. Valentine is the second largest card-sending holiday of the year, with 85% purchased by women. In 2010, 25%of adults bought flowers or plants as a Valentine’s gift. Of those, 60% were men and 40% were women. Men mainly bought flowers for romantic reasons, while women bought flowers for their mothers and friends as well as their sweethearts. Regardless, nearly 189 million stems of roses sold in the U.S. alone. Now here is a garden center and florists’ midwinter dream – cha-ching go the registers during “dead” time!

Men often purchase heart-shaped, laced-trimmed boxed chocolates and/or bouquets of red roses for the love of their life. Red seems to be the traditional flower color of choice for this holiday. The color red does, after all, proclaim “I love you.” However, I would actually prefer just about any other color than red – pink, purple, peach, yellow or white. In fact, if you Google flower colors for this holiday, you’ll find out I am not alone in my flower color desire, or even the idea of receiving something other than long-stemmed roses.

My point is we assume women want roses, and red roses at that. I suspect these are the automatic choice as they are historically the go-to cut flower, perhaps simply because it’s traditional. What would happen if we diversified and offered roses in different colors or different plants or gift items to choose from? Could we draw more or different customers and increase sales? While you may not be in the retail end of the hort world, I would ask you: How many “red rose” scenarios do you have in your business?

This past year my travels took me to many a garden center across the United States. I saw some outstanding independent garden centers and met a lot of great, hardworking people. And in some cases, too many times in fact, I saw way too much old inventory that should have been long gone. I lived this scenario at my own family garden center and wholesale nursery, so I know that sometimes it is hard to see the forest through the trees, but inventory turns are where it’s at. Why not take advantage of President’s Day – when blow-out sales rule the retail world – to clean out the old and make room for the new?

Promoting your favorite sports team can mean big business. And nothing in the wide world of sports is bigger than the Super Bowl. For the past nine years, the event has been held in February; this year’s game, between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers, was played on the third. Last year’s Super Bowl attracted more than 111 million viewers: That’s a huge demographic we could be targeting! Think about NFL team garden and home decorations, such as banners and flags, stones and statuary; plants in team colors … you get the drift. This seems to be one bandwagon we could easily get on board with.

As an industry, what can we learn from others? Imitation is the highest form of flattery. The ready-made opportunities are there; we just have to take advantage of them and cash in.

– Originally published in American Nurseryman Magazine, February 2013

Maria Zampini is the president of UpShoot LLC. Her company’s focus is “living, sharing and supporting horticulture” through new plant introduction representation including LCN Selections. She can be reached at maria@upshoothort.com.


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