15 NovCan Christmas Trees Light the Way for Ornamental Horticulture?
Christmas tree growers may have to wait until after Christmas to get what they are most hoping for this holiday season. What was to have been a most anticipated lift to the promotion of the industry has now been put on hold, at least temporarily.
Like many other unbranded agricultural products have done, the Christmas tree growers are seeking to pass an agricultural promotion order on their industry to fund joint marketing efforts to promote the value and benefits of their products to consumers. The industry previously ran a voluntary program that is reported to have increased sales from 22 million trees sold in 2002 to 31 million by 2007. That is a 40% increase in just over 5 years. Unfortunately, over time, the small group of producers who paid for the voluntary program grew tired of paying for those who refused to participate yet reaped the benefits.
The industry began to seek support for a mandatory program on all but the smallest producers. With the success of the voluntary program and other successes such as those of Beef, Pork, Cotton and Milk, it is not hard to imagine why producers were in favor of the 15-cent per tree (1-2% of selling price) marketing fee to take advantage of an industry-wide promotion. Individual producers spending 1–2% of sales on marketing their product would see little-to-no effect. However a very modest $2 million industry-wide promotion would provide substantial and noticeable effects.
There has been renewed talk about the ornamental horticulture industries need to band together to promote the benefits of gardening. The industry has tried once before in the 90’s when the Garden Council attempted to gain industry support for a promotion order to fund an industry-wide marketing program. Had that effort passed, and had it been half as successful as the voluntary program the Christmas tree growers ran, the industry would be in a much better place today than where we are now.
Because over 80% of the product sold in ornamental horticulture is non-branded product, produced by a very fragmented regional and local producer network, a joint marketing effort, that can make a substantial impact to promote the benefits of plants and the lifestyle of gardening to consumers could be very beneficial. A rising demand tide can raise all producers’ boats, and the Christmas tree growers have recognized this and proven its effectiveness. It is time for the ornamental horticulture industry to revisit the topic and see if they can find a way to work together as a group in an unselfish manner to raise the demand. Consumer trends are still favorable for gardening and landscaping, and now is the time to continue to stimulate that demand. If this opportunity slips away, the reduced demand we are seeing now may become a trend that cannot be reversed.
Let wish the Christmas tree growers success in moving their efforts forward. Their program is not something we should lose sight of, as it could become a model for ornamental horticulture as well.