We in the garden center trade are under intense pressure by media and experts to follow trends. They say the way to success is to look at what the mass of people are doing. Selling organic products from your store is now trendy because everyone is into it. When you have Wal-mart selling organics, Scotts putting out a line of organics, and the media types all telling how organic they are you know it's a trend.
I think the trend towards organics is great! As a business person we sell lots of organics and the more people are aware of them the better sales will be. Of course the list of places where you will be buying organics will be increasing so to stay ahead of the curve we in the garden business will do like we have always done. Offer a better product, packaged more thoughtfully, and backed with better information on how to use.
The problem with following trends is everybody else is doing it. To stay ahead as an independent small garden center you have to create the trends. The hard part of that is that its lonely creating trends, and most of the time you don't know you are doing it. Sometimes you're the first to notice the very beginnings of an upcoming trend and can ride the wave. Most of the time you're just doing what makes sense to you but it takes awhile for the consumer and especially the industry to notice.
Garden centers selling organics is nothing new. John Dromgoole, owner of The Natural Gardener Nursery in Austin, TX has been involved with organic gardening for thirty years. He has been teaching and selling organics before it was trendy. You can hear him speak at the upcoming Independent Garden Center show in Chicago. He must think it's great to have so much interest now in what he has been doing for so long. Still he must wonder why there is so much excitement in the garden center industry now. Where has everyone been? The time to have gotten involved with this and reaped the greater profits was years ago. Sure there is room for the organic market to grow but the competition is getting a lot tighter. Now that Scott's and Wal-mart has recognized the importance it's going to be everywhere. We are about to be bombarded with an advertising campaign that will try to incorporate every eco-catch phrase possible. Organic, ecological, natural, eco-friendly, and earth friendly seem to be the most popular now. I think we'll be The Home of Eco-Friendly Gardening.
The secret to success as an independent is to not follow the money but rather have the money follow you. If you follow the big money it leads to large corporations who leave nothing to chance and only move a certain direction when they are very certain of a result. By the time they are certain this trend will be profitable for them the real trend setters have already moved in a different direction. The real trend setters might not know the direction they are moving. An aversion to following trends will lead them to a niche that they might enjoy for awhile, before everyone else figures it out. Real change takes place on the fringes, not in the middle.
What's the next trend going to be? I don't know. Most likely it's getting started by someone who is passionate about what they do and willing to buck the trends and set their own course. Following trends is safe but boring, bucking the trends and creating your own style is scary but ultimately more rewarding.