You Can Succeed With Holidays. Really.

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Over the years, a common complaint I’ve heard is that selling holiday goods is not easy. If you make the wrong buying choices at the January markets, then you’ll lose money when the following November and December roll around.

If you think about it, selling holiday is no more difficult than selling green goods. The main difference is a simple one: the products. There are a lot more knowledgeable plant buyers in our industry than holiday goods buyers.

In an effort to bridge the gap, in past years I’ve written profiles of garden retailers that have dazzling Christmas stores. These are stores whose product selection is spot on and who have gorgeous trees.

The only problem? Most of these stores’ buyers seemed to be just as confused as those whose stores performed poorly.

Buyer after buyer would tell me that the secret to her success was that she walked the show to see what all was available, then spent the last couple days of the market making the year’s purchases.

And that was the entirety of her buying strategy.

The successful buyers just happened to have an innate feeling for what would work and what wouldn’t. And that’s not something you can teach others.

While talent is a big part of a good buyers’ toolkit, it’s not enough. That seems such an obvious statement, yet most gift buyers I speak to are mystified as to why they succeed or fail.

Oddly, the same stores’ owners who will tell you how important past sales performance is to selecting the right plant mix will also send a daughter or greenhouse manager to the gift markets with few instructions other than to not go over a set amount of money.

Then that same owner, after weak holiday sales reports, claims it’s impossible to make money with Christmas.
This issue of Today’s Garden Center is an effort to address the need for real-world, anyone-can-use tips for buying and selling holiday goods.

Good buying is much more than an accident of natural talent. It involves understanding your customers, examining past sales performance, keeping notes on developing trends you and your staff notice and creating a buying plan before you head to market.

Yes, talent still has a role. But talent goes so much further if it’s backed up with good, old-fashioned business sense.

The Essential Buyer’s Workshop

The need for better buying training also led us to create our latest Business Builder Conference, “The Essential Buyer’s Workshop” at AmericasMart in January.

I’m excited about the speakers we’ve lined up. Two Emory MBA professors will teach how to better understand customers and use that knowledge to customize product selection and pricing. A former buyer from J.C. Penney (and a current garden center buyer) will walk us through creating a year-long buying plan. And that’s just a couple aspects of what you can learn. For more details on the conference, visit I hope to see you there!

Carol Miller is group editor of Today’s Garden Center and Greenhouse Grower. You can eMail her at

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