by Stephen Wagner

As lead-off speaker at Greenhouse Growers Day, Judy Sharpton of Growing Places Marketing tackled five vital subjects, the first of which was Inventory Management.

Sharpton said that too often the inventory attitude is, “Well, I kind of know what I sold and I kind of don’t.” Tracking inventory is one of the largest options you can exercise in order to gain control of what you sell, how you sell it and how well it sells. How well a product does in your store, in other words. She uses the word “toddlers” to mean anything that has been in your store for two or more years. “Your customers know it is there. And it may not look as good as it did when it first came out.” This includes plants.

If you track inventory, you can know what sold last year and what didn’t. If it doesn’t sell, then it’s gone. Tracking what doesn’t go through the cash register is critical. For example, you can count the pots or containers. “Even if you dump the plants and count the pots, you’ll know what didn’t sell,” she said.

Sharpton urged her audience to buy a white, three-ring binder with a translucent envelope window on the front. She said this can serve as a strategy book, planner and military sales manual; it should also serve as a promotion and advertising placement record. Once this is in hand, you can strategize about Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, First Day of Spring and anything and everything that focuses on selling your plants.

Sharpton recommends setting season change-out dates. “I want you to set what day in spring you are going to be out of the flats and packs business.” If you don’t do that, she said, those flats and packs will hang around your store because nobody wants to throw them away. “They will be gone on this date,” she stressed, “And on that date you are transferring over to four-inch or six-inch or whatever your next selling season is.”

Sharpton said that if you’re going to have an event, plan it well, which includes aptness of forethought. Make sure there’s a legitimate connection to the event rather than mounting just a feel-good event. She recommends not to try to spring things on yourself that you can’t manage.

Food is another biggie, she said, especially as a year-round department. “Fresh is not a fad, local is not a fad. “And,” she said, “you’re going to plan it in that white notebook.” Where are you going to find it? What’s it going to be? How are you going to offer it? Who’s going to manage it? How are you going to build an event around it? “You’ve got to show people stuff because they don’t know…If you are given too many choices, you make none.”

Sharpton further suggests that if you have 100 cars in your parking lot on a Saturday in May, at least 100 people will be in your store. How then will you connect one-on-one with them? If you must ask a question of a customer, the first one must be “what color do you like?” Don’t ask anything else until you ask that, she counsels. The customer can answer that, and will feel comfortable doing it.