The State Of the Economy Based On What I See At the Nursery

Oct 01 2012

Over the past 10 years the results of my nursery seem to run exactly parallel to the US economy.  It’s been uncanny.   When our sales are up, most major retailers are up. Same for the down trends. It’s been so accurate that I can use it to buy and sell other retail stocks with fantastic results.  Here are 10 things that I’ve noticed over the past 9 months in regards to the economy, the customers, and trends.  As all things, they could be just me I’m pretty sure it’s also true for many other retailers.

1.  Radio seems to be picking up steam.  Not only do people listen to it in their car but with phones and Internet, our local radio stations are reaching the local market in more ways than ever.  It also seems to be easier to target than other forms of media.  There are 10 local radio stations that people listen to but with the rising popularity of cable stations, the local market watches 50 different stations regularly.  And that’s without the difficulty of DVRs.   Radio is the better deal in 2012

2. The drought hurt.  Not just at our nursery.  It will effect food and meat prices.  It’s starting to come across but will show up in next years’ prices.

3.  Jobs are starting to open up.  The advantage is still with the hirer but the hiring pool has gotten a little smaller this year.  I am talking about the middle to lower income employee.  Tech is completely in the hands of the job seeker right now.  They can pick where they want to go.  On a side note, there are a ton of older people 50 and above looking for work.  They are too young to retire (and don’t have enough money) but too old to do most physical work.  This going to be a much larger problem in the future

4. People want deals more than ever but really don’t look at final cost.  They merely want to feel like they are getting a good deal.  I have learned the art to weekly coupons and that is make them feel like they are getting a special price.  The world “Only” and Limit 3 makes them feel like they are getting great prices and that they better buy as many as they should.  The running joke is that if I put anything under limit 10 on a small item that is how many they will buy.

5.  Men need to be targeted more.  There is a huge group of men 35-50 that are not being targeted enough.  Beer and alcohol are all over them but after that I think the rest don’t know how to attract them without putting a hot girl in an ad.  We made a simple switch in our ad dollars from women to men.  We reached the women through our facebook campaigns, our newsletter, and coupons and put our ad money into mencentric radio and some TV.   It was a noticeable difference in clientele this year.  The women still come in but we saw a huge increase in mulch, rock, and larger items this year.  Items the men usually buy for the yard.  I feel our targeting is the reason.

6.  Older people (60 and older) now have smart phones and use the Internet.  They can be reached using the Internet now.  I don’t think that was true 5 years ago.  There is probably some opportunity for site owners that wasn’t there just a few years ago.

7.  Shoppers feel more in control of the transaction than ever before.  They have the Yelps and the Google reviews at their finger tips and aren’t afraid to use them to get their way.  Also, people forget that they are going to have to meet people in person in a local transaction.   At the nursery I have people that are asses in their emails.  They forget that at the other end is a person that lives in their community.  You can be a jerk when you will never meet that person, but when you are doing business with a person you could run into at a restaurant, you had better be a little more polite.  I have put a few people in uncomfortable positions by making sure they have to meet face to face.  Yes Mr. Johnson, you can have your money back, simply come to the nursery and do it in person.   I answer by saying that the only way I can do it is at the store (even though I could probably do it over the phone)

8.  What we now call start-ups we used to call a new business.  Start up is such a buzzword that it’s way over used in today’s market.  I live a mile from a college campus.  We have a lot of venture capitalist and incubators in the area because of it.  I often here about all the new start-ups and most of them are merely new businesses with little to no unique concepts.  I’ve decided to call them a new business if they make money and a start-up if they have no revenue model.

9.  Checks and cash are almost gone.  Credit card rates are falling.  We get a little cash and a few checks here and there but almost everything is credit cards now.  That’s has been the case the last few years but this year was the most drastic change to credit cards percentage wise.  The rates also have come down.  Maybe its because we are doing more volume but even though Visa and MC raised their rates this year, the rates we pay went down for the first time in 10 years

10.  The website of the local business is all about info.  It may not make the sale but our customers use it constantly for directions, hours, sales and specials.  They don’t go to our Facebook page first, they go to our website.  Facebook has its value but I truly believe it WILL NOT and should not be the hub of a business.  They need a stand alone site and that stand alone site will beat out facebook in the search engine standings.

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Outsmarting the Dumb, Outworking the Smart

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  1. Nebraska

    “Facebook has its value”

    Hmmm. I have been tracking social conversions for close to 3 years across many sites that I either own or manage. Facebook is absolutely horrible in the following: education, jewelry, emergency prep, direct mail, dental and outdoor gear. By horrible I mean that across a dozen or so sites FB provides almost zero conversions. Well, not zero, but over 22,000 conversions and 9 originated from FB. Maybe it works for nursery sales but it doesn’t look like your nursery site and/or FB is set up for detailed tracking of leads.

    I don’t count customers telling me where they came from as they never remember correctly. I only count what I can track using tech tools. All online marketing can be and should be tracked.

    GM pulled $10 million worth of ads from FB because once they started tracking things they quickly realized the return was garbage. Others are following. There was yet another company that loudly claimed that FB clicks were fraud. I know Google has had a difficult fight keeping click fraud down – FB’s ad system is more than 2 generations behind Google’s.

    Sometimes, I think the only value FB has is it makes us feel better. In case it ever really works – we want to be there.

  2. Bernard

    Hi Shane,

    On a year to year basis, these are my favorite posts. (I also really appreciate your insights into numerics and LLLLL.coms.)

    Thanks for sharing your perspectives on the economy. Hope this year is a good one for your bricks and mortar business!

  3. Paul

    is it me or is twitter failing to convert ?

    On a travel related site iv’e tweeted discounted deals / humor / retweeted relevant tweets but the conversion rates are not good !

    just wondering who else has found this issue

  4. Nebraska

    “is it me or is twitter failing to convert ?”

    No, it’s not just you, but Twitter is a different sort of animal. I know they want the Ad dollars that FB gets, but they have some of the same problems. That said, Twitter is a strong communication tool that can easily expand your customer service or sales departments. To me, Twitter makes more business sense than FB.

    One of my clients has a smaller competitor that makes multiple FB posts every day. Their FB site is very well developed. My client makes about the same number of posts, but puts the content and the discussions on *their* website. Guess who does more business?

  5. John

    Shane do you guys use Square at The Nursery for transactions? Have you tried using iPads with Square and ringing people up after the sales associate has helped the customer with their purchase needs?

  6. Aaron

    “The drought hurt.” I hear you! Applies to the corn & soybeans up here — though it could have been MUCH worse.

    Tried to reach you to stop by last weekend — will try again in the next week or two.

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