Is weather the only factor in spring sales of greenhouse plants?

Recent MSU research indicates weather is not the only factor that accounts for the wide variability in plant sales in the spring. Day of the week plays a more substantial role.

Retail greenhouse growers have long believed that bad weather in the spring was the main reason for slow sales and nice weather brought out customers and that was the main reason for great sales. Researchers have asked whether there is any statistical evidence that this is the case. Does research exist to verify that this is fact?

MSU Department of Horticulture marketing specialist Bridget Behe set out to look at this relationship by gathering data and doing a statistical analysis to see what factors really influence spring sales. The goal was to identify the relationship between several weather variables like air temperatures (minimum and maximum), precipitation and solar radiation for each day. This data was obtained from weather stations nearest to the retail store for the period May through July.

Daily retail sales data was obtained from a plant producer who services 42 Midwestern stores for three years, 2007-2009. All sales locations were undercover. The data for daily sales was divided between herbs plus vegetable transplants combined and flowering hanging plants. After analyzing the data, the most interesting conclusion was that the day of the week had a more substantial effect on the sales of all spring garden plants than any of the weather patterns that were tracked over the three-year period.

Compared to April, flowering annuals average daily sales in May were $1.17 higher. Compared to Wednesday (the slowest sales day), Saturday average daily sales of flowering annuals were $3.49 higher, but Sunday sales were $3.38 higher. In the stores studied, each degree increase in the maximum air temperature increased daily sales by only 19 cents per day. Sunlight had a minimal effect (less than one cent) and precipitation had no effect on sales. The conclusion, clearly, was that month and day-of-week had a profoundly greater influence on daily sales than did air temperature, sunlight, or precipitation. Growers and retail garden centers now have some data to show that it is not just weather that impacts the wide differences in sales, but day of the week plays a bigger role!

To see more on this topic, read Greenhouse Management’s Weather – or not? by Bridget Behe.

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