Industry Talk: Paul Ecke III
The leader of the eponymous poinsettia company discusses
trends and merchandising.
Ecke Ranch, based in Encinitas, Calif., has been a poinsettia
breeder, producer of cuttings and grower since the early 20th
century. The company’s The Flower FieldsÆ brand also produces
cuttings of spring plants. Super Floral Retailing Editor in
Chief Cynthia L. McGowan talked to Paul Ecke III, chairman and
CEO of Paul Ecke Ranch since 1991, about poinsettia trends and
how to merchandise the plants more effectively.
Q. What are key changes you’ve noticed in consumer buying
habits in poinsettias over the years?
People are getting better quality plants in the various
outlets and stores. The big-box guys have gotten better at
taking care of poinsettias. I think we still have a long way to
go, but they’ve gotten better.
I think new varieties like ‘Prestige’ have upped the quality at
the consumer level. I have people telling me all the time that,
“My poinsettia’s still blooming, and it’s Easter.”
The painted poinsettia trend is a change, at least in the United
States. The purists don’t like painted poinsettias, but
consumers seem to, and, therefore, we think it’s a good idea. We
have lots of new novelty poinsettias, like ‘Jester’ and ‘Shimmer
Surprise’, stuff that is a little bit wild and wacky compared to
the traditional red, flat-bract poinsettias, and when you add
painted poinsettias into that mix, we’re appealing to the
younger consumer, which I think is really important.
Q. Do you think those kinds of trends—the novelty and painted
poinsettias—are going to continue?
I think there’s always going to be a place for the novelty
poinsettias. In Europe, it got all the way up to 25 percent of
all poinsettias sold were painted. It’s dropped down to more
like 15 percent, so it clearly was a fad for a while, and I
think that’s what’s going to happen here. We’re probably going
to have growth in painted poinsettias for a year or two, and
then it’ll come back down to something stable.
Q. Can you say how many poinsettia plants were sold during
the 2005 holiday season?
We think somewhere around 60 to 70 million pots were sold in
the United States. When we plot our data against U.S. Department
of Agriculture data against anecdotal data, that’s what we come
Q. Is the market for poinsettias growing?
It is the biggest flowering potted crop in the United States, so
it’s a big market already. I would say it’s slow growth. Maybe
in the 1 to 5 percent range.
Q. Is red still the dominant color?
It is absolutely the dominant color. Seventy-five percent are
red. I believe that the other colors are always going to be
popular up to a point, but I’d be surprised if red dropped below
65 percent or 70. Generation X, Y, Z, and whatever comes after
Z, I think they are going to be more open to some of the novelty
Q. What is the most important factor when consumers are
choosing poinsettias? Is it color?
Color is obviously important, but to me it’s just the quality of
the plant and whether it looks healthy. That is one of the
reasons that ‘Prestige’ is so popular—it is a very tough plant
that can survive the transportation channel and still look good
for the consumer.
Q. What size poinsettias sell the best?
The 6-inch pinched plant, which is one cutting with multiple
flowers, is by far the most popular size. But we’re seeing more
variation, which I encourage growers to do, because you’re not
selling a commodity that you can buy anywhere when you grow a
different product form.
Q. What merchandising advice do you have for retailers who
Simple, easy things. Take them out of the box when they arrive.
Ideally, take them out of the sleeves when they arrive because
the plants are under stress when they’re in the dark, in the
boxes, in the sleeves. Water them if they need watering, but
don’t overwater, and put them in a place that is comfortable for
humans (not too hot nor too cold).
If retailers have damaged plants, broken and bruised plants, get
rid of them. Don’t try to sell them for a discount price. I see
that all too often, and I just want to cringe. If you go into
the produce section of your supermarket, you’ll see some stuff
that’s marked down slightly, but you’ll rarely see rotten apples
or completely damaged potatoes or avocados. They throw that
stuff away. They do not display it in the store. It’s not
appealing to a consumer. And why they do it with poinsettias and
other plant material, I will never know.
To enjoy the rest of this
issue, please go to the
Subscriptions page and get your
copy of Super Floral Retailing today!!!
Super Floral Retailing • Copyright 2006
Florists' Review Enterprises, Inc.
Site management by
Tier One Media