Likely the most interesting trend I've noticed this year we're the questions from customers asking if we sold GMO seeds, or plants. They seem concerned that they might purchase genetically modified organisms from us. Of course we don’t sell GMO’s, as I would suspect most garden centers don’t. The concern is that the public also seems to be confusing hybrids with GMO’s. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to explain that hybrids are not GMO’s, or that heirloom’s are not the only safe food to eat.
What can the local garden shop do? First you have to gain the public’s trust, and that doesn't usually happen overnight. It takes years to build that, so you had better start today. I know of garden shops that purposely will spread rumors that seem at first to their benefit. Yes, there are some dishonest type garden shops out there.
Just the other day I called a local garden center to see if they had a product we we’re out of, fish emulsion. The person on the phone said they didn't have that particular brand; wouldn't you like our brand? No, I needed a specific size, and brand. Then they started to tell me about how my brand might have “mercury” in it? Talking down the brand we carry to promote their brand? They didn't know who I was or that I represented a garden business, like them.
No wonder the public is confused. I have had people say they wouldn't buy our Foxfarm Potting Soil because it was owned by Monsanto! Say what? Apparently the rumor was started on message boards and has spread from there. It’s even caused the CEO of the company to send e-mails out saying the rumor were false. Too late, damage done and sales lost.
We are entered the age of rumors and innuendo spreading quickly through The Internet. What happens when your company becomes the focus of these types of rumors? These things can be countered, but only if you know they are happening (keep an eye on your reputation on The Internet), and have a loyal following of customers (fans) that will stick up for you. Often stopping these rumors is just a matter of a critical mass of “fans” speaking up for you, because they trust you, and don’t want to see you hurt.
Trust is the “gold” of The Internet. Start building it today.