Burpee Gets a Boost from New Year’s Resolution Garden

Jan 15, 2010 10:30 PM  By

Christmas is not a make-or-break time of the year for seed catalogers. But W. Atlee Burpee & Co. found a way to spike sales before the calendar year ended.

Burpee chairman George Ball came up with packaged seed product called the New Year’s Resolution Garden, which the company highlighted for a limited-time as an online-only product.

The New Year’s Resolution Garden seed pack, which sold for $10, contained a variety of vegetables and flowers to help with seven of the most-popular resolutions chosen by Burpee customers in an online poll that ran in December. Those resolutions were to lose weight, exercise more, save money, reduce stress, help the environment, be healthy and spend more time with the family.

The majority of the seeds fit in the “lose weight” category, as they are vegetables that are high in water content. But some of the seeds serve a dual-purpose: Ball said the home-grown tomatoes could cost you $2 each at a farmer’s market, so money is being saved, and beans require enough physical labor to give gardeners exercise.

The cataloger promoted the offer in a Dec. 26 e-mail blasted only to the Burpee house file. But a public relations campaign also helped boost sales of the seed pack. By Ball’s estimation, one-third of the seed packs were sold to first-time buyers.

“We had both a sales spike of at least 5% and a spike in Website activity because of the seed pack,” said Ball. “It was an attention-grabber that woke up interest between Christmas and New Year’s, which is not a traditional selling time for seed merchants.”

So why doesn’t Burpee have a Christmas catalog? Common sense. The gardening season runs from February to June and the sales season starts in late January for customers who live in the south. Instead, Burpee does its annual seed catalog drop the day after Christmas.

“That goes back to Mr. Burpee,” Ball said of the founder of the 134-year-old seed company. “If we send our catalog our before Christmas, it’s going to be thrown out with all the other junk mail.”