Bell Nursery On Consolidation And Big Customers
Gary Mangum and Adam Stewart share where the industry is headed from Bell Nursery's perspective as one of the leading mega growers.
December 22, 2010
Bell Nursery has been out front driving plant sales and industry growth while raising the bar for all growers serving large retailers. The past few years we've seen a shakeout in grower power centers with just a dozen players emerging as mega growers and other growers playing supporting roles to serve the mass market. Here are thoughts from Bell's leaders on:
We'll see fewer acquisitions and more strategic partnerships. "Gone are the days where you just go into a market and take over. The dust has settled," Adam Stewart says. "Who can we partner with in that market? Is there a farm community that might be interested in the network grower model?"
Big Grower As Big Customer
"We've become the sales and service provider for other growers, allowing increased focus on product quality," Gary Mangum says. "This trend has been a net plus for our industry." How firm are commitments between contract growers and mega growers? "When we make commitments to contract with network growers, those are real commitments," he says. "If weather is mediocre, we are still obligated to take the product."
Many specialty growers are able to sell more plants through a mega grower than approaching large retailers by themselves. A prime example is Holtkamp Greenhouses' Optimara African violets. "We sell more of their violets at Home Depot than they were ever able to before," Mangum says."We've increased sales substantially by delivering fresh product in smaller quantities more frequently. We're doing the same with Sorensen's cacti and other specialty lines. One of the biggest moves this past year was with orchids."
Home Depot As Business Partner
Mangum notes big improvements with the changes in Home Depot's CEOs from Robert Nardelli to Frank Blake in January 2007. "The focus at every level on product knowledge and customer service is amazing to see, and the attitudes of the associates in the store are just incredibly different - in a positive way," Mangum says. "Mr. Blake makes unannounced visits to stores in different cities, sees what's really going on and what he can do to help. It's appreciated by market leadership, not seen as a threat."
Stewart adds, "Home Depot is truly a partner, not dictatorial. They realize the heart of their business is the customer and if they lose customers, they lose profits."