– It’s nice to be able to call someone’s cell phone,” says Stephen Barlow of Barlow’s Flowers in Sea Girt, N.J. Using Lloyd Traven of Peace Tree Farm as an example, “It can be 6 o’clock in the morning or 8 o’clock at night and he’ll pick up his phone.”
– “Sounds funny, but we don’t have a huge place and smaller growers usually have smaller trucks – and I like that,” says Barlow.
– For growers looking to earn Barlow’s or Seuberth’s business, wait until after the busy season. “They should know spring is not a good time,” says Amy Seuberth of The Farm at Green Village. Barlow says, “Stopping in on a busy, sunny day will leave a bad taste in my mouth. It shows they don’t understand my business and my situation.”
– For those same growers, be sure to stop in with a sample. And remember color sells, says Barlow. Make sure what you bring is in bloom.
– Barlow explains that getting invited out to the grower’s operation in early spring is another way to get him interested in their product and check out new varieties.
– When it comes to availability sheets, “Throw something on your hotlist that will give us ideas and get us excited,” says Seuberth. “We’re all plant nerds, so use ‘deer resistant,’ ‘shocking color’ or ‘great for the weekend’ to get our attention.”
– “I like the grower to be in charge of the relationship,” says Tom Hebel, Bucks Country Gardens. “I don’t like them to be order takers. I would rather have the confidence in them and them have the confidence in themselves to tell us what to buy. You know, ‘I don’t think you ordered enough of these’ or ‘I think this is going to be a real winner and it’s something you haven’t bought in the past.’”
– One thing that drives Hebel crazy is when presumed availability turns out not to be the truth. “Whether quality’s been cut or it’s not on the truck, just tell me it’s not available,” he says. “Knowing what you’re really going to get is critical.”
– False presentation. Hebel and his Bucks Country Gardens staff hates sending plants back. “If it looks like they stuck the cutting two weeks ago, we have to make a judgment call on availability or expectation of customer,” he says.
– The key growers Bucks Country Gardens works with are on a cycle. “They’ll drop 20 racks off in the spring and the next time they come, they bring 20 more stocked and pick up the 20 empties,” Hebel explains. “Logistically in the spring, our goal is to get trucks in and out of here, not necessarily to get product off of racks, but to avoid double handling.”The days of fax machines and availability lists aren’t nearing extinction, but in what has become a world of technology and speed, the relationship between growers and independent retailers must adapt to new ways of communication.