11 Ways Growers Can Improve From A Retail Perspective

Brad Siebe, the president and general manager at Swansons Nursery in Seattle, Wash., connected with his green goods merchandise managers—Alex LaVilla (perennials), Gabriel Maki (woody trees and shrubs) and Liane Smith (annuals and seasonal color—on areas in which growers can generally improve their business management skills. Here are 11 areas the team shared with Greenhouse Grower:

1. Better use of available technologies for consistency and accuracy in ordering and billing. The days of handwritten invoices are over! We need to be able to order, receive acknowledgements very quickly and receive the order in a few days.

2. More interest in what our specific market is and how they can be successful partners in serving our market with us. Many growers do not know their own market share and are not knowledgeable of what other growers are offering. Often times, they are all offering the same plants and the only variation from one grower to another is quality, size or price points. The “branded” market is getting so homogenous that it is harder and harder to stand out. The growers could partner better with us on overcoming this and not just follow what the corporate trend is. Be independent!

3. Quality, quality, quality and consistency throughout crops. We expect growers to be aware of and honest about the quality and state of maturity of their crop. Be aware of what other growers’ plants are like so you know how yours compare. If we buy 10 items, they should all be of consistent quality, otherwise they shouldn’t be sent.

4. Deeper inventories on popular items that are in bloom or sell out quickly.

5. Pre-pricing and using product specific UPCs at the growers is becoming more important and may be a deciding factor when choosing between two growers of equal quality and similar pricing.

6. Invoicing by each plant type rather than generic blocks such as “premium annual” is helpful for both receiving and data entry at the garden center. We may not group our pricing the way they are at the grower level because we are factoring in costs from several different sources.

7. The days of huge, one-time seasonal pre-orders from each grower are long gone. Too often the grower cannot deliver as promised, and often plants need a little more time to fill in. This creates lost sales opportunities for us, and we end up sourcing from others who can deliver a quality product on time. We order on a weekly basis relative to history, promotions, weather, impressions of what moved during the past weekend and any other factors that affect customer traffic on a weekly basis.

8. The faster we can get a plant in, turn around and sell it, the more we can buy from our growers. Also, when the quality is better for the customer, the profitability is better for us and the more we can sell. Poor quality does no one any service.

9. All incoming plants must meet our quality standards on the receiving dock. Plants that don’t meet our standards sometimes still get through. Poor-quality plants cause excessive labor to remove, put aside and communicate with the grower as far as what to do with them. We can’t afford to continue purchasing from a grower who regularly ships plants that are not up to standard. We need to be able to rely on growers to always send the best plants from an industry-wide standard; not just the grower’s personal standard.

If the plants aren’t up to standards, we don’t want them. We know it costs growers a lot when we reject something. However, some growers don’t quality control their own product enough. A way to alleviate the difference in perception of quality and plant readiness between growers and garden centers is detailed crop notes and/or pictures of crops.

10. Hot lists are somewhat helpful but often are very limited. Hot lists often illustrate items that are also on hot lists from every other grower, and the lists often showcase items that are not in demand from our customer’s perspective. Pictures, or at least notes about plants, sizes and condition, are useful so we can quickly decide what to order is best.

11. Include actual quantities available on lists is very helpful. We need to know we can count on the items we have ordered are going to actually show up. If we assume a plant is available, order 50 and it turns out only four were available after it is too late to order from another source, we have lost sales opportunities.

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6 comments on “11 Ways Growers Can Improve From A Retail Perspective

  1. i could pick these suggestions apart. the main one that sticks out though
    and we run into as a wholesale grower is the retailer wants availibilty and we send it say with 50 of something and the one we sent it to doesnt make a decision until later that day or even the next and then there is only 4 left, well they should have made an immediate decision because between the hours of the availibilty and when they ordered another customer had bought 46.

  2. The comment above is exactly the problem with some wholesale growers. As retailers we understand that the customer is always right even when they are not. Wholesale growers need to understand that as well. Instead of spending time picking the above list apart. Maybe you should send some time communicating with your customers on when the best time to order from your availability, or you can look at when your availability is sent out. One problem I have is they send it that many wholesale growers send availability during Friday or on Saturday and I don’t have time to look until Monday.

  3. “The days of huge, one-time seasonal pre-orders from each grower are long gone.”

    Your call, but as a grower, I can tell you that my days of producing large quantities of product on spec are also gone. The customer that gives me a prebook will always get priority service.

  4. Growers and Retailers always want the best of both worlds. Growers want Retailers to pre-book their orders, and Retailers want Growers to have enough of every item that they need every week without pre-booking.

    The facts are that no of us know when the demand is going to hit (when the weather breaks); no one knows what item is going to be the hot item of the week/month/spring; and pointing fingers will not help.

    The best suggestions listed for us Growers and for you Retailers all have to do with communication. There is a HUGE disconnect between what the consumers want and what the garden centers want and what the growers want that we can only begin to address through communicating.

    For example, Breeders are marketing directly to the end consumer. Gardening magazines are writing about the newest plants which the breeders sent to them as a press release to increase demand but none of the growers grew them in large quantities because the smart ones want to trial them first. This leads to high demand for items that are not available then the consumers are mad, the garden centers are mad and the grower left with excuses as to why they don’t have the plants. New plants should be trialed by the growers BEFORE the breeders start sending out press releases and advertising their plants. These press releases need to be sent to the growers and garden centers so that we all know what to expect. The simple solution to this example is communicating with everyone in the supply chain. I could go on about this but I digress.

    As a grower, we want to grow what our customers need but like #7 above we too base our production on history, impressions, long term weather forecasts (or the “who the heck knows” factor) and any other information that we deem significant. Regarding Parks Brothers, we do our best to get as much information from our customers as we can about what they want or need for the next season but we do not get much feedback. So we are left with the history, impressions and gut decisions.

    There are some great suggestions in this list. We are doing a lot of them and there are some we really need to work on but in the defense of the Grower without picking this list apart, the Retailers need to spend as much effort into making the suggestions in this list reality as they are asking the Growers to do.

    If I doth offend, you can reach me at jasonparksbrotherscom. Have a nice day.

  5. Echoing the above: It’s easy to provide deep, quality inventory when retailers are willing to prebook. Otherwise, you’ll get whatever we have the guts to produce on spec which isn’t going to be much. Respect your suppliers.

  6. As a Retailer I have found it difficult to get much diveristy from our Growers. We get “This is what I grow so this is what you can pre-order for your customers”. What our customers want and what growers produce are 2 distinctly different things. To solve this problem we decided to grow much of what we sell. I grow the premium, top quaility & specialty items ourselves. Our customers are amazed by the variety they can now enjoy. Both new varieties and old favorites. We will still pre-order our 1203’s from a grower but they don’t get much of our $$ for 4.5″, 6″ or hanging baskets. As Growers you need to be willing to work with your customers on varieties & sizes. As Retailers we need to accept more responsibility for our own supply chain. Don’t just ‘buy local’….Grow it.

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