12 More Ways Growers Can Enhance Their Retailer Relationships

12 More Ways Growers Can Enhance Their Retailer Relationships


Alex LaVilla, Liane Smith and Gabriel Maki
represent the buying team at Swansons Nursery.

The green goods buying team at Swansons Nursery includes Alex LaVilla (perennials), Liane Smith (annuals and seasonal color) and Gabriel Maki (woody trees and shrubs). Two weeks ago, the three buyers shared 11 ways growers can improve from a retail perspective. This week, we share another list from Swansons Nursery – this one featuring 12 things growers can do to enhance their relationships with retailers.

1. Custom grow specialty products for niche markets.

2. Establish inventory partnerships with guaranteed sales for bulk purchases to move more plants.

3. Establish discount partnerships during a garden center’s sale periods to help move more product.

4. Know the current market. Be aware of the old standard best sellers, but don’t be afraid to offer newer introductions to test the market and see what the new standards will be.

5. Improve your invoicing by line item. Invoices should be a customer service tool for the independent garden center and not for the grower’s internal accounting purposes. No more listing “premium 4-inch annual” or “premium 1-gallon perennials,” please.

6. Share your plans for the upcoming season, including new varieties, what’s working well for you and what you are changing. How can we both work together to be better partners?

7. Work together with retailers on inventory control. Send extras on trucks that can be added to our order if desired. Alternatively, if you know you’ll be long on something, call to see if we’d like to run a special on them while the plants are still looking good. Selling a big block of plants at a smaller margin is better than adding them to the compost pile.

8. Solicit suggestions for what else you might grow. Independents are a direct line to what the customer is asking for.

9. Get out there and tour garden centers so you know what other growers are able to achieve and which plants and sizes independents are offering. Ask how and when garden centers offer them. You may be surprised at what other growers are achieving in terms of plant readiness relative to time of year, number of flowers, plant size and shape.

10. Figure out how to ship to retailers quickly and predictably. Is it possible to partner up with other local growers for more frequent, consolidated shipping to certain regions?

11. Give retailers ways they do not have to be burdened by products they don’t want or cannot sell. Retailers know it costs growers money to return product. They work with numerous product returns and replacements every day from their own customers. Arguing and not correcting the situation is not helpful. If the return process costs retailers even more in time and worry, retailers are likely to find other resources.

12. Invest in detailed and continuous availability lists with crop notes.

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One comment on “12 More Ways Growers Can Enhance Their Retailer Relationships

  1. Anonymous

    we are wholesale/retail growers and have the advantage of seeing the pros and cons of each side of that division and this discussion. while all of these and the other 11 ideas are great, we see it time and time again on trying to target what the public wants, months ahead of time, we meet with our wholesale customer base,
    try and have a good strategy and it never fails, they tell us what to grow and when it comes time to ship we communicate with them about their request list of what they wanted us to grow, or see more of and tell them, hey those geraniums, or calibrachoa, or whatever they suggest we grow more of, either numbers or colors, its tough to hear them say oh, those are moving kind of slow but this or that is flying off the shelves, have you got more of …….
    i know some people would say why didnt you have them sign a contract, but as my grandfather always said a contract is only as good as the paper its written on,and when we have mentioned it to our wholesale customers you can sense the anxiety in that you are asking them to assume the risk of predicting what the customer is going to want. when youre dealing with perishable products, luckily we have a retail that we can use to promote the stuff that our wholesale buyers told us to grow and didnt take or only took a portion of what they suggested. i recently read an article in one of the trade magazines of other growers experiencing this very same thing i am talking about, so i know were not alone. as far as new stuff we grow our fair share of it, but it seems most of the new stuff is just new series of items that there are already too many on the market anyway, such as calibrachoa. we as growers have made a decision to only offer 5 or 6 colors of a series such as calibrachoa, geraniums, verbenas etc. as an industry that is trying to get the younger generation to keep or try gardening, we need to make it as simple and as least confusing as possible. some breeding/branding companys such as proven winners and a few others are trying to help the industry out by communicating with the public with either road shows or home and garden magazines, and i think it is probabaly a great tool but i think the final decision the customer makes is when they walk into the garden center and is attracted to what looks the best as far as color, texture, and shape. the fashion industry names the pantone color of the year, and for 2011 it was honeysuckle and as far as plants and flowers we sold very little of those shades this year. 5 years ago and before, it seems we could grow almost anything and move it, with folks watching their money now more than ever it would be great to know exactly what theyre going to want in 2012.
    signed, all i want for x-mas is a crystal ball :)