October 12, 2011

Improve Your Bottom Line In Tough Times

The nursery industry has been hit with a 1-2-3 punch over the last five years. First, the advent of pay-by-scan, in which growers got paid when the consumer bought instead of when the store bought, created immediate losses on plants that died in the stores. Then the recession hit, driving down consumer demand for plants and shrubs. Finally, the weather this year created one of the most challenging growing seasons ever. Each of these events has forced growers to focus more intently on controlling cash and inventory. For many growers, techniques to increase top-line revenue have also become a central focus. In this article, we will focus on the key opportunity areas for growers to increase revenue and control expenses and inventory. Increasing Revenue The adage that it is easier to keep and expand an existing customer than create a new customer has never been more relevant than it is […]

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September 27, 2011

Comment Of The Week: Grower-Retailer Relationships

Retailers: Do you feel your relationships with your growers are healthy? Our sister magazine, Today’s Garden Center, posed this question as a poll to its readers late last month. Here’s what one independent retailer had to say: “I feel as though relationships with growers are like all other relationships: They require consistent communication and feedback so that good is rewarded and problems can be addressed and repaired. When quality slips, a quick but helpful phone call or email makes sure we all stay on the same page – making our customers happy!” Here’s how retailers responded in the Today’s Garden Center poll: • About 24 percent say their relationships are “very healthy” • About 33 percent describe their relationships with growers as “OK” • 3 percent say their relationship is “slipping” • About 6 percent say they are “shopping for new vendors” due to a “series of problems that have […]

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September 20, 2011

Innovative Software Solutions Assists In Box Store Replenishment

Innovative Software Solutions (ISS) in Grand Rapids, Mich., has been working with growers to marry up the sell-through data they receive from large retail chains with the inventory data they maintain in Picas Greenhouse Software. This past spring ISS took the in-house skills it acquired through Randy Howe, who developed the Clarity program, and worked closely with a few customers to make replenishment for Walmart a reality. One customer that led the way was Olson’s Greenhouse in Utah. Olson’s was already using the Walmart Retail Link data, but this information didn’t have the same value until it was matched up with current inventory. Howe worked closely with Kurt Lainhart from Olson’s to deploy Clarity’s tools and customize them for Olson’s. The operation needed to compare the sales of more than 550 spring SKUs (stock-keeping units) to its current inventory. To do this right, Lainhart believed it would take three to […]

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September 20, 2011

Can We Survive Another Recession?

If the Great Recession can be likened to a massive coronary for the United States and world economies, then I guess we can say we are still in intensive care and in the process of undergoing extensive rehab. Recent indicators do indeed point to an economy that isn’t responding as quickly as we’d hoped to the medication and rehab we’re in the process of administering. On top of our economic recovery, our national debt and Congress’s reluctance to make tough decisions has put us in a non-enviable position heading into 2012. I guess that is what Standard & Poor was hinting at in its downgrade of U.S. treasuries earlier in the year, given that a big part of its rating model is a reflection of the current political environment. However, S&P’s unprecedented action hit the markets hard with its conclusion that our government is incapable of making any rational decisions […]

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September 20, 2011

SBI Software: Maximizing Shipping Loads

SBI Software in Portland, Ore., has been working with growers to enhance the transportation logistics piece of its fully scalable and modular package. The SBI team worked with Kraemer’s Nursery, Leo Gentry Nursery, Bylands’ Nursery and Twixwood Nursery to reduce freight costs. This is especially important because freight has impacted the bottom line of so many operations due to rising fuel costs. Transportation managers can now take large groups of orders with order criteria such as ship-to location, rack count or footage, first delivery request and delivery time request, and the system will automatically build orders into loads and routes. Taking the manual work out of load building and routing reduces freight expense, which flows right to the bottom line. A job that required multiple hours per day is reduced to under an hour with SBI. The result is more efficient loads and routes. The SBI team has gone one […]

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September 20, 2011

Advanced Grower Solutions’ Inventory Control Offers Effortless Availability

Getting started in the nursery business was a lifelong dream for Ketch de Kanter, owner of Little Prince of Oregon Nursery in Aurora, Ore. As the business grew, the need to manage daily operations was no longer a task his small office could effectively handle. Little Prince had outgrown Quickbooks and Excel spreadsheets and was faced with finding a software solution that would grow with the business. “The biggest pain was the hours we were spending to prepare our weekly availability,” De Kanter says. “We were spending hours putting together our lists and struggling to get data entered into Excel. We were doing double-entry just to give our customers a complete list of plants available each week.” Little Prince evaluated several industry software companies and heard good things about Advanced Grower Solutions (AGS ). Based in Portland, Ore., and Fort Worth, Texas, AGS put together a complete Enterprise Management Solution […]

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September 16, 2011

Where’s The Best Place To Start Succession Planning?

Henry Hutcheson, a family business speaker and consultant with ReGeneration Partners in Raleigh, N.C., offered a starting point on succession planning for those who attended the Independent Garden Center Show last month in Chicago: tell somebody. “In my experience, the best place to begin is to simply declare to the family that you are going to begin,” Hutcheson writes at NewsObserver.com. “Call a family meeting, close the door and simply state that the company and the family need to begin thinking and talking about preparing for the future of the business. Yes, you have opened Pandora’s Box, but better you than someone else.” Hutcheson shares additional succession planning advice in his recent article. Read it here.

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September 13, 2011

Two Qualities All Growers Should Exhibit

George Lucas can’t say enough good things about Bob’s Market and Greenhouses, the West Virginia-based plug supplier that also happens to compete with Lucas Greenhouses on certain items. Gary Mangum, whose greenhouse operation buys nearly all of its seedlings from Bob’s Market, raves just as much about the quality of the plugs Bell Nursery receives. I’ve heard growers compliment suppliers before. But I had never heard growers speak with such admiration about another until I spoke this summer with Lucas and Mangum about Bob’s Market, our 2011 Operation of the Year winner. These two past Grower of the Year winners have such tremendous respect for the Barnitz family of Bob’s Market and for numerous reasons, but the two qualities that make the operation such an outstanding plug supplier to its customers are regular communication and killer customer service. 1. Regular Communication The conversation you’ll have the first time you tell […]

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September 13, 2011

Plant Patent Primer

These days, it’s hard to flip open the pages of a plant catalog or see a plant tag without the notation “PPAF” or “USPP#.” Most people in our industry know these notations stand for “Plant Patent Applied For” and “U.S. Plant Patent No. #.” The acronyms indicate a United States plant patent has been applied for, or that a U.S. plant patent has been granted. U.S. plant patents are a great way to protect the intellectual property rights of a plant, increase a company’s royalties and generate revenue, as well as create an intellectual property portfolio. But a question remains: What is a U.S. plant patent? Patent Requirements A U.S. plant patent is a property right that protects asexually reproduced plant varieties, which include many vegetative ornamental plants, trees, vines and fruit plants. The owner of a U.S. plant patent has the right for 20 years from the filing of […]

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September 9, 2011

Dutch Grower Realizing Better Logistics With RFID

Container Centralen (CC) added RFID tags to all of its European CC carts earlier this year. Authentication was Container Centralen’s primary goal in adding RFID, but BAAS Plantenservice, a Dutch grower that participated in the RFID pilot project, realized improved logistics handling as well as fewer shipping errors as a result. The track-and-trace system starts with BAAS’s suppliers, who apply a barcode label with the BAAS order number to each Container Centralen cart. The barcode is linked to the CC RFID tag by scanning both with a ScanGreen RFID handheld. The information is sent to BAAS and its transport companies via the ScanGreen RFID platform, which uses it to optimize the inbound transport. When the cart is loaded, the driver also scans the tag, and that information is also sent to BAAS. BAAS then knows exactly when goods will arrive. Upon arrival, BAAS only needs to scan the RFID tags, […]

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August 10, 2011

Is Dedicated Contract Carriage The Trucking Solution For You?

Dedicated Contract Carriage is one of the fastest growing segments of the trucking and distribution industry. Companies like Walmart, Target, Kroger and a host of name brand distributors use Dedicated Contract Carriage as a way to reduce costs, increase truck capacity and transfer liability and headaches. In fact, many major corporations that need a truck fleet are moving away from ownership (including leasing) and toward Dedicated Contract Carriage for some or all of their trucking operations. Generally, you have four options when moving your material to your customer locations. The first three of these options are relatively common–and 99 percent of growers fall into one of these three categories. First, you can buy your own trucks (and I include leasing or renting trucks in this category). Second, you can outsource the entire job to a third party (a third party logistics provider, 3PL or a broker). Third, you can try […]

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