October 6, 2009

Walmart CEO Predicts More Price Slashing

Wall Street Journal writer John Jannarone warns of the Walmart effect. The company’s CEO Mike Duke told The Wall Street Journal last week that he expects gross margins to become more stable, which means Walmart will continue to slash prices and put its competitors on the “defensive.” Jannarone made grocery stores an example. A study was done with shopping baskets at three different grocery stores (Walmart, Kroger and Safeway) full of the same 31 products. For those 31 products, prices have fallen 14.4 percent between January and September at Kroger, and Safeway’s prices dropped 9.7 percent during that same time period. Meanwhile, Walmart’s prices declined only 2.6 percent. With those decreases intact, Walmart was still the cheapest store for all 31 products, with an end total of $92.77. Kroger’s and Safeway’s totals were $109.98 and $113.03, respectively.

Read More

September 16, 2009

Digitizing The Catalog

Cheri Markowitz didn’t think Emerald Coast Growers needed an online ordering option. She was the naysayer. But then the orders came, and they came in full force for Cheri and her brothers Paul and Mark Babikow, the three minds behind Emerald Coast’s electronic marketing strategy. Since Emerald Coast launched a website in 1995, the Pensacola, Fla.-based business has developed a multi-pronged strategy of carefully targeted and meticulously selected digital tools that simultaneously build business and service existing customers and brokers. “As a business today, you have to be poised to respond to the growing need for electronic communications,” Paul says. And respond Emerald Coast has. It now has a website (ECGrowers.com), an electronic product database, e-newsletters, online availability updates, electronic ordering and a downloadable catalog to give customers an all-access pass to the true ease and convenience of doing business with Emerald Coast Growers. “We want to be the easy […]

Read More

September 16, 2009

Economy Poised For Glacially-Paced Recovery

Optimism about the apparent ending of the recession has been tempered by the reality of substantial further deterioration in employment conditions and ongoing struggles with state and local government budgets. Real GDP is expected to rise slightly during the third quarter, as inventory liquidations slow dramatically and consumer spending is revived. The end of the recession, however, does not mark the end of the economy’s troubles. Economic activity will likely remain somewhat subdued well into 2010, and the unemployment rate will likely rise through the middle of next year, topping out at around 10.5 percent. On the upside, there is a great deal of stimulus in the pipeline, including the $787 billion economic recovery act, low interest rates, the completion of a colossal drawdown in inventories and the prospect of falling gasoline prices. On the downside, employment losses remain massive and the unemployment rate continues to increase, albeit at a […]

Read More

September 16, 2009

Longevity With Lowe’s

Walmart’s decision to downsize its vendor base forced more than a hundred large greenhouse operations into a mad scramble for buyers over the last year. Many mid-sized operations were forced to regroup, too, begging the question as to whether or not mid-sized operations have a place serving the big box stores. The answer, if you’re a mid-sized operation like Ohlman Farm & Greenhouse in Toledo, Ohio, is a resounding yes. Ohlman Farm was one of first operations to serve Lowe’s home improvement stores in the mid-1980s, and it continues to serve Lowe’s today. So much for the theory that big box business is only for the big grower. Ohlman Farm expanded its business with Lowe’s because it lives by producing quality crops and delivering those crops on time − just as any large operation would − but Ohlman Farm stands out from many large operations because it’s carried out those […]

Read More

September 16, 2009

Life Is A Challenge

Here we are in October, planning for the spring of 2010. If you’re like me, you read the business papers, check the stock market, find out how many people are unemployed and what our national debt is. You also look at interest rates and whether bank credit will be available in order to finance your 2010 plan. The government has initiated plans to stimulate the economy. These plans have involved everything from bailing out the financial institutions and banks to supporting the automobile industry by taking in “clunkers” and giving people $4,500 to help them buy new cars. The government is now focusing on universal health care and many other issues that will affect our businesses. I wish the government would give people a rebate for buying nourishing foods like fruits and vegetables to keep their families healthy and well. Most of these issues are beyond our control, and we […]

Read More

September 11, 2009

Going For Broker-less

Dan Gibson didn’t grow up in the horticulture industry. You can’t fault him for that, though, because his route to growing might be the next best thing. Gibson, the president of First Step Greenhouses, was first introduced to greenhouse growing as an engineer for Q-COM, a horticultural environmental controls company. “After our guys installed a new system, I would sit down with the owners to customize the program to fit their needs,” Gibson says. “By doing that, I was exposed to all of the best, top greenhouses in the country. I also got to see first hand what the industry was like.” Not long after, Gibson decided to “jump in” and build a growing operation called First Step Greenhouses, which is now 12 years old and located in Temecula, Calif. “With the benefit of having seen a lot of how things are done well, I sat down to design a […]

Read More

September 4, 2009

Walmart Launches Massive Online Marketplace

With the launch of the Walmart Marketplace, Walmart.com adds one million new items to its online product selection, significantly expanding its online product selection. The Walmart Marketplace gives a select group of retailers the opportunity to offer their products on Walmart.com, according to a recently released Walmart press release. The addition of these retailers and their product lines will be found in categories ranging from Home (which includes Gardening and Outdoor Furniture), Baby Apparel, Toys and Sporting Goods. Current Walmart Marketplace retailers include: CSN Stores, eBags and Pro Team. “Working with select retailers, known for their strong customer service and large online assortments of new merchandise, gives our customer more reasons to choose Walmart.com when shopping online,” says Kerry Cooper, Walmart.com chief marketing officer. To read more about Walmart’s expanding online efforts, read the entire press release.

Read More

September 2, 2009

Interstate Transport Ranked On Inc. Magazine List

Interstate is the fastest growing private company in the Logistics and Transportation category in Florida by Inc. Magazine. The magazine has ranks America’s fastest growing private companies with its Inc. 500/5000 annual list for 2009. Interstate is ranked the 17th fastest growing among all Logistics and Transportation companies nationwide. This year, Interstate and its software division, InMotion Global, were privileged to make Inbound Logistics Magazine’s list of Top 100 Logistics IT Providers. Interstate’s co-founder and Executive Vice-President, Gloria Higham said, “It is truly exciting to rank so highly and win growth awards in this difficult economic environment. As the more leveraged competitors in the logistics and transportation industry have suffered, Interstate has been able to grow and expand due to our debt-free business model. Furthermore, our strong cash position allows us to capitalize on the continuing growth in consumer spending and the resulting increase in the shipments of consumer goods.” […]

Read More

September 1, 2009

What Goes Around Comes Around

My wife’s mother often used the statement in the headline to indicate what you did in the past will come around to haunt you in the future. She was one of the kindest and most considerate people I have ever met. She worked hard, took care of her home, was a great cook and would never say a bad word about anyone. Some people were less than kind to her, but she would always say, “What goes around will come around.” I’ve thought about her and her saying, and in the last couple of months, I’ve come to the conclusion: “Here we go again.” In the last two to three weeks, I have read 20 to 30 business and management magazines, listened to television news and even checked the Internet to determine what the feeling is regarding our business position. Most now acknowledge we are in a recession. With 10 […]

Read More

August 5, 2009

Oregon Governor Backs Growers On Tax Proposal

According to a Hillsboro Argus story, the Oregon Association of Nurseries and its members are grateful Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed a bill protecting nurseries against the threat of an unfair new property tax. “Many of our growers are relieved they won’t be subjected to an additional property tax assessment against hoop houses, which are temporary structures used to protect plants and extend the growing season,” says Jeff Stone, government relations director for the Oregon Association of Nurseries. “When the state Department of Revenue proposed taxing hoop houses as if they were permanent structures, our members said it was unacceptable.” Oregon’s Department of Revenue proposed new rulemaking earlier this year that would have assessed nurseries for the value of hoop houses. To read the full Hillsboro Argus story, click here.

Read More

August 1, 2009

Mutual Marketing

Putting together a cooperative marketing message for the floriculture industry as a whole has proven to be a challenge over the years. But taken in smaller bites, growers and retailers have seen some real gains by working together on local, regional, and even statewide projects. Here’s a quick look at three new group projects that have been successful so far in 2009. Local: Passport 2 Plants Gilson Gardens, Martin’s Nursery, Middle Ridge Gardens and Sabo’s Woodside Nursery & Garden Center are friendly competitors. When a customer shows up looking for a special plant that one of the businesses doesn’t offer, the staff is quick to send them to one of the others that can help. “I don’t look at them as competitors,” says Sabo’s owner Brian Sabo. “I think of them as colleagues.” In fact, these four Northeast Ohio businesses took that cooperative relationship to the next level this spring, […]

Read More

July 22, 2009

MPS Certifies First U.S. Grower

An MPS-ABC sustainability certificate was awarded to a North American grower for the first time last week, when D.S. Cole Growers in Loudon, N.H., earned the distinction. MPS is active in more than 50 countries. U.S. greenhouse growers began expressing interest in MPS certification last summer, when a group of companies started with registration for MPS-ABC certification. MPS-ABC works like a rating scale, indicating the level of sustainability of your operation’s management. The rating scale goes from 0 to 100 points, and a company’s score is determined four times a year based on its use of fertilizers, energy and pesticides, and its management of waste. In some countries, water use is also taken into account. The total usage of a company is compared to requirements and standards. Companies with lowest usage are rated highest. “The MPS-ABC certificate is a very valuable management tool,” says Doug Cole, president. “MPS-ABC works like […]

Read More