August 3, 2010

Esbenshade’s Greenhouses: A Realistic Approach

Like other operations, Esbenshade’s had its share of growth over the years. Roger’s father, Lamar, founded the business more than 50 years ago as a small grower-retail business that successfully developed into a Southeast Pennsylvania midsized wholesale operation with three garden centers of its own today. Today’s industry, however, is vastly different than the one Lamar entered more than a half century ago. Yes, Esbenshade’s has strong customer relationships with independent retailers in its region, and its garden center stores are good sources for the operation’s decision makers. But the fact, Roger says, is there really aren’t new sales to be had. Instead, success is better measured by market share, and the growers regularly expanding their operations are simply taking market share from others. “I feel the industry has matured a lot,” says Roger, who serves as Esbenshade’s production manager. “We’ve refocused a little bit on trying to do a […]

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July 27, 2010

Don’t You Just Hate Those Big Boxes?

It is clear to me that consumers are willing to open their wallets only when they feel we bring them good value and continually introduce new and interesting products that increase their chances of success. Whether consumers are shopping at big box stores or a local nursery with just one location, our goal should be to keep them buying more and make them more successful while bringing a new generation into the world of outdoor living. Some members of the industry like to degrade the big boxes as less-than-legitimate purveyors of green goods. Some have not been able to see the evolution of the industry as a positive and would be happy if we returned to the days of limited distribution and little to no price competition. The big boxes admittedly have brought major changes to the industry that have changed the way we all do business. Let’s not forget […]

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July 22, 2010

Five Proven Ways To Grow Sales

Jon Goldman, president of Brand Launcher, will present on five proven ways to grows sales November 4 at the Northeast Greenhouse Conference and Expo in Worcester, Mass. According to Goldman, “me-too” marketing won’t cut it in for industry. To stand out and get noticed by the right kind of customers, Goldman suggests growers need powerful, proven marketing. In his November 4 session, Goldman will share five out-of-the-box marketing strategies for growers, garden center managers and landscapers to get the phones ringing and boost sales–without breaking the bank. Attendees can expect to learn:   – The costliest mistake most landscapers make in promoting their services. – How to target your message by pinpointing your “hungry fish.” – How to create powerful offers for your services using “irresistible bait.” – How to use easy tools to attract new customers–and keep your existing ones. – The single most powerful word you should use. – The “kiss of death” for […]

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July 14, 2010

Pricing And The Supply Chain

Stan Pohmer of the Pohmer Consulting Group, Texas A&M’s Charlie Hall and Ball’s Marvin Miller held three sessions at Short Course on Soul Searching & Marketing In Today’s Challenging Marketplace, getting into some of the big picture issues and industry philosophy going forward. Here are some of their thoughts:  Contract growing. The expansion boom of box stores and mass merchandisers of the late 1990s has slowed down considerably, says Pohmer. Sweet real estate spots are taken, so these stores are now focusing on organic growth—making existing stores more successful and profitable. They don’t need the number of suppliers they once did, but they need a robust product offering, leading to the rise of the contract grower. Competitive pricing and marketing. The differences between big box and independent garden centers has changed over the last few years, and it’s worth taking a look at the differences. Miller says that in the markets […]

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July 11, 2010

So Much For Wind Turbine Sound

One of the biggest knocks against wind turbines is they make too much noise. Another knock, mostly from environmentalists, is that turbines exterminate birds that fly into their path. But VQ Wind, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based company working with Private Garden, has found a possible solution. It is offering a turbine called the VQ WindJet that’s designed for industrial, agricultural, commercial, municipal and residential use. Only one or two VQ WindJets are being used in the United States right now–the turbine is actually a product that originated in South Korea–but the company, VQ Wind, is at the OFA trade show to introduce the product to greenhouse growers. The wind turbine achieves virtually no sound, Vice President of Business Development Malcolm Davies says, because it rotates at less than 10 percent of the speed most turbines turn. Learn more about the VQ WindJet at Learn more about Private Garden at […]

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June 29, 2010

Putting Plants First

A number of marketing programs have come and gone the last 10 years, but the ones that are still around are tied to specific plants that perform. The classic example is Wave petunias and the spinoff series–Tidal Wave, Shock Wave, Double Wave and Easy Wave. If the original ‘Purple Wave’ didn’t offer performance that was dramatically different from a traditional seed petunia, the entire marketing program would not be possible. It would not have caught on. Slapping a clever name on an ordinary plant won’t work if it doesn’t mean anything. You can fool the consumer once but not twice. Repeat purchases are what make brands successful and establish a following. The same is true with Knock Out roses. Superior performance and growing ease made them a hit with consumers and landscapers. As I drive around, I never cease to be amazed at how widely used they are. They have […]

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June 18, 2010

Breaking Down Our Economy

As I am writing this, Mother’s Day weekend has come to a close and we are in the midst of a strong lawn and gardening spring season. Indications across the country have pointed to robust sales, albeit some regions have experienced stronger sales than others. I would anticipate with the weather patterns evidenced this year, summer may even surprise us. Of course, fall is our next biggest time of the year and as long as weather cooperates, the other major influencing factor is the economy. The good news is the economy continues to show signs of recovery. Real GDP grew at a 3.2 percent annual rate in the first quarter this year, as strong growth in consumer spending and inventory rebuilding contributed to the bulk of the improvement during the quarter. Business investment was supported by equipment and software spending, but investment in structures continues to lag. Government outlays were […]

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June 18, 2010

Perspective: Steve Cissel On Technology

Steve Cissel has been on a journey to aggregate plant information to consumers since 1998, when he founded Green Industry Online. Green Industry Online became Green Industry Yellow Pages in 2001, and it expanded into 10-20 Media three years ago. Today, Cissel serves as CEO of 10-20 Media, and he’s a creator of GardenPilot, the research tool for iPhones and iPads that features illustrated plant information pages where consumers can access information. Cissel offers a unique perspective on Internet marketing and its potential for growers. GG: You recently told us the demand for mobile media exposes a weakness in the greenhouse floriculture industry–its fragmentation–and a simple example you used is the fact that plants have Latin names, nicknames, potentially more than one common name and different names in different regions. Although mobile media exposes a weakness, what opportunities does it offer growers, breeders and others to simplify gardening to consumers? […]

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May 25, 2010

Modeling Greenhouse Efficiency Virtually

When you’re comparing structures and coverings, wouldn’t it be great to know which styles and materials will perform best for you before you make a change or start to build? USDA’s free Virtual Grower software program allows you to do that by analyzing the efficiencies of your current structures and constructing models for new ones–all from the comfort of your office. The idea began in 2003, when plant physiologist Jonathan Frantz joined USDA’s Agriculture Research Service at the University of Toledo in Ohio. His background was in vegetable crops and he started asking local flower growers how they make decisions related to the greenhouse environment–light, temperature and air movement. With energy efficiency becoming a top concern, Frantz and programmers Bryon Hand and Lee Buckingham set out to develop computer-generated models that would help growers make informed decisions that directly impact energy consumption. The model allows growers to compare styles of […]

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May 24, 2010

Webinar: What Does The New Health Care Law Mean For Your Business?

Now that the health care reform bill has been passed, you need to know how your business is affected. Does the new health care law require you to offer insurance to your employees? Do you get a tax credit if you do? Will you be penalized if you don’t? How do the rules differ for companies with more or less than 50 employees? How does the insurance exchange system work? Those are just a few of the key questions attorney John Satagaj will answer during the SAF Health Care Webinar scheduled for Wednesday, May 26. The hour-long event begins at 7 p.m. Register here to reserve your place.

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May 13, 2010

Benches Or Floors?

From rolling benches to Dutch tray systems to moveable containers, benching technology has improved significantly in recent years. More and more, though, it seems growers are looking to the floor as their first option for production. “It’s absolutely a trend I’m seeing,” says Bill Vietas, vice president of sales for Rough Bros. “You go to most places and you’ll see people growing on the ground again.” For Rough Bros., which sells both greenhouse structures and benches, that shift has been very apparent. “We do flood benches, rolling benches and Dutch tray benches, and we have seen a decrease in all three of those areas,” Vietas says. “Our bench sales are maybe a third of what they used to be. It’s very interesting but you just don’t see them as much anymore.” But why? “I don’t think they’re doing it because it necessarily produces a better quality product. I think the […]

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May 3, 2010

Monrovia Putting Transportation Safety First

The California Trucking Association (CTA) recently honored Monrovia for its outstanding safety record on the road with the Fleet Safety Award, marking the third year in a row Monrovia has been recognized as such. According to Lee Zwahlen, head of shipping, Monrovia has one of the largest privately operated fleets of any nursery in the United States, with 17 trucks and 50 trailers. “From our 1,100-acre Visalia and Venice Hills nurseries, we delivered 2,400 trailer loads of Monrovia plants with an estimated 12,000 deliveries last year,” Zwahlen says. Safety professionals from the CTA safety staff review accident statistics of the top contenders and audit their safety programs each year. The awards program judges companies on issues such as accident frequency, personnel and hiring systems, documented safety policies and procedures, driver-safety training, internal accident handling procedures and participation in the association’s safety activities. “While Monrovia is often recognized for its high […]

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