July 20, 2009

In His Words: Jason Parks On Spring At Retail

Every year when spring is over, I like to pick a market and visit our customers there to see how their spring went and to get a feel for what they expect next year to be like. For growers it is critical that we spend time talking to our customers to determine what is really important to them. Recently, I made a trip up north and visited nine garden centers. Some of the garden centers were already customers of ours; some say they will be next year, and some are not and probably will never be. The market I visited has a combined metropolitan area population of 782,000 people, and a median household income of $47,193 (2004) for the main population county. All the garden centers I visited reported having a good, bordering on great, spring. As usual we were able to talk more with the ones we already had […]

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July 20, 2009

Just Ask To Sell More

I met a new friend who works in the rubber industry as a sales manager. He is a great guy who is deeply involved in that industry, as well as with his church and the Michigan State University (MSU) community. His wife is also involved with MSU activities as a Master Gardener and volunteers as a docent in the 4-H Children’s Garden. They are both active in the music department and athletic department at MSU. They attend all hockey, football, men’s and women’s basketball games, and so on. They are really true Spartans! The couple also is active in the community and their neighborhood where my friend’s wife serves as treasurer of the homeowners’ association. I enjoy observing all the activities they are involved in and seeing how happy they are! An Outsider’s View Recently, I asked my friend to take a look at our industry. From the information I […]

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July 14, 2009

7-Eleven Calls Credit Processing Fees ‘Excessive’

7-Eleven Inc. is trying to solicit 1 million signatures from customers for a petition calling for Congress to change credit card processing fees. Company officials call the transaction fees, charged each time a card is swiped, “unfair and excessive,” according to a story in the Dallas Morning News. “The card companies merely pick a rate and then they charge away–no notice, no discussion,” says Keith Jones, a 7-Eleven lobbyist, in the story. “In fact, we rarely know before we start paying higher fees that the card companies have new rates.” The rates hit operations like convenience stores the hardest because the rate at which consumers are using credit and debit cards is increasing, but sometimes the purchases are for small dollar amounts, resulting in a loss at times for retailers. 7-Eleven alone, with 6,300 stores in the U.S., paid $160 million to credit card companies last year. It’s working with […]

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July 7, 2009

Walmart Backs Employer-Provided Health Care

The motive is unclear, but retail giant Walmart has come out in support of an employer-provided health care model. The company made its position known via a letter to President Obama, according to a recent Los Angeles Times story. President Obama has said employer-provided coverage is vital to helping cover the more than 46 million people in the country who lack health insurance. “It’s pretty clear that we’re advocating for reform,” Greg Rossiter, a Walmart spokesman, told L.A. Times reporter David Lazarus last week. “We’ve said for some time that we support health care reform. It needs to be comprehensive and it needs to happen.” Many view Walmart’s stance as a positive move forward to providing health care coverage to all U.S. citizens, but the motivation behind it is still unclear. In past years, Walmart has come under fire for its own dismal coverage for its 1.4 million workers. “Walmart […]

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June 23, 2009

Growing For One?

Growing for the consumer, that’s what you do, no matter where your place is in the growing process. You have it down to a science − you know how many to grow and when to grow them. Now try placing the word “online” before consumer. At first take, it might sound like an unpredictable commitment on your end, with small, singular orders and all that individual packaging and postage. And some questions might arise: Is there a better chance to mark up your goods? Will you need to overhaul your growing strategies? In reality, the sale of online potted plants isn’t a shot in the dark or a guessing game, and as experts in the industry explain, it’s simply a demand for ”super high quality plants.” Responding With Quality There’s no question companies like FloraServ, ProFlowers and Red Envelope rely on their growers. And according to FloraServ’s Ben Swett, quality […]

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June 23, 2009

Slideshow: A New Look For Greenhouse Grower

Click through the pages below for a sneak preview of our updated design and some of the new features you’ll find starting in the July issue of Greenhouse Grower magazine.

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June 23, 2009

Walmart TV Ad Causing Stir

The National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus and H-E-B Grocery Co. are challenging Walmart ads. The Walmart ads in question tell consumers if they spend $100 a week on groceries at a supermarket, they could save on average over $700 a year buying groceries at Walmart. H-E-B is also challenging the Walmart notion of “unbeatable prices,” which the grocery chains says is interpreted by consumers as a lowest-price guarantee. After H-E-B made its claims against Walmart, NAD conducted a study of Walmart’s ads and concluded the following: Walmart could indeed support its “unbeatable prices” advertising claims, but it should clarify its price-matching disclosures in ads where it uses the “unbeatable” claim. NAD also says Walmart should discontinue its $700 grocery savings claim because there’s no evidence supporting the claim. The landscape of grocers varies throughout the United States, NAD says, so there’s no way Walmart […]

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June 18, 2009

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Have you ever had the feeling you were sitting on a gold mine but no one wanted gold? Or that you had a $1 million home but no one could afford to buy it from you? Or that you owned a business but no one wanted to invest in it? Or that you stockpiled fuel at $4.00 a gallon and now it could be purchased for $2.50? If only we knew what was going to happen next year, our decisions would be simple, and we would always choose the right course of action. We must realize everything changes, and we must be prepared for change. Today, you can get a rate of 5-5.25 percent on a home mortgage. When I got my first home loan 40 years ago, the rate was 6.75 percent. However, there were times over the years when you couldn’t get a mortgage loan for less than […]

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June 18, 2009

Light At The End Of The Tunnel

Even though the first estimate of the year’s first-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) shows overall economic growth contracting 6.1 percent, the latest BEA report contained good news for economic prospects later this year. Businesses dumped $104 billion in inventories, compared to reductions of less than $30 billion in each of the previous two quarters. That means companies will need to stop laying off workers and start producing goods again in order to meet even a modest uptick in demand. Most economists expect gross domestic product to contract 1.4 percent at a seasonally adjusted annualized pace in the second quarter of 2009, compared with the 6.1 percent drop recorded in the first quarter. Slow, but positive, growth is expected to return by the third quarter, with the economy expanding more than 2 percent in the first half of 2010. One bright spot in today’s economy is consumers seem to be spending […]

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June 17, 2009

Putting People First

As Roy den Hollander describes how Garden State Growers has automated itself in recent years, you can hear a strong sense of compassion for his employees in his voice. At a time when minimum wages, health care and workers’ compensation costs are on most people’s minds, den Hollander is talking about adding conveyors as a means of rewarding his hardest-working employees. Equipment and automation are obviously a great way to shrink your labor force and reduce costs. Garden State, located in Pittstown, N.J., has been able to do both. But as den Hollander ponders automation’s value, he also considers the operation’s automation investment an investment in the loyalest people serving it. Before outdoor conveyors were added at Garden State, den Hollander describes employees lugging 2-gallon perennial containers two at a time into a field hundreds of feet away from the greenhouse. Imagine having to do that task a few hundred […]

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May 27, 2009

Secretary, Not Secretary Of State

Our friends Bill and Tammy Kemper were sharing dinner with us in one of the many fine restaurants in beautiful downtown Athens, and Bill was mentioning how things were going at work. He manages to juggle the requirements of maintaining a large medical center, from procurement to installation of new computer systems, while working with the entire staff.   On perhaps our third glass of wine, Bill talked about the frustrations of trying to interact with the dozens of doctors and staff, each of whom had an opinion and to whom he had to listen. Bill is a take-charge kind of fellow, but when all was said and done, he laughingly said, “I thought I was the Secretary of State but I was really only the secretary.”   That’s a statement we all should laugh about, and one that should remind us to never take our chieftain roles too seriously. I […]

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