January 8, 2013

How The Fiscal Cliff Affects Small Businesses

The congressional bill concerning the fiscal cliff deal received final approval on Jan. 1, 2013, with a 257 to 157 bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives, the American Nursery and Landscape Association (ANLA) reports. A nine-month extension on the 2008 Farm Bill was also inclouded in the deal. The compromise between Democrats and Republicans includes $46 billion in business tax breaks, and the president is expected to sign the bill soon. According to MSN.com, part of the bill includes many temporary tax provisions that will continue through the end of the year, including a research and development tax credit. Through an additional provision, businesses may now also receive 50 percent bonus depreciation, which is essentially a tax credit for half the value of new investments. In the green industry, greenhouses and garden centers benefit from tax breaks for retail store and restaurant improvements and wind power and other alternative […]

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December 3, 2012

The Economy In 2013

Why does the economy feel so fragile even though it continues to be in the midst of a slow but steady expansion? It’s because we did not get the same bounce in growth that has typically followed previous recessions. After the downturn of the mid-1970s and early-1980s, the economy grew at close to 6 percent for two years — erasing all of the economic losses that had occurred. That surge never happened this time; we simply moved into a snail-paced, private sector expansion that has left us wanting more. Despite Trouble Abroad, U.S. Reaches Tipping Point Economic weakness in the euro zone is also not helping the U.S. economy. Problems in Europe have caused the value of the dollar to rise slightly, and weak European demand for imports is having a negative effect on the global economy. The fundamentals of our economy, however, have been trending more favorably in recent […]

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September 25, 2012

Sell More Plants: The 10 Percent Project

If you’ve been paying attention to The Grow Initiative, you know that the Greenhouse Grower team is looking for ways to rejuvenate the industry. The team at Today’s Garden Center, Greenhouse Grower’s sister magazine, has a similar mission. We’ve recruited as many big thinkers as we can to brainstorm ways we can help retailers succeed. The result is the 10% Project, a series of research projects and activities with the goal of increasing garden center plant revenues by 10 percent. Significantly increasing plant sales obviously benefits growers as well. About The 10% Project Why plants? Because plants are the core of garden retail. Depending on the store, plants make up between 60 and 80 percent of annual sales. What happens in that department can make or break a garden retailer. At an ANLA Management Clinic a few years ago, St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa talked about how he […]

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September 18, 2012

The Home Depot’s China Stores Close

The Home Depot is closing its remaining seven big box stores in China, opting to focus on specialty stores and online offerings in that market. The Home Depot will maintain two recently opened specialty stores – a paint and flooring store and a Home Decorators Collection store – and is in the beginning stages of developing relationships with several of China’s leading eCommerce websites, a reflection of Chinese customers’ needs and shopping preferences. The store closings will affect approximately 850 associates, who will receive severance packages and job placement assistance. “Closing stores is always a difficult decision,” says Frank Blake, chairman & CEO, The Home Depot. “We are thankful for the dedicated service of our store associates in China, and we wish them all the best during this transition.” While it is closing its big box stores, The Home Depot is maintaining a new formats team to continue research and […]

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September 5, 2012

Use Production Inputs Wisely

During the Great Recession, I witnessed a cost-centricity like I had never seen before in my nearly four decades of being affiliated with the green industry. By cost-centricity, I am referring to the tendency on the part of growers to reduce costs. After all, there are only two ways to increase profit margins — either increase sales or reduce costs. It’s easier (or at least perceived to be easier) to do the latter. Having grown up in the family nursery business, I know all too well the mentality of shaving every single cent from the value chain that is possible, but this last economic downturn forced us to tighten our belts even further than we had thought possible. Belt-tightening in depressed economic conditions involves reexamining both the demand and supply side of profitability. On the demand side, growers ask what products and how many of each they should be growing […]

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August 2, 2012

The Great Truck Driver Shortage

You probably got into trucking by complete accident. You started growing or brokering plants and all of a sudden, you were in the trucking business too! How did that happen? Don’t worry, you are not alone; I ask myself the same question every day. As with all of the challenges we face each day, except for the drain on cash part, the actual physical trucks aren’t really the problem. No, the real problem is the drivers, or rather, the lack of good ones. There is good reason for this shortage — and it is getting worse. Demographics People are getting older. This seems obvious, but what I mean is that the general population is getting older, and a lot of the good old drivers of the past are retiring or close to retirement. Typically these empty seats would be filled by new drivers entering the market. The problem is, nobody […]

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July 19, 2012

OFA Appoints Charlie Hall, Ph.D. To Chief Economist

OFA’s Board of Directors appointed Charlie Hall, Ph.D. as its chief economist on July 15, 2012. He will work with and represent OFA to provide vision, leadership, analysis and technical competence required to achieve OFA and industry objectives. He is appointed for a two-year term. Charlie Hall is a professor at Texas A&M University and holds the Ellison Endowed Chair in International Floriculture. Dr. Hall’s expertise in the production and marketing of Green Industry crops is nationally recognized in academia and among the horticultural clientele he serves. His major research, teaching and extension areas of specialization include strategic management, market situation/outlook, cost accounting and financial analysis for Green Industry firms. He is an invited speaker at numerous regional, national and international meetings of various industry-related associations and organizations, including OFA events. “We are excited to have Dr. Hall formally recognized as a partner of OFA, and his insight will help […]

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July 9, 2012

Business Transitions And Growing Pains

This is a season of transitions. Being a university professor, the end of the semester brings some degree of reflection regarding the future of these bright minds as they progress onward in their life’s journey to their first career job, summer internship, part-time summer job, etc. It’s a transition period for school kids as well, as moms and dads look to the summers with both dread and excitement. I am reminded of this, having just returned from my oldest grandson’s eighth grade graduation ceremony. Seriously? A ceremony for graduating from the eighth grade? When I finished the eighth grade, the teachers just said get the heck out of here and on to high school! All of these circumstances, of course, are examples of evolving from the big fish in a little pond to the little fish in a bigger pond. Businesses experience this phenomenon too, as they grow from small […]

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June 12, 2012

Groupon Rumored To Test Payment Service

As bank transaction fees continue to rise, many small business owners have turned to PayPal or Square for their primary payment methods. Now, Groupon, the company known for its daily deals on restaurants, beauty salons and more, is reported to be testing a payment service that would make PayPal and Square look pricy. According to Industry Analyst Rocky Agrawal, who wrote a guest post on VentureBeat.com, the new payment offering would charge merchants a 1.8 percent transaction fee and 15 cents per transaction charge for the payments processed through the system. This compares to PayPal Here and VeriFone Sail’s 2.7 percent of purchase fee on all credit and debit card swipes and Square’s 2.75 percent of purchase fee. While Groupon’s service would supposedly charge 2.3 percent for purchases made with American Express cards, this is still less than PayPal and Square, which maintain the same fee for all cards, and […]

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May 29, 2012

Tips To Pay Your Bills On Time

A 2012 small business credit index report confirms that big businesses are taking longer to pay their bills. According to the report conducted by Experian, a company that offers credit reporting and marketing services to consumers and businesses, and Moody Analytics, an analysis, data, forecasting and credit risk management company, businesses with over 1,000 employees have shown the greatest increases in paying bills after the contracted terms. But regardless of size, all businesses have increased in average days beyond terms (DBT) payments over the past year. While small businesses paid less than seven days beyond terms (DBT) in 2011, they are paying nearly eight days past contracted terms in March 2012. Businesses with over 1,000 employees or fewer than nine, however, have seen the greatest jump in late payments over the past year. “One of the things it is important to point out is that DBT has grown over the […]

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April 10, 2012

Ecke Ranch Sells Property In Encinitas, Calif.

Ecke Ranch, the California-based poinsettia and annuals grower, announced the sale of its Encinitas, Calif. property to the Leichtag Foundation on April 6, 2012. The Encinitas property acted as the company’s research and development space, but Ecke has decided the facility would be more efficient on a smaller scale. The revenue from the sale will go toward funding growth and expansion projects in the future. “This is a great business opportunity for Ecke Ranch and a positive benefit for the community. It is a true win-win and we couldn’t be happier,” the company writes in a press release. “This will honor the history of the Encinitas property and its role in the evolution of our business, and we are excited to begin the next era of our growth and innovation.” The Leichtag Foundation, a Carlsbad, Calif.-based non-profit philanthropic organization, plans on using the space to bring about a long-term vision […]

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