As the green goods merchandise managers at Swansons Nursery in Seattle, Wash., Alex LaVilla, Liane Smith and Gabriel Maki share their perspective on ways growers can improve their relationships with retailers.
1 Use available technologies for better consistency and accuracy in ordering and billing. The days of handwritten invoices are over! We need to be able to order, receive acknowledgements very quickly and receive the order in a few days.
2 Be interested in our specific market and how you can be successful partners in serving that market with us. Many growers do not know their own market share and are not knowledgeable of what other growers are offering. Often times, they are all offering the same plants and the only variation from one grower to another is quality, size or price point. The “branded” market is getting so homogenous that it is harder and harder to stand out. The growers could partner better with us on overcoming this and not just follow the corporate trend. Be independent!
3 Emphasize quality and consistency throughout crops. We expect growers to be aware of and honest about the quality and state of maturity of their crop. Be aware of what other growers’ plants are like so you know how yours compare. If we buy 10 items, they should all be of consistent quality, otherwise they shouldn’t be sent.
4 Provide deeper inventories on popular items that are in bloom or sell out quickly.
5 Pre-price and use product-specific UPCs. This is becoming more important. It may be a deciding factor when choosing between two growers of equal quality and similar pricing.
6 Invoice by each plant type rather than with generic blocks such as “premium annual.” It’s helpful for both receiving and data entry at the garden center. We may not group our pricing the way they are at the grower level because we are factoring in costs from several different sources.
7 Realize the days of huge, one-time seasonal pre-orders from growers are long gone. Too often the grower cannot deliver as promised, and often plants need a little more time to fill in. This creates lost sales opportunities for us, and we end up sourcing from others who can deliver a quality product on time.
8 Understand that the faster we can get a plant in, turn around and sell it, the more we can buy from our growers. Also, when the quality is better for the customer, the profitability is better for us and we can sell more. Poor quality does no one any service.
9 Understand all incoming plants must meet our quality standards on the receiving dock. Plants that don’t meet our standards sometimes still get through. Poor-quality plants require excessive labor to remove, put aside and communicate with the grower as far as what to do with them. We can’t afford to continue purchasing from a grower who regularly ships plants that are not up to standard. We need to be able to rely on growers to always send the best plants from an industry-wide standard; not just the grower’s personal standard.
If the plants aren’t up to standards, we don’t want them. We know it costs growers a lot when we reject something. However, some growers don’t quality control their own product enough. A way to alleviate the difference in perception of quality and plant readiness between growers and garden centers is detailed crop notes and/or pictures of crops.
10 Be aware that hot lists are somewhat helpful but often very limited. Hot lists often illustrate items that are also on hot lists from every other grower, and the lists often showcase items that are not in demand from our customer’s perspective.
11 Include actual quantities available on lists. This is very helpful. We need to know we can count on the items we have ordered are going to actually show up. If we assume a plant is available, order 50 and it turns out only four were available after it is too late to order from another source, we have lost sales opportunities.