Know Your Customer Before You Sell

Ron Vanderhoff

The general manager at Roger’s Gardens in Corona Del Mar, Calif., weighs in on the factors that make a greenhouse grower an elite vendor.

GG: As an independent garden center retailer, what factors make a grower-retailer relationship extraordinary?

RV: To have a long-term, sustainable relationship all three parties must gain significant benefit from the arrangement. Unfortunately, many companies approach with a hidden win-lose agenda. We think everyone needs to win.

In a retail business these parties are the shopper, the vendor and the retailer. All need to benefit. If even one of the three is subsidizing the others, the relationship will ultimately dissolve.

We maintain a relationship of integrity with all of our vendors. We do what we say we are going to do. It sounds simple, but it’s not. We are upfront and honest at all times–good or bad. We also pay our bills –and on time. That’s part of integrity too.

These beliefs apply to all of our vendors, but with a handful of our vendors we take the relationship to a higher level. We have a true partnership with these vendors. The “partnership” term is tossed around rather loosely in business, but with a few companies we transcend a normal buyer-vendor relationship.

GG: In what areas do growers need to improve how they do business with you?

RV: First, growers need to learn about their customers. Just like our customers, the retail market place has fragmented considerably. A one-approach-fits-all way of doing business no longer works.

Before making a product offering, learn who we are, what our mission statement is, who our customers are, what our product and brand strategies are, what our margin needs are and so on.

We all receive countless catalogs and pricelists each year, most of which a buyer thumbs through in less than a minute and then tosses either into a pile or into the trash. If the vendor learned about us and presented a focused proposal for us to stock those 10 or 20 that are a fit for us, we might have done some business.

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