April 3, 2013

Garden Retail Marketing Plans That Connect With Today’s Consumer

Greenhouse Grower’s sister publication, Today’s Garden Center, gathered a group of retailers, growers and other retail suppliers in the summer of 2012 to discuss where they would like to see the industry in five years and what we need to do to get there. The key issues the group identified became the focus of the 10% Project, a series of research projects and case studies Today’s Garden Center is commissioning to help the retailers grow their sales by 10 percent. One of the greatest challenges the group identified is a shrinking consumer base. Our core customers, Baby Boomers, are aging themselves out of the market. So the first 10% Project of 2013 has a modest goal — identify the likeliest potential customers and lure them into garden centers. Today’s Garden Center Editor Carol Miller recruited Dr. Bridget Behe of Michigan State University and Dr. Susan Hogan of Emory University to […]

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March 26, 2013

Promoting The Benefits Of Plants

Is there any company in the green industry, from liner producers to retailers, suppliers and all points in between, that has experienced expansive growth in the last few years? Not likely. Sure, the recent economic downturn has affected many industries, but ours has suffered more than most. Not only have the primary drivers (commercial landscaping and housing starts) withered, but our customer base has shrunk and our products are becoming increasingly irrelevant. The Baby Boomers, who were our bread and butter, have landscaped their now-empty nests and are not digging many more holes. The younger generations have failed to embrace the joy of creating park-like settings in their yards and are, for the most part, completely ignorant about plants. They see plants every day, but they don’t know their names and can’t distinguish one from another, so they remain strictly in the background. While most recognize beauty in plants, they […]

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February 11, 2013

Help Congress Help The Industry At Society Of American Florists’ Congressional Action Days

Every spring for the past 32 years, growers, florists and wholesalers have participated in the Society of American Florists’ annual Congressional Action Days (CAD). This year, March 11 and 12, SAF’s 33rd Annual CAD will bring the industry’s voice to Washington once again to tell representatives and senators what’s important to floral businesses. Members of Congress may think they know what’s important to business owners, but they don’t know the floral industry until the industry speaks up. Research has shown that undecided lawmakers getting ready to a vote give the most weight to the views of constituents who have visited their office in Washington. “This is an exciting time to be part of grassroots action in Washington,” says SAF Government Relations Chairman Marvin Miller. “I strongly encourage everyone to take advantage of the opportunity to really make a difference for our industry.” As the 113th Congress gets settled in, the […]

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February 8, 2013

The State Of Labor In The Greenhouse Industry

Ask any grower for thoughts on the state of labor today and you are bound to get an earful. While some people blame government crackdowns on immigration, others point the finger at lazy, over privileged Americans who would prefer not to get their hands dirty. But, there is one thing everyone agrees on: It isn’t getting any better. Although organizations like the American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA) and Society of American Florists (SAF) lobby year after year in favor of reforms to make it easier to hire foreign-born workers, the process is a slow one, and growers can’t afford to be shorthanded during peak production times. Some companies have implemented mechanization or automation to fill their employee gaps and lower payroll costs. Technology presents a viable option for those able to achieve a timely return on investment; however, it is easy to overinvest and rack up unnecessary debt. Operations […]

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Carole Barton

February 7, 2013

Prepare Your Greenhouse Operation For Potential Immigration Changes

Immigration is once again in the national news as bipartisan efforts to address the issue are suddenly a priority in Washington. No matter what direction a potential agreement takes, chances are that greenhouse and nursery businesses will be impacted in some fashion. That was certainly the case during the last significant round of immigration legislation at the state level following the 2010 elections. Alabama, for example, passed regulations in 2011 that mandated strict enforcement of immigration standards and required employers to use the eVerify program to ensure the legal status of prospective employees. We spoke with Carole Barton, co-owner of Barton’s Greenhouse and Nursery in Alabaster, Ala., who adapted to the new regulations in late 2011 and 2012. She described how they managed through the changes and offered some advice for other growers who might find themselves in a similar situation. GG: When we met at Greenhouse Grower’s GROW Summit […]

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Richard Jones

February 7, 2013

Make Your Vendor A Partner

I spent a few hours this week reading through the responses to Greenhouse Grower’s 2013 State of the Industry report for a project I’m working on. As always, our survey had a series of in-depth questions specifically for growers. But this year, we also polled your vendors to get a better perspective on where their segments of the market stand. Some of the most interesting responses came when we questioned growers and suppliers about each other. We asked the suppliers, “What would you like growers to do that would improve profitability for both them and your company?” And we asked growers, “Besides lowering prices, what could vendors/suppliers/distributors be doing to improve your profitability?” The responses to both questions were (mostly) calm, well-reasoned and thoughtful, and taken together, reveal some opportunities for both sides to work together better. Suppliers, for example, offered growers sound business advice on product levels, mix and […]

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February 5, 2013

Why Parks Brothers Farm’s Jason Parks Uses Social Media

Why use social media? Communicating with others online can be a powerful tool for marketing your products, but Jason Parks of Parks Brothers Farm also uses it to keep up-to-date on the world outside the greenhouse. Here’s an inside look at who he communicates with over social media and why. 1. Why use social media?  JP: The best reason to use social media is so you can converse with people in your networks who are customers, potential customers, competitors and trolls (look it up). We use social media as a communication tool that has customer service, advertising and sales benefits depending on who you are talking to and how you are conversing with them. Customers and consumers want to talk to the people who make or grow the products they buy. They want to be able to get on their computer or smartphone and communicate with someone who is involved […]

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January 31, 2013

The Art Of Selling: How To Think Like A Consultant

Forget about your needs like sales quotas, commission and sales incentives and serve your customers the way a consultant would. Focus on three things: Helping your customer make money Helping your customer save money Making your customer more competitive If you concentrate on these areas, your sales and income will increase. You will be viewed as a very successful professional.  It’s all about the customer and his issues, not about yours and your company’s. Helping the customer succeed by continually identifying problems and providing solutions will ultimately gain you the status of a trusted consultant. How do you get to the place where your customers consider you a trusted consultant? Ask and listen. Always interview the customer on every call and listen intently before forming any opinions. Be sure to take notes. Ask questions about specific major crops. For example, say something like, “Joe, tell me about your geranium program?  […]

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January 31, 2013

Two Steps To Hiring Future Growers

When looking ahead to the future of greenhouse operations, one issue that concerns me is that of trained grower managers. To play off one of the most overused terms from late 2012, I believe that we are facing a “growers cliff.” The History Of The Grower Shortage Not to age myself more than necessary, but I do remember the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s when students were graduating from universities trained in greenhouse operations. The numbers of students were growing at such a level that all growing operations’ needs could be filled. In the dawn of the new millennium, however, the situation began to change rather dramatically. Between the tech boom, multiple economic downturns, increasing college costs and low starting-pay levels, we are encountering an overall lack of interest in the profession.  As a result, there seem to be fewer and fewer students graduating each year with an education based on […]

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January 31, 2013

2013 Could Be The Turnaround Year

The Great Recession began more than five years ago now (December 2007). It also ended more than three and a half years ago (June 2009). Yet some 12 million Americans are still looking for a job, and millions more would say it hasn’t felt like much of a recovery at all, including folks who have seen their incomes stall or have been drowning in mortgage debt for years. Since the start of 2010, economic growth has averaged 2.2 percent, which would be just fine in normal times but is less than stellar considering the starting point was a time of mass unemployment and general economic despair. The nation is poised to approach the fourth anniversary of economic recovery this coming June with an output gap — the difference between what the economy is capable of producing and what it is actually producing — approaching $1 trillion.   It will take […]

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January 29, 2013

Targeted Plant Selection Creates Better Sell-Through

Advances in technology and better understanding of the dynamics of consumer sales at the retail level are changing the way growers decide what plants to grow. “I think we are learning that a lot of what we as growers thought were good plants for us may not necessarily be the best for our specific situations,” says Tim Brindley, president of Stacy’s Greenhouses in York, S.C “We used to looked at that differently. My favorite plant was always Dianthus ‘Firewitch.’ It had flowers. It was short. It was easy to grow. It didn’t get diseases. And I could put a lot on the carts. I liked it because it was easy and efficient for me. That’s not the way we look at plant selection anymore.” Today, he focuses on what plants will be successful for consumers and for Stacy’s customers. “We look at what is best for the consumer — what […]

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