Plant Availability: Bridging The Grower-Retailer Gap

Availability of live goods is a moving target. It means growers have to know what retailers will request at any point though the short gardening season and be able to deliver while consumer demand is still strong.

Of course, growers would like all live goods orders to be booked well in advance, while many retailers are moving to a lean inventory model ooking to buy on a just-in-time basis.

When it comes down to it, serving the consumer is what will make both growers and retailers successful. So how are growers and retailers working together to make the right inventory available at the right time?

The Consumer Is A Step Ahead Of You

Between the internet and consumer gardening magazines, it’s easier than ever for consumers to get a peek up the supply chain, into the plant breeders’ gameplan for the future. Many times, customers come looking for plants that haven’t been tested or aren’t right for the region, says Jason Parks of grower-retailer Parks Brothers Farm. And it wreaks havoc on what consumers are expecting to see at retail.

“It’s always a crapshoot on whether the grower will have what the garden center needs to supply and what the consumer has asked for because the plants were advertised to the consumer first,” he says.

So how can growers and retailers stay ahead of the information game? Consumer success really boils down to plants that are successful, Parks says growers and garden centers need to pay attention to trials in their regions and, one step beyond that, garden centers should supply locally or regionally grown plants.

Having a voice and being considered an expert can counter what gardeners hear from other sources. Growers who supply a local region can help their retail customers achieve this goal.

If growers and retailers worked more like the fashion industry, setting well-defined trends rather than trying to follow them, customers would always be able to find the inventory they’re looking for, Parks says.

Having a prebooked plan in place gives retailers the opportunity to build a mindful advertising and marketing campaign around live goods that are ordered, says Glenn Andersen of Nordic Plants.

“We often create unique packaging ideas for our customers and have found that offering selling tools such as mannequin plants or poster boards really helps sell plants,” he says. Collaborating on packaging, point of purchase materials, merchandising and display ideas with retailers can give growers an edge.

“The real challenge is coming up with strong new ideas each year to keep the excitement going,” Andersen says.

How To Determine What You Grow

Growers are using a few different approaches to determine what to grow and how to sell to make their products attractive to retailers, while protecting themselves against being stuck holding inventory.

To make prebooking more enticing to retailers, Nordic Plants offers a booking price that is below availability pricing, usually in the 5 to 15 percent range, Andersen says. And booked orders are always honored before availability orders.

The grower also builds in a bit of leeway on delivery date, offering flexibility to both grower and retailer.

“If it is a week 18 booking, the plants can ship either week 17, 18 or 19,” Andersen says. “Either the retailer can move it one week or we can if the crop is ready early or is delayed. For the retailer, if it has rained all week they can hold off taking product for an extra week. But it has to ship the following week if plants are ready.”

Anderson adds that if Nordic Plants doesn’t have the order ready to ship one week later, the retailer has the option to cancel the order. This flexibility is helpful to both the grower and its retail customers.

“It is important to set some parameters but always keep in mind that it must work for the customer or they won’t reorder,” he says. To encourage prebooking, new programs are always offered as booking programs first, and Nordic tries to differentiate booked items between different retail buying groups, keeping some exclusivity between them and a unique look for retailers.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

Parks Brothers Farm still grows a lot on spec, and the operation determines production based on historical sales. Parks Brothers also accounts for a percentage increase based on factors like the economy and expected growth or loss of market share. Once those numbers are calculated, booked orders are added on top of spec.

Working predominately with independent garden centers, Parks says there isn’t much choice but to grow on spec.

Ideally, though, he says growers and retailers should share planning and risk, truly working together and counting on each other.

“When the relationships reach that level, then the growers and retailers can begin to plan and execute promotions, share in the marketing and work together to build demand,” he says. “There are huge opportunities for custom programs and promotions that retailers could be doing if they work with their suppliers.”

In addition to numbers that growers have, retailers’ point of sale (POS) systems could be another tool growers use to help the retailer make accurate prebooking orders and for growers to get an idea of what to grow on spec. Reports from POS systems (or whatever format sales information is recorded) are a gold mine of content for retailers and could be for growers, as well. Growers can help retailers interpret the data and use it to plan for the next season.

Tough On Inventory

With a nickname like the serial inventory slasher, you might think of Gail Vanik and her Four Seasons Garden Center as a retailer that follows a just-in-time model, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Vanik says she got tough on inventory in 2011, reducing inventory and ordering a minimal amount during the season. How has her ordering been so accurate? Through careful analysis of POS data, which can drill down to how many of each size container were sold by month, week, day or even hour. This type of analysis changed Four Seasons’product mix.

At the end of the 2010 season, Four Seasons held $15,000 in perennial inventory. Since using POS data to decide what to keep in stock, Four Seasons only held $1,000 in perennials inventory at the end of the 2011 season. Using this model, Vanik is able to place 90 to 95 percent of her live goods orders in October, only ordering about 5 percent as backup during the season. While Four Seasons is a grower/retailer, Vanik says retailers could probably prebook most, if not all, orders in October if they needed to.

It’s the power of POS data, which reveals some assumptions Four Seasons was making were actually inaccurate.

“We always thought we sold more tomatoes in 2 1/2 inch pots than six packs, but no, we saw we needed to change what we were growing,” Vanik says. “We had the same perception for 12-inch baskets versus 10-inch baskets.”

How About Talking Directly To Consumers?

Without a doubt, if retailers could pick the sure bet — which plant would be sure to sell—prebooking orders would be easy. It’s impossible to know for sure what will sell, but retailers who are more connected with their customers have a better shot at it.

Besides crunching the numbers, Vanik says she also offers samples that she receives from breeders to her best customers to trial at home. “It’s the only way to really find out what home performance will be,” she says.

While Parks says communicating with retailers through social media hasn’t been a great success, it seems to work with consumers.

“This past spring, I could post a picture of a particular basket or plant on our Facebook page on Friday and that plant would sell all weekend long,” he says. “When I was doing a morning news gardening segment, every plant I talked about sold that weekend. All we have to do is show them the plants and tell them how to succeed, and the consumer buys the plants.”

Leave a Reply

More From Grow Initiative...
Begonia 'BabyWing Red' (2015 Louisiana State University Field Trials)

November 27, 2015

2015 Louisiana State University (Hammond, La.) Field Trials Results

See the 2015 field trials results (includes photo gallery) for Louisiana State University in Hammond, La.

Read More
Cape Fear Botanical Garden

November 27, 2015

National Garden Bureau Awards Grants To Three Therapeutic Gardens

The grants, totaling $10,000, are through the organization’s Growing For Futures program, which supports the growth of therapeutic gardens across the country.

Read More

November 26, 2015

2015 Metrolina Greenhouses (Huntersville, NC) Field Trials Results

See the 2015 field trials results for Metrolina Greenhouses in Huntersville, NC.

Read More
Latest Stories
Giving Tuesday

November 24, 2015

Giving Tuesday On December 1 Is An Opportunity For The …

Organizations such as American Floral Endowment and others are encouraging industry members to participate in the generous spirit of the holiday season.

Read More
Random Acts Of Flowers

November 24, 2015

Random Acts Of Flowers Partners With FTD And Pro Flower…

The organization, which recycles and repurposes flowers with a volunteer team that delivers bouquets to health care facilities across the country, made its 100,000th delivery to a health care facility in Chicago.

Read More
Kate Santos Operations Director Dummen Orange

November 18, 2015

Kate Santos Presents New Opportunities For The Horticul…

Dr. Kate Santos is a scientist, an artist, an advocate, a traveler, a dreamer, a visionary and a go-getter. Well-known for her work managing Dümmen Orange as Operations Director, Santos has taken on a new role as co-founder of Luxflora, an organization for women in horticulture.

Read More
Bell Nursery reaches out by supporting projects that help children connect with plants

November 12, 2015

Bell Nursery Is An Advocate For Outreach In Its Communi…

In a heavily regulated society, growing relationships is just as important to our industry as growing beautiful flowers. In environmentally sensitive states like Maryland, outreach has become mandatory, says Bell Nursery’s Gary Mangum.

Read More
Dave Armstrong Sakata Holding Corp.

November 5, 2015

Why Lobbying For Plant Breeding Is Important

Horticulture industry members who take the opportunity to advise Washington legislators on agricultural policy will find a surprisingly receptive audience.

Read More
GrowIt! App Wins Gold At Design100 2014 US Mobile & App Design Awards

November 3, 2015

GrowIt! Announces Its 2015-2016 Plantastic Idea Scholar…

In 2014, GrowIt! was founded by two aspiring young horticulture professionals, Mason Day and Seth Reed. Their goal was to inspire more people to engage with plants in their daily lives. In the past year, more than 50,000 people have signed up for GrowIt!, using the app to find plants that will work well in their areas. With the app’s help, they have identified mystery plants identified and even made friends with other plant lovers around them. GrowIt! founders say their vision is coming true, and now they want to know about other young professionals’ ideas. GrowIt! announces the 2015/16 Plantastic Idea Scholarship, giving $1000 to three students. Reed and Day want to promote young minds that have big ideas in the world of plants. “Maybe as a student you want to work to promote high school horticulture programs around the nation,” the GrowIt! founders said in a press release. […]

Read More
AFE Scholarship

November 2, 2015

American Floral Endowment Awards Scholarships To 17 Flo…

The American Floral Endowment recently awarded scholarships totaling more than $37,000 to 17 undergraduate and graduate students across the country. The scholarships are intended for students pursuing degrees in floriculture and horticultural fields.

Read More
American Floral Endowment Emerging Leaders

October 23, 2015

American Floral Endowment Develops New Floriculture Bus…

The program offers a chance for floriculture companies to host an intern and help enthusiastic students contribute to both the organization and the floral industry.

Read More
A Modern Take On The Classic Garden Party

October 21, 2015

PlantNite Offers A Modern Take On The Classic Garden Pa…

PlantNite is a company that brings plants to the people by organizing 2-hour social events in local bars and restaurants.

Read More

October 21, 2015

Dümmen Orange Creates Fashion With Flowers At Fashion W…

As a feature sponsor for Fashion Week Columbus in Ohio, Dümmen Orange North America made a statement with its flower genetics in the spotlight. This was the first time Dümmen Orange partnered with Fashion Week Columbus in its 2015 events, held the week of October 3-10, 2015. Fashion Week Columbus is a non-profit organization showcasing local and emerging fashion designers while providing scholarships to fashion design students. Each year, Fashion Week Columbus hosts a week of fashion-related events to feature local talent in the Columbus, Ohio area. “A leader in the floriculture industry, Dümmen Orange is committed to breeding, distributing and promoting superior flower genetics,” says Dümmen Orange Operations Manager Kate Santos. “To do this, we strive to be in touch with contemporaries in the lifestyle industries. A large focus of this mission is to translate trends from fashion.” With more than 500 working fashion designers in the Columbus market, […]

Read More
Stephanie Whitehouse-Barlow, Peace Tree Farm

October 6, 2015

Generation Y’s Reluctance To Garden Linked To Fea…

The Rookie Gardener is easily spotted at a garden center by her nervous and unsure energy that’s as glaring as a scarlet letter, or by his exuberant, self-assured confidence that is only otherwise seen at a college fraternity party. They are our industry’s enigma, our Kryptonite, the treasure chest we cannot open. The Rookie Gardener’s reluctance to garden isn’t from our industry’s lack of targeted marketing or encouragement but from Millennials’ Fear of Failure (FOF). It is obvious that failure is a part of life, but we as a generation have been programmed to not expect or accept failure. Since early childhood, we were encouraged to always win, to do our absolute best at school every day, to beat the competition. “Focused on getting the grades or winning the game, these children have internalized the pressure, (which) paralyzes kids in their ability to take risks,” writes Holly Korbey in an […]

Read More

October 6, 2015

NASA Scientists To Discuss Indoor Agriculture Innovatio…

The University of Arizona’s Controlled Environmental Agriculture Center (CEAC) will host Dr. Jacklyn Green, CEO and founder of Agate Biosciences, and Dr. Roger Kern, president and founder of Agate Biosciences: Science & Systems Engineering, on October 30, as part of its seminar series. Both Green and Kern are former NASA scientists and engineers, and they will discuss their continuing efforts to develop technology and seek innovations to address issues concerning urban indoor agriculture, with a potential for application on Mars. Through the creation of Agate Biosciences LLC, Kern and Green have turned their attention to earth-bound issues of food production, to provide advanced technologies for plant nutrition, biosecurity and the undertaking of scientifically based research in greenhouse design and controls systems, and in plant health under controlled environment agriculture. A recent NASA news release reports that the Mars Rover 2020 mission is planned to deliver an extensive array of instruments designed to explore the habitability […]

Read More
Rebecca Lusk

September 22, 2015

Trailblazer Rebecca Lusk Of Luxflora And Dümmen Orange …

Rebecca Lusk of Luxflora and Dümmen Orange is no stranger to breaking new ground, whether it's in her own company or in forming an organization that gives women in horticulture a united voice.

Read More

September 14, 2015

Smith Gardens Is Developing Growers With A New Initiati…

Finding enough qualified growers has long been a problem in the industry, but it’s one that Smith Gardens is working to solve, at least locally. The operation, which ranks No. 22 on Greenhouse Grower‘s Top 100 Growers list, is the largest in the Pacific Northwest, and spans more than 50 acres of greenhouses and 50 acres of field growing over four locations in Washington, Oregon and California. As a 112-year-old family business that recognizes the need to invest in its future, Smith Gardens has made its Cultivating The Future initiative a corporate priority to attract young people to careers in the horticulture industry. Don Spence, the production manager at Smith Gardens’ Aurora, Ore., location, started working with local schools years ago. The operation expanded its program to local community colleges, and this year Smith Gardens worked with the American Floral Endowment to set up an internship program, and hosted an […]

Read More
Smartphones may influence kids’ decisions about food

September 12, 2015

To Understand Your Next Consumers, Look Beyond Millenni…

There seems to be a constant stream of content in the media about Millennials and their habits and characteristics, particularly as consumers. But, what if they’re not the ones to be focusing on? A recent article in Food Business News is saying that they’re not. Instead, it suggests shifting the focus to the next generation. The article states that, according to bestselling author Matt Walsh, the most disruptive group of future food consumers was born in 2007. With gardening consumers becoming increasingly interested growing their own food, changes to the food industry will likely impact the horticulture industry, as well. “If you understand how an 8-year-old thinks, you’re a long way toward really understanding a transformative change in consumer behavior,” says Walsh, CEO of innovation research lab Tomorrow, during a July 13 presentation at the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition in Chicago. When an 8-year-old makes […]

Read More

September 2, 2015

Delegation Is Key To A Successful Greenhouse Operation

In a packed room at Cultivate’15, speaker Bernie Erven presented key steps growers need to take to improve their delegation skills, the benefits of delegating and the dangers of not learning how to delegate. This is a skill, he says, that everyone needs to learn. “For all of you who are part of a family business, you are choosing not to do things the easy way,” Erven laughed, as he presented a list of ways to know whether or not you’re an effective delegator. The owner of Erven HR Services, LLC, Erven has been working with and observing family businesses for many years. In his presentation, he said, he didn’t share anything that he hasn’t seen first-hand. You might not be a good delegator if you: Tend to be a perfectionist Work more hours than anyone else Lack time to explain clearly and concisely Are often interrupted Enjoy what you used to […]

Read More
Marc van Iersel

September 1, 2015

GROwing Floriculture Research And Extension

Research and outreach efforts help keep floriculture production profitable. With seemingly continuous budget cuts to university and federal budgets, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to sustain their programs and to keep making a positive impact on the industry. So what can be done to ensure that the industry will keep getting the research and outreach support it has come to rely on? There already is a variety of funding programs that support research and Extension programs in our industry. This funding is critical for many floriculture research and outreach programs. What can we do to leverage that funding and make sure it has the biggest possible impact? A program that I was part of in 2010 may serve as a model. LAUNCH was co-founded by NASA, NIKE, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of State as a program to help make innovative ideas become a […]

Read More
september_grow_rodale institute

August 25, 2015

Hospitals Are Getting Into The Organic Food Business

Growers investing in the organic food movement could serve a growing new area with vegetable transplants and starts, as well as produce, as hospitals begin to prescribe healthy diets and nutrition, and even go so far as to grow their own food. As part of a new phenomenon among progressive hospitals, health professionals are beginning to realize that without health and nutrition, programs and techniques may be done in vain or worse — obsolete. As more patients seeking a healthy diet turn to nutritionists, who recommend sugar-free, alkaline diets to prevent disease and aid in recovery, hospitals recognizing this trend are taking action. St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem, Pa., recently contracted with the nearby Rodale Institute to manage an organic farm, established in 2014. The hospital, part of a six-campus network, aims to provide excellent healthcare, part of which includes educating patients about the benefits of a plant-based, organic diet. […]

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]