How To Get The Best Deal By Working With Distributors

Ball carries equipment from both large companies and smaller manufacturers like SB Machinerie.
Ball carries equipment from both large companies and smaller manufacturers like SB Machinerie.

You can do your research online, attend trade shows to see demonstrations and learn about all the new products, and even ask fellow growers about their experiences. But your best bet for finding a good deal on products that meet your needs might be working with your local distributor representative, who sells a wide range of different products and can recommend the best fit for your growing needs.

“The main goal of a distributor rep is to build a long-term relationship by helping customers be as profitable as possible, recommending the right products at the right price,” says Chris Chmura, grower manager for BFG Supply. “Distributor reps are always looking for the best option for grower supplies for each customer’s individual needs, whether it’s about price, quality or packaging, we always want to offer the best value.”

Relationships Make The Deals
A common misconception many growers have is that buying direct from product manufacturers will save money by cutting out the middle man, when distributors actually can offer economies of scale, says Dan Morrissey, construction manager for Griffin Greenhouse Supplies.

“Many growers think if they buy direct from the manufacturer, they get the best price, but that’s not necessarily true,” Morrissey says. “Griffin is a big customer to many vendors, so we’re probably getting a better price than you are getting direct. Let’s say it’s a case of pots you’re buying — Griffin is buying tractor trailers full.”

While buying directly from a product manufacturer can be beneficial and provide valuable information and expertise on a particular product, distributor reps are knowledgeable about all the products they sell, and can offer an objective recommendation, according to Dan McMahon, hardgoods sales manager for Ball Seed.

“Distributor reps typically have the ability to help a customer with their entire operation, whereas direct sales are focused on a small need,” McMahon says. “Plus, working with a distributor rep means a single point of contact for all needs; working direct with a manufacturer means a different sales person for every product a customer buys.”

Depending on where they’re located, growers may regularly work with a preferred distributor and a secondary distributor. And when it comes to making purchases, those relationships might be what help you get the best deals.

“Most distributors are local to their areas, so customers usually already have relationships with them: accounts that are already set up with credit limits and credit status, local truck service, knowledge of the local conditions,” Morrissey says. “I have worked with greenhouse operations over generations, from grandfather to father to son and daughter. I know the family, know the dog, know the children and what school they’re going to. That’s the importance of working with a distributor. That’s what the relationship is about.”

Find The Right (New Or Used) Product
Because distributors work regionally serving many growers, they generally have a good feel for the market and who’s buying and selling equipment in your area. While they’d probably rather you buy new equipment, their knowledge and resources can be invaluable to your operation.

“Distributors are up on current equipment costs and have access to multiple manufacturers of similar-type products, so they may also know where or who might have used equipment for sale,” Chmura says. “If a customer has a specific manufacturer they are looking for, it is much easier for a distributor rep to find used equipment that other customers may be looking to replace for one reason or another.”

Distributors can also provide access to smaller-sized manufacturers of unique or specialized equipment for the greenhouse industry. For instance, Ball Seed partners with S.B. Machinerie, a company that provides compact, economical and high-speed machines designed by an industry professional with years of experience, McMahon says.

“Oftentimes growers feel distributors only work with large companies, but Ball Seed is committed to customer success in all sizes, and builds partnerships with smaller vendors,” he says. “This can translate to better, more focused customer service to your business.”

Plan well in advance for large capital expenditures like structures.
Plan well in advance for large capital expenditures like structures.

Plan Well In Advance For Capital Investments

Structures, heating and irrigation systems and large equipment purchases require advance notice, so start making plans at least a season, if not a year, before you need it.

“Truthfully, growers should begin their preliminary plans about a year ahead on capital investment, although most of the time this is not done,” Morrissey says. “It’s better for everyone involved if enough time is allotted to each step in purchasing big ticket items. Careful planning yields the best results.”

Of course, there are emergency situations, such as weather disasters or fires, but barring those issues and assuming your operation is on track, plan capital expenditures with enough time to allow for contingencies.

“Too often a grower makes a decision to buy and expects it to arrive for use immediately,” McMahon says.

Exploring equipment purchases in advance:
1) Ensures you receive the right machine for your
business needs;
2) Confirms the equipment is in-stock when you need it;
3) Guarantees it will work properly and efficiently.

“This is another benefit for working with a distributor like Ball Seed, which can handle timing, freight claims and tracking, as well as offer trialing programs and guarantees if equipment purchases do not work out.”

Evaluate Your Business Growth Plan
Beyond your immediate equipment needs, it’s important to make educated purchases based on your business plans for three to five years in the future, McMahon says.

“Look for equipment that can grow with you,” he says. “Ask questions about how the new equipment can efficiently work for the way you do business. Educate yourself on the right equipment for your company. Too often a purchase is made that is shortsighted. It can save money and energy in the long run if you evaluate where your company is headed.”

Your distributor rep can help you evaluate those needs, so keep them informed about your plans. Often, distributors receive advanced notice from manufacturers about any special deals coming up, Morrissey says.

Distributor Services Provide Extra Value
Buying equipment is less intimidating through distributors with a flexible trialing program, which eases the purchasing decision to allow growers time to make sure the machine is a good fit for your business.

Most distributors offer financing and credit terms, customized to your operation. This is especially important with fewer banks granting loans to growers. Product delivery through distributor warehouses can reduce shipping costs, as well.

Some distributors have stepped up their service with reduced access to Extension services, due to funding cuts. Reps can access technical support departments for both hard and live goods, adding to their value and improving grower trust and dependence.

It’s in every grower’s best interest to use the resources available. Ask your local distributor representative about these services at your next appointment.

Keys To Successful Purchasing
According to the distributor representatives we talked to for this article, growers can save money by following this checklist:
■ Keep good records of what you’ve purchased in years past.
■ Pool your orders together to save money, get good terms and reduce delivery charges.
■ Make plans at least one year ahead on capital investments to ensure availability and allow for any contingencies.
■ Let suppliers know about your future investment plans and needs, to take advantage of any special deals.
■ Think about how your business will evolve and keep suppliers in the loop to help you choose investments that will meet your needs now, but also as your operation grows.


Leave a Reply

More From Business Management...
Delphinium 'Guardian Lavender' (Kieft Seed)

October 7, 2015

National Garden Bureau Names Four Crops For 2016 “Year Of The” Program

The National Garden Bureau announced four crop selections for its 2016 "Year Of The" program. New this year is the addition of a bulb crop class and a video created especially for the edibles class.

Read More

October 7, 2015

Ball FloraPlant Eliminates Neonicotinoid Use On Its Offshore Cuttings Farms

Ball FloraPlant has announced its offshore cuttings farms did not use neonicotinoid-based pest management chemicals during its spring crop production last shipping season, and will continue to be neonic free this year. Instead, the company and its greenhouse managers have relied on alternative means to supply insect-free cuttings to its global customer base.

Read More
Nemasys And Millenium Beneficial Nematodes from BASFm_Nematodes

October 7, 2015

How BASF’s UK Biological Production Facility Expansion Affects U.S. Growers

BASF has expanded its biologicals production facility in Littlehampton, UK. The new capacity increases the company’s ability to double the production of beneficial nematodes and inoculants.

Read More
Latest Stories
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

October 5, 2015

Smart Business Sense At Tidal Creek Growers Yields Succ…

Tidal Creek Growers stays competitive by focusing on what really turns a profit. It helps the large operation successfully balance contract growing with growing for retail garden centers.

Read More
EPA WPS Standards

October 5, 2015

EPA, Department Of Labor Announce Updated Agriculture W…

More than 20 years after the original standards were developed, the EPA has developed enhanced worker protections that include annual training, minimum age requirements for pesticide handling, mandatory recordkeeping and more.

Read More

October 4, 2015

ePlantSource Adds 5 New Partner Companies

ePlantSource has announced an additional five companies that have been added to its partner distribution list. Not only do the additional partners offer more supplier options to ePlantSource customers, but the website now also provides a more diverse product list with the addition of bulbs, clematis and many new varieties. New partners added for the 2015 – 2016 season: A.D.R. Bulbs Lennon Farm Greenhouses Micandy Gardens Pacific Growers Roseville Farms “We make it a priority to respond to our customers, and we have had many requests for additional options and a more diverse product line, so we are continually evaluating suppliers that work well with our non-traditional approach to the sale of live goods,” says Gary Falkenstein, President and CEO of ePlantSource. “We feel that it is good for our company, our customers and the industry as a whole to keep looking forward and seeing how we can improve and expand how […]

Read More

October 2, 2015

How To Make Your Website More Google-Friendly

During a presentation at Cultivate’15 this past July, Katie Dubow of the Garden Media Group offered several tips on how you can use search engine optimization (SEO) tactics and Google’s search features and updates to your advantage.

Read More
Margery Daughtrey

September 29, 2015

Margery Daughtrey Advises Women In Horticulture To Crea…

As a plant pathologist working with ornamental plant diseases, Margery Daughtrey enjoys helping others understand how to better manage the diseases that impact their crops and is fully dedicated to healthy, robust, disease-free plants.

Read More

September 28, 2015

Filmmakers Release “Field To Vase, The Documentar…

“The Field to Vase Dinner Tour is a series of meals set on flower farms across the country. Each dinner is curated by a local chef and floral designer, highlighting the region’s produce and flowers. This is the story of Santa Cruz, California.” These opening lines introduce “Field to Vase: Santa Cruz,” a new documentary filmed, written and produced by the Los Angeles-based husband-and-wife team, Hyunsoo Moon and Haejung Kim. This past June, Haejung and Moon traveled to Santa Cruz in pursuit of a visual narrative that had captured their creative imaginations. They were enamored with the storytelling potential of the Field to Vase Dinner Tour and wanted to document their observations on film. The result of their efforts is “Field to Vase: Santa Cruz,” a documentary about the American grown flower movement and the people involved in the floral renaissance that is taking place on farms and in flower […]

Read More
Janeen Wright

September 25, 2015

Benchmarks: People Make The Difference In The Horticult…

The people behind the plants keep our industry moving forward in the right direction.

Read More
Gerbera Revolution Series (Kieft Seed)

September 23, 2015

Join SAF And Other Growers To #PetalItForward And Sprea…

Next month, the Society of American Florists (SAF) will tap into the popularity of random acts of kindness with its latest public relations campaign, "Petal It Forward." Find out how you can join SAF and other growers to take part in this campaign and spread happiness with the power of flowers.

Read More

September 23, 2015

Cultivate’15 Session Reveals How To Attract Young…

A dynamic discussion during Cultivate’15 between growers, horticulture professors and both current students and recent graduates, provided some insight on how grower operations can attract the next generation of growers, and what’s important to make them stay once you hire them. The session, “Attracting the Next Generation of Industry Professionals,” featured a panel including Dr. Peg McMahon of The Ohio State University’s Horticulture and Crop Science Department, Dr. Marvin Miller of Ball Horticultural Co., Dr. Brian Jackson from North Carolina State University’s Department of Horticulture, Lloyd Traven of Peace Tree Farm, Douglas Schuster of Kingwood Center and Courtney Crawford of Millcreek Gardens. The preface for the session is something many industry professionals have lamented for years now — enrollment in college horticulture programs is dropping, and university programs are losing funds or disappearing. Much of this may be attributed to the perception among potential students and their parents that horticulture means […]

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
Retailers declined a coupon deal for hanging baskets because of timing

September 19, 2015

Retailer To Grower: Why Aren’t Garden Stores Letting Gr…

Have you ever sat around at a family gathering and heard someone recount a story from your childhood, except knowing your own version of the story, it’s something that casts an entirely new light on everything you think you experienced? It seems like that dynamic happens a lot between growers and retailers. Both sides know the same story, but each version is so different, it’s like two unconnected stories. This came to mind when I was talking with a regional grower, Elmer Grosser, who owns Cincinnati-based Diefenbacher Greenhouses. The operation serves about 50 customers — an even mix of local garden stores and landscapers. Grosser first came to my attention last fall, when one of his customers, Chris McKeown of Bloomin’ Garden Centre, told me I needed to call Grosser, because he was a great example of a grower who cares about retail. When Grosser and I connected, he was […]

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
Laura Drotleff

September 14, 2015

Develop New Growers In Your Own Backyard [Opinion]

One of the greatest parts of my job is having the opportunity to honor ingenuity in breeding, marketing and innovative growing in this industry at Greenhouse Grower’s Evening Of Excellence, a premier event held during Cultivate in July. The work leading up to the event is just as rewarding, from attending California Spring Trials to see all of the beautiful new varieties released to the marketplace to inspire consumers and solve problems for growers, to selecting the best of the best varieties for Medal Of Excellence In Breeding Awards. I humbly learn about and choose the Marketing and Industry Achievement Awards through industry nominations, and serve as a member of the selection panel for the Grower Of The Year Awards, on which we review nominations from people across the industry about creative, hardworking, dedicated operations and individuals who not only love their work but also live it. The Evening Of […]

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
Head Grower Of The Year winner Tom Wheeler (middle) from Bell Nursery with Editor Laura Drotleff and Joe Lara of BASF, the sponsor of the Grower of the Year program

September 9, 2015

Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Evening Of Excell…

The Medal of Excellence and Grower of the Year winners honored at Greenhouse Grower’s Evening of Excellence held at Cultivate’15, are the very definition of excellence and hold the standard high for our industry in growing, breeding and marketing.

Read More
Cannabis marijuana

September 8, 2015

Supplemental Lighting Benefits For Growing Cannabis In …

The cannabis industry has moved out of the basement and into the light, and with this shift in politics and regulation occurring worldwide there is a need for growers to change the way they think about lighting and energy consumption.

Read More