Friedli: Box Stores Improved But IGCs Still Have Unique Value Proposition

Friedli: Box Stores Improved But IGCs Still Have Unique Value Proposition

The big box versus independent garden center debate continues this week with a letter from Erik Friedli, who currently serves Flamingo Road Nursery as its merchandise manager and buyer but spent a year working at Lowe’s to gain insight into their strategy.

I’ve worked at some of the largest and best known garden centers in the country for more than 20 years, but I also worked at Lowe’s for a year as an outside garden department manager and live nursery specialist. Our industry always talks about “the box,” and I figured what better way to learn what they are about than from the inside.
I was working at a high-end garden center when “the box” came to town. At first, we had no idea what to expect. It didn’t take long to find out, though. “The box” drove more traffic into our store. Customers would tell us the plant quality was horrific unless they grabbed it right off the truck. They would tell us nobody could answer even the most basic questions. And the selection was meager and the sizes were small. Our fears were alleviated.
But that was 15 years ago. “The box” has changed since then. Today, “the box” offers a much-expanded selection of plants, including branded programs and fashion. The plants are well tagged, signed and even incorporate QR codes for those who want to learn even more before making a purchase. Their people are much better trained, qualified and maintain the areas very well. “The box” heard its customers, and it responded.

Independents should not fear “the box,” though. We have grown, too! We’ve joined each other in buying groups. We have outstanding trade organizations, consultants, trade shows, networking opportunities and a multitude of ideas and data at our fingertips. And we offer something “the box” can never offer: experience.
As a visual merchandiser, I know emotion is my best weapon to drive sales. If I can build a display that creates an emotional response, then people want to bring a part of that home with them. Displays do not translate well into cookie cutter, plan-o-grammed spaces. Displays are fluid, convey a story and change with the frequency of our best customers. Good displays strategically placed can lead people through a space like a sugar trail, prolong their experience and expose them to more of our offerings. Our displays make people say, “You always have something new and different.”
Another thing independents have over “the box” is grand. “The box” treats everything as a commodity, and it cannot devote space to oversized fountains, pottery, statuary and unique garden accessories, décor and outdoor living. Some Independents make the mistake of calling these items “froo froo.” At our garden center, they represent more than 40 percent of overall sales.
Many garden centers, ourselves included, have stretched the boundaries of “garden” to include farmers’ markets and have set aside space for permanent display gardens and idea gardens. We offer seminars, workshops, children activities areas, festivals and rewards programs. These all expand and add to the experience. And they promote us as an active member of our community.
I think where some of us go astray is when we focus solely on what makes us unique. Are we a garden center or a garden boutique? Not every customer has the time or desire to wander our grounds for hours or hunt for basic items. Layout needs to be simple. And customers more than ever demand value. Loss leaders need to be prominently displayed throughout. And we need to accept lower margin on some commodities and make up the difference with blind Items.

We should not not sell something because we cannot compete on price. If the customer cannot find it in our garden center, then we force them to get it elsewhere. And the next time they need something, they might think of them first.
I would love to see the day independents stopped even talking about “the box.” Innovation, design, “new” and “wow” will never come from them. Instead, we should be looking at other specialty retailers for ideas. Those are our real competition, after all.

Leave a Reply

3 comments on “Friedli: Box Stores Improved But IGCs Still Have Unique Value Proposition

  1. Thank you!! As an IGC owner, I’m so tired of hearing others obsess about the box stores. Many of my customers don’t shop the boxes because they want the benefits you’ve laid out — the kinds of benefits I offer at my store!

  2. Great ideas !
    As a grower sales representative to independent garden centers I am going to carry copies of this article and present it to whiners about box store competition.
    Change or die in retail

More From Marketing...
Vinca 'Valiant Lilac' (2015 Texas A&M University Field Trials)

November 25, 2015

2015 Texas A&M University (Overton, Texas) Field Trials Results

See the 2015 field trials results (includes photo gallery) for Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Overton, Texas.

Read More
Capsicum 'Basket of Fire' (2015 University of Georgia Field Trials)

November 25, 2015

2015 University Of Georgia (Athens, Ga.) Field Trials Results

See the 2015 field trials results (includes photo gallery) for the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga.

Read More

November 25, 2015

Everything You Need To Know About the New England GROWS Conference

Held In Boston December 2-4, New England GROWS includes a comprehensive conference program, a trade show, and with six special programs that teach new skills and provide opportunities to network with colleagues.

Read More
Latest Stories

November 23, 2015

Content Marketing: Buzzword Or Here To Stay?

A solid content marketing strategy provides valuable information that educates your consumers and builds trust.

Read More
Gotham Greens Chicago Rooftop Greenhouse

November 23, 2015

Gotham Greens Expands Into Chicago With New Rooftop Gre…

Touted as the world’s largest rooftop greenhouse, the company’s fourth facility is its first outside of New York and will produce nearly 10 million annual crops of local, premium-quality leafy greens and herbs.

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

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

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
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
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
eMailMarketing feature image

July 23, 2015

Is eMail Dead?

Email as a marketing technique may seem outdated, but when done well, it is still an effective way to share content and market your brand.

Read More

July 22, 2015

Cultivate’15: Keynote Nancy Fire Says Use Passion…

In the second keynote presentation at Cultivate’15, Nancy Fire, founder and creative director of Design Works International, discussed how the horticulture industry can capitalize on the latest design and lifestyle trends. Fire works with companies to help bring their designs to the next level, and she has expertise with textiles and surface design, market analysis and corporate rebranding. She was appointed as design director for HGTV HOME in 2011. Fire says customers today are interested in companies that show passion for what they do. That, combined with following the general direction of trends and maintaining a brand, are what will keep horticulture businesses relevant to their customers. A trend isn’t just a passing fad, Fire says, but rather, it indicates that something is developing or changing in a certain direction. Plants are important to consumers today, and fit into current trends, both inside and outside the home, Fire says. “I don’t […]

Read More
LuxFlora logo feature image

July 21, 2015

Luxflora Launches With Cultivate Speaker Event, New Web…

A new organization for women in horticulture that aims to change the way consumers think about flowers, launched at Cultivate’15 by sponsoring Ketty Maisonrouge, a marketing expert, who presented “How To Create A Luxury Brand.” Luxflora recently launched its website, as well as a page on LinkedIn, to facilitate networking among women in horticulture. The organization is working on next steps, including setting up a board of directors and officers. Updates and information on future events will be available at the Luxflora website as they are scheduled. Read about Luxflora’s mission and what it hopes to accomplish in “Luxflora Wants To Create A Lifestyle Movement.” In the session during Cultivate, Ketty Maisonrouge, owner of KM & Company, adjunct professor of luxury strategy at the Columbia University Business School and the author of “The Luxury Alchemist,” presented her ideas and expertise on luxury strategy marketing, and how it applies to horticulture. […]

Read More

July 15, 2015

New Products Featured At Cultivate’15

A multitude of new products were on display at Cultivate’15, held in Columbus, Ohio. Attendees were given a first-hand look at new plant introductions coming to market, as well as innovative hardgoods, technology and equipment. One of the new options for varieties featured at Cultivate’15 was Sporticulture, winner of the 2015 Fresh Ideas Award. Sporticulture offers access to major sports leagues’ licensed products and packing. Team logos can appear on containers and tags, allowing growers and retailers to benefit from the loyalty customers have for their favorite team. Some of the featured plant varieties included Jolt interspecific Dianthus, from PanAmerican Seed, plus six new varieties from Sakata, including ColorWorks petunias, ‘Dragon’s Breath’ Celosia, PartyTime Coleus, ‘Proud Mari’ Marigold, SunPatiens Impatiens and Vitalia Vinca. Emerald Coast Growers featured its Marsala-toned plants, as a nod to Pantone’s Color of the Year. The collection included Pennisetum messiacum ‘Red Buttons,’ Pennisetum ‘Rubrum and ‘Eaton […]

Read More

July 8, 2015

Behind The Sale: Why Dümmen Orange Bought Florexpo, And…

Dümmen Orange recently announced it has acquired the product portfolio of Florexpo Costa Rica, a leading specialist in the production of perennials, herbs and annuals. During the fall of 2015, Dümmen Orange will start up production of perennials at its upgraded Antigua Flowers Guatemala farm, formerly the Ecke II facility in Antigua, Guatemala. The Altmanns, who founded Florexpo, as well as some of the key managers in the Florexpo team, will be assuming roles in this new endeavor. “In its long history Florexpo has built a good assortment, an outstanding sales network and a professional team of employees,” Perry Wismans, managing partner at Dümmen Orange, said in a press release. “With this move, Dümmen Orange takes the next step in realizing its growth strategy – aimed at creating synergies in technology, production and sales. We realize these synergies by distributing a variety of breeding programs and cross selling these products […]

Read More
Feature image The 2015 Perennial Plant Of The Year, Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo.’

June 27, 2015

Perennial Plant Association Wins The 2015 Excellence In…

With its emphasis on education and its Perennial Plant Of The Year program, the Perennial Plant Association boosted the popularity of perennials and helped make it the vital category it is.

Read More
baker creative

June 23, 2015

Baker Creative Wins International Award For Work With J…

Baker Creative, a local branding agency, was recently selected as a Gold Award winner for the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals’ 2015 Hermes Creative Awards. Baker Creative won in the Advertising/Direct Mail Piece category for creating a factory opening invitation mailer for Jiffy Group . Hermes Creative Awards is an international competition for creative professionals involved in the concept, writing and design of traditional and emerging media. The Hermes Gold Award is presented to those entries judged to exceed the high standards of the industry norm. Only 22 percent of the entrants received the award. “When Jiffy needed to make a splash to draw attention to the opening of its new substrate facility in West Bridgewater, Mass., we turned to Baker Creative. The video card created by Baker Creative assisted us greatly with getting the much needed attention when inviting professional growers to the official opening,” a Jiffy Group […]

Read More

June 17, 2015

Marketing Ideas You Want To See From 2015 California Sp…

Back when California Spring Trials (CAST) were still called Pack Trials, new plants were placed on growing benches in packs so attendees could see for themselves how uniformly the plants grow. It was practical and useful. Today, CAST is primarily about introducing new plants in a way that catches your imagination and convinces you that these plants are not only disease resistant, need almost no inputs, including plant growth regulators (PGRs) and have excellent timing, but also that they are plants consumers will fall in love with. In other words, marketing. Some of the breeders go a few steps further and pull together ideas and information that growers can use for their own businesses. It can be methods to connect better with their retail customers or even to help promote our industry and its great plants directly to the public. Here are some of the standouts from CAST 2015. Pacific […]

Read More
Medal of Excellence Award

June 10, 2015

Greenhouse Grower Announces 2015 Medal Of Excellence No…

On this page, everybody’s a winner, because we’re announcing Greenhouse Grower‘s 2015 Medal Of Excellence nominees for two of our three awards in breeding, the winners of our Medal Of Excellence for Industry Achievement and Excellence In Marketing awards and the winners of our Grower Of The Year program, who are finalists for Operation Of The Year and Head Grower Of The Year. All honors will be presented during Greenhouse Grower’s prestigious Evening Of Excellence on Monday, July 13, during Cultivate’15. We hope we will see you there! Correction: Lobelia ‘Starship Deep Rose’ was bred by Kieft Seed, not Darwin Perennials, as we mistakenly printed in the June 2015 issue. Medal Of Excellence Watch Benchrunner in the coming weeks to read profiles of our Industry Achievement and Excellence In Marketing award winners, and look for these articles in our July 2015 issue. Industry Achievement Award The Kientzler Group Excellence In Marketing Perennial […]

Read More
Double Whammy Merchandise Display At CAST2015

May 28, 2015

Grow Inspiration To Grow The Horticulture Industry

We need to work together as the horticulture industry to inspire and instruct consumers with our plant knowledge and marketing expertise.

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