Sometimes the best ideas for business ventures have the simplest beginnings. For Henry Dudley in Lansing, Mich., his idea started with wanting a card to go with the bouquet of flowers he gave to his wife each week. He always had to go to a separate gift shop for the card.
Dudley was calling on growers and florists to sell waxed and assorted wrapping papers. He developed his own line of small cards with envelopes and offered them to florists at no charge, if they purchased 12 decorative paper designs. His idea changed the way flowers are presented. He named his new business The John Henry Co. after his newborn son in 1912.
The business began with the cards and decorative papers and expanded to serve other floral retailing needs, such as tags and care and handling information. The progression from floral to indoor potted plants and gardening was natural, as many traditional greenhouse florists offered both categories.
As branding has come of age in garden retail, John Henry has been at the forefront. Clients span the entire spectrum from breeders and growers to small independent retailers, like florists and garden centers, to large ones, including Kroger and Home Depot. In recent years, John Henry has shined the spotlight on marketing by partnering with breeders throughout the California Pack Trials. In recognition of these efforts, we are proud to present John Henry with our Medal of Excellence for marketing.
Reborn & Reinvigorated
For the past few years, John Henry has been owned by Multi Packaging Solutions, which specializes in print and packaging solutions for consumer-focused industries, such as multi media, health and beauty and pharmaceuticals. While the horticulture division is completely focused on our industry, it benefits from connections to the others with access to cutting-edge ideas, coatings and technologies.
“We may be 100 years old, but we’re five years young,” says Kristi Huffman, senior vice president of the horticulture division. Huffman started at John Henry 20 years ago and played a key role in expanding the company’s custom division, Idea Works, for customers who didn’t want to order the same packaging as their competitors.
Huffman says John Henry elevated its presence at Pack Trials to help give our industry a wakeup call on marketing and packaging. “Pack Trials has always been a huge event around our plant varieties, but we need to remember these plants ultimately need to be sold at retail and the packaging and messaging to do that is critical,” she says. “There’s a whole other side to think about.”
Huffman would love consumers to see the excitement and effort we in the industry see at Pack Trials and major shows. “We are getting better with our retail displays and information, but today’s consumer still walks into the garden center and has a hard time quickly figuring out what’s new or what plants go well together,” she says. “Everything is packaged the same. Our retail environment is one of the last out there that has no packaging presence. Our product is so beautiful, you don’t have to package it, which to some degree has been a disservice.”
Packaging can be the key to higher retails and profits, but often we are thinking about it too late in the process. “If we plan appropriately, the cost of packaging should drive more margin,” she says. “Women buy on emotion and are drawn to uniquely packaged products. It has been proven at every other retail venue, so we know the same will hold true for ours.”