Merchandising On Shipping Racks: How Does It Affect Plant Sales, Quality?

When shipping and sometimes even merchandising and selling on racks, growers are now cognizant of keeping plants at a compact size. What’s the effect on consumer success with plants once they leave the retail setting?  

A grower panel asked at OFA Short Course’s Town Hall meeting about what a small grower can produce more profitably than a big grower. Here’s how the members of the panel responded:

“Big growers ship on racks and fit in as many as they can. I try to grow things like delphiniums or really big hanging baskets, but I only have to ship from the top of a hill to the bottom. Things that take up a lot of room.”

“It’s never our intention to grow stuff shorter than what the genetics call for or to keep plants down with PGRs. The stores we supply expect as good or better quality than the IGCs. The expectations is not to shrink stuff down to fit on carts, but the smaller the plant, the more profitable it is.”

“One of the biggest complaints in the docks and greenhouses is that we’re shipping products too tight on carts. We’ve got to have carts retail ready when they hit the stores. I agree on growth regulators. We need plants to succeed for gardeners.”

“About 60 percent of what we sell is off the racks. We have to have airflow in there. It’s different than five or 10 years ago. There is more pressure to sell off the rack. It’s become a retail cart.”

“I constantly hear about the ocean of racks. It looks mechanical and industrial. The perception of people in this room is that the material on racks goes downhill quickly on racks. When we ship, material is not on a cart for more than 12 hours.”

“The typical garden center holds 45 to 50 racks. In a typical week, we sell more than 250 racks of product, and we can’t get them all on the tables. Some consumers have the perspective that it’s the fresh milk, what’s just come into the store.”

“I have sold off rack, back in the day when I sold impatiens. In some cases, if you can’t beat them, join them. I can keep them looking good for three days only. Plant material does turn into compost after three days.”

What do you think? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. 


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2 comments on “Merchandising On Shipping Racks: How Does It Affect Plant Sales, Quality?

  1. Here to Maine, there aren't many Nurseries large enough to be selling off the racks. Though I have seen the big box store's do such. Mandevillas, Orchids, all crammed together, ignored and improperly watered. As a Nurseryman I shake my head and walk on by. As a customer I refuse to even glance at such garbage. But there have been times in early spring when local Nurseries have more coming in, then staff to distribute, and once or twice I've seen sign's placed in front of palettes of plants with name and price. Quite disgusting, akin to those Poultry farms with hundred's of birds crammed into little cages waiting for slaughter. I'm afraid that's all I can envision when I see Racks of plants….living beings waiting for their ultimate demise at the hands of the grower and consumer.

  2. I understand the problems with shipping and selling off existing rack systems, having been in transporting and retailing of plant materials my whole career. I pioneered the steel rack system as it is today.
    I have engineered a transport/display plastic rack that quickly breaks down into three display tables.
    To further understand this product please Google “Logistical Retailer” on YouTube.
    You may contact me at or Gene Smith (239) 340-2875

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