Overcoming Big Box Obstacles

Overcoming Big Box Obstacles

In 1870, Bennett’s Greenhouse was a rural operation connected to the community by a single-lane road. Today, it is a $4 million, 25-acre, year-round grower-retailer, located in the midst of mini malls, industrial parks and some pretty stiff big box store competition.

In today’s market, where medium-sized businesses often find themselves squeezed out, Bennett’s and its owners Richard Bennett, Barbara Bennett Ruff and Kathy Bennett Chinn, are finding success by focusing on the things it can do better than its bigger competitors.

Answering Big Box Competition

The Bennetts believe they have something to offer that the big box competition cannot. “It is up to the mid-sized greenhouse to produce our own best choices,” Barb says. “How is a big box going to keep selling 20 kinds of verbena?”

Customer sales have evolved from a flats industry to many more varieties, but in far less numbers. Today, the Bennetts think they have two kinds of shoppers: non-gardeners who like to decorate and want it cheap and serious gardeners who value knowledge and know quality.

Richard strongly believes they can beat the big box store with better customer service. They hire 60 to 70 retail workers. Eight of those are full timers. He looks for employees who can answer beginner and intermediate garden questions and are problem solvers.

The Bennetts know their greenhouse operation is a step up because of better selection and timing. Overall, they pride themselves on consistent quality. However, they do not believe that being locally grown is a factor with their customers.

Customers Drive Production

Richard, Barb and Kathy pay particular attention to their customers’ needs, and that’s what drives Bennett’s plant production. But no one is afraid to test the market. A result of the late Easter holiday this year, Bennett’s decided not to offer Easter lilies. They hope no one misses them.

Bennett’s Greenhouse is open from mid-April for six weeks and again from the middle of June to September, when a spike in 6-inch annual sales occurs. Bennett’s attracts customers from as far as Chicago, routinely from the Indianapolis area and from Purdue University, heavily relying on longstanding relationship with the Lafayette community.

Bennett’s 6-inch annuals have progressed from 300 to 43,000 over the years. The annuals include impatiens, petunias, green peppers, tomatoes and pansies.

They started with 38,000 flats, diminishing from 43,000 in past years, including the multi-packs for annuals and vegetables. They offer two, three and one-pack configurations.

“We did offer the three-pack with one of each–a late, mid and early tomato plant–but customers were taking out one and replacing it with another,” Richard says. “It was not working for us so we discontinued it.”

Bennett’s container selection includes 10,000 10-inch hanging baskets, moss-lined baskets and combination planters. Customers prefer Bennett’s employees do the planting over the self-planting service they once offered. The large selection of succulents, which they want to expand, and their selection of foliage plants year-round target their large following of indoor gardeners.

Bennett’s likes to sell everything anyone wants but space is a constraint for growing it all. They deliberately created a reputation for having harder-to-get-in-packs of plants and the unique way they cherry-pick their inventory.

“We pick for our location, the best performers and what we feel has beauty,” Kathy says. “We do not gear our greenhouse to a particular breeder and arrange our plant material by variety versus color.”

Bennett’s readily admits to having less success with its fall and winter business. Its poinsettia sales are down in the last five years to 10,000, primarily to churches and other retail outlets. The family wonders if 99-cent poinsettias will become the new norm.

Community Garden Involvement

Bennett’s Greenhouse offers two programs, Helping Hands and Frequent Buyer. Helping Hands provides free pamphlets with detailed plant information for customers to take home. The Frequent Buyer program has been only marginally successful.

Richard thinks their partnership with the local symphony to sell tickets has been a more valuable venture. Last year, $28,000 worth of tickets were sold by guild members for their spring event. For each ticket brought into the greenhouse, customers could take home one potted plant.

Another lasting effect has been the America in Bloom relationship with Lafayette. The city has installed permanent planters and Bennett’s Greenhouse has enjoyed its involvement with America in Bloom. But with the recent economic impact to the city, Richard sees it coming back on a five-year rotation versus every year.

Bennett’s Greenhouse remains committed to providing high-quality plants to Lafayette and the surrounding Indiana area. The Bennetts agree with others who observe the pie is shrinking and that specialty growers may be the wave of the future. Still, Richard, Barb and Kathy think there is room for all who make a business of growing plants.

Leave a Reply

More From Marketing...
crider-rd2-internal_Rough-Brothers_featured

July 1, 2015

Rough Brothers Is Acquired By Gibraltar Industries

RBI Solar Inc., Rough Brothers Manufacturing Inc. and affiliates have been acquired by Gibraltar Industries, a manufacturer and distributor of products for residential and industrial markets, for $130 million. Capitalizing on its 80 years of design-build experience and leadership as the largest greenhouse manufacturer in North America, Ohio-based RBI has established itself during the past five years as North America’s fastest-growing provider of photovoltaic (PV) solar racking solutions. The transaction will enable Gibraltar to leverage its expertise in structural metals manufacturing and materials sourcing to meet global demand for solar racking solutions. The company also announced that it anticipates its second-quarter 2015 financial results will be in line with its previous expectations. “Acquiring RBI is an important step in the transformation of Gibraltar into a company with a higher rate of growth and best-in-class financial metrics,” says Gibraltar CEO Frank Heard. “This acquisition directly aligns with key end markets and product platforms […]

Read More

June 30, 2015

Opportunities Abound For Women In Horticulture, Says Dosatron International’s Lela Kelly

My love for horticulture goes back to my grandparents who were farmers in upstate New York. My family’s involvement in agriculture left a lasting impression that has spanned decades, and still drives my passion for our industry today. I started my career in horticulture when I owned a greenhouse, nursery and garden center in Sayville, Long Island, N.Y. We specialized in ground cover production, later branching out to producing perennials and bedding plants.     I then went onto wholesale hard goods distribution. In the 1980s, I was the first woman salesperson on Long Island. What an eye opener that was! New York is a very special place, different from anywhere else in the country. You cannot imagine how difficult it was walking into greenhouses and nurseries as a woman, in a man’s world. Luckily, I grew up in New York City in an Italian family, who taught me great […]

Read More
Medal of Excellence Award

June 30, 2015

Get To Know The 9 Variety Finalists For Editor’s Choice And Industry’s Choice Awards

Greenhouse Grower‘s Evening Of Excellence reception is rapidly approaching. Here, you can learn more about the varieties that are finalists for the Medal Of Excellence Editor’s Choice and Industry’s Choice Breeding Awards. Thank you to the 2015 sponsors of Greenhouse Grower‘s Medal Of Excellence Awards, Landmark Plastic, Nufarm and Stockosorb. Editor’s Choice Asclepias ‘Monarch Promise’ (Hort Couture) Basil ‘Balsamic Blooms’ (EuroAmerican Propagators) Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ (Sakata Seed) Dianthus Jolt Series (PanAmerican Seed) Salvia Grandstand Series (Green Fuse Botanicals) Scabiosa ‘Kudos Pink’ (Hishtil Nurseries) Industry’s Choice Basil ‘Balsamic Blooms’ (EuroAmerican Propagators) Bidens BeeDance Series (Suntory Flowers) Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ (Sakata Seed) Dianthus Jolt Series (PanAmerican Seed) Lobelia ‘Starship Deep Rose’ (Kieft Seed) Vinca Valiant Series (PanAmerican Seed)     Join us Monday, July 13 in Ballroom 2 at the Columbus Convention Center to find out which varieties will receive the coveted awards. The reception begins at 5:15 p.m. and the ceremony […]

Read More
Latest Stories
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
Plant-Select_for-web

May 28, 2015

PlantSelect.org And FindPlants.net Assist Consumers Wit…

The recently launched PlantSelect.org and FindPlants.net websites offer growing and maintenance tips, where-to-buy information and design ideas to help consumers have success with growing and finding plants.

Read More
Four Star Greenhouse Proven Winner Plants At English Garden

May 26, 2015

Retailer To Grower: It’s Time To Offer Services To Loc…

Retailers wonder why mass merchants are the only ones to receive stocking, merchandising and plant care from growers.

Read More
New Guinea Impatiens

May 14, 2015

10 Tips To Improve Retail Shelf Life Of Bedding Plants

Good-looking plants at retail lead to stronger sales and less postharvest shrink. Try these 10 ideas for maintaining quality and keeping plants looking beautiful.

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

May 12, 2015

Suntory And GrowIt! Garden Socially Partner On A New Se…

Three different contests will run from May through early August. Garden center retailers can upload their own photos or encourage their customers to enter and win.

Read More

May 6, 2015

Orange Is The New Green: An Interview With Dümmen Orang…

The day the news came out about the name change of DNA Green Group to Dümmen Orange, and everything that meant for the large flower breeding conglomerate, Greenhouse Grower Editor Laura Drotleff talked with Dümmen Orange Operations Manager Kate Santos about what the identity shift would mean for the company, its customers and ultimately for consumers. What’s going to happen to the brands and what was behind the decision to do away with those brands and consolidate? A key objective for our organization in moving to one corporate brand is to continue to stay true to the heritage and history of the individual brands that have made us what we are today and what we will build the future of our company upon. For this reason, some of those brands that have a deep-rooted history and much more recognition within the market, will have a longer persistence in our overall […]

Read More

May 1, 2015

Restoration Landscapes: A Specialized Market For Nativ…

Restoration landscapes, depending on their purpose, often require straight native species, along with a confirmation of their known provenance. Research is key in this area and good recordkeeping is a must.

Read More
Dummen_Begonia_UnbelieveableFirstKiss

April 29, 2015

Dümmen Orange Is The New Name For DNA Green Group

DNA Green Group has a new name: Dümmen Orange. The company revealed its new name, logo and brand values at all of its facilities in 16 countries on Thursday, April 23. The well-known corporate brands Lex+, Bartels, Terra Nigra, Dümmen Group, Agribio China, Agribio Colombia, Oro, PLA, as well as the production locations, are changing their identities immediately to Dümmen Orange. Other established brands like Rijnplant, Ecke, Oglevee, Red Fox, Fides, Japan Agribio and Barberet & Blanc will convert over limited time. The company’s CEO Biense Visser calls it a logical next step. “All companies that have been acquired have a rich and successful history,” Visser says. “We have always tried to respect that heritage. Doing so, we created confusion for our customers. Our employees expressed a preference for a more uniform approach to the market, too. That is why we have chosen one large umbrella brand that embraces the entire product […]

Read More

April 15, 2015

Redesigned SunPatiens Website Offers New Tools For Saka…

Sakata Seed America's new and improved SunPatiens website launched March 1, 2015 and provides growing information, marketing support, product location and many more tools to encourage consumer success with SunPatiens.

Read More
Keenland

April 13, 2015

Proven Winners Partners With Award-Winning Designer Jon…

Proven Winners will partner with award-winning garden designer, author and fine living expert Jon Carloftis on a new series of four LIFE + STYLE events in 2015. In true Carloftis style, food and spirits will be paired with inspiring architecture and innovative garden designs featuring Proven Winners plants.

Read More

April 13, 2015

New Consumer Website Makes Buying Roses Easier

A new website has been created as a resource tool for gardeners who are looking for a rose that fits their needs. This website is 100% consumer focused and will inspire confidence and promote rose gardening to the next generation of gardeners. Visitors will also find links to connect on social networks, such as Facebook and Pinterest. The website promotes roses, not specific brands, and that is what makes it unique.

Read More
Rose rosette on Knockout rose, April 2012. Photo credit: Alan Windham, University of Tennessee

March 25, 2015

$58 Million In APHIS Farm Bill Funding Will Support Hor…

Nearly $58 million as been allocated by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to support the industry's Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program, under Farm Bill Section 10007. The program will support mitigation efforts for specialty crops, including providing research and other funding to address plant pest and disease priorities for the specialty crop industry, including floriculture and nursery crops.

Read More
National Floriculture Forum 2015 029

March 18, 2015

2015 National Floriculture Forum Focuses On Marketing I…

The 2015 National Floriculture Forum, held March 6 to 7 in Minneapolis, Minn., zeroed in on the topic of marketing in horticulture and included visits to Gertens Greenhouses and Garden Center, Bailey Nurseries, Bachman’s Floral, Home and Garden and Tangletown Gardens. The annual meeting allows greenhouse and floriculture faculty, graduate students and industry partners to meet and share updates on current research, issues and initiatives.

Read More

February 18, 2015

Range Of Nursery Inspections To Protect Patented Plants…

Plant patents are under protection, and breeders are fighting for their rights to keep growers from illegally propagating protected varieties. It's something you don't want to take a chance on, because the risk is far higher than the reward. More than 300 inspections were carried out last year from New York to British Columbia and from Ontario to Florida to protect plant patents, Plant Breeders’ Rights (PBR) and branded programs.

Read More