April 28, 2009

A Lesson In Customer Service

If you’ve never Googled yourself, you’re in for a surprise. You’re bound to stumble onto articles or comments you’ve written, groups and organizations to which you belong and at least one old photograph you figured was long gone years ago. Having your life story available to the world is a little unsettling at first, but your information is also the key to reestablishing old friendships, promoting your work or referencing facts of your past. A Google search can be equally beneficial to your greenhouse operation, connecting Web users − potential customers–to your site. But users can only be connected if you have a site for them to visit. And in my hunt for basic information about some of our Top 100 Growers, I discovered a handful of them don’t even have websites. Even more astounding, when I tried to reach a few Top 100 Growers by phone, it was impossible […]

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April 28, 2009

Easy Product Upgrades

A collective tightening of the belts among American consumers likely means growers and retailers will have to work harder in 2009 to capture those oh-so-precious discretionary dollars. But luckily, there are plenty of easy product upgrades you can try that can help you get more bang for your buck. So, how exactly can you elevate the price of a plant without alienating customers? Tal White, general manager at White’s Nursery & Greenhouses in Chesapeake, Va., says adding value to an item by adding cost, like bundling a ceramic container with the plant, does not necessarily increase its perceived value to the customer. “We have found that it’s necessary to create a brand new item where there’s no past perceived value in place,” he says. “It creates the opportunity to increase the new item’s price in relation to existing items.” White is quick to note it’s not always an easy task, […]

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April 27, 2009

Montgomery’s Baltimore Retail Report

If anyone has been apprehensive regarding the effects of the recession on the green goods sector, you should have been in Baltimore this past weekend. Wow, were those consumers out in force and opening their wallets! What recession? Consumers were out in droves buying garden plants that included shrubs and small trees. It was so busy we had to park 500 yards away from the entrance of a number of Home Depot stores. Saturday was one of the busiest days I have seen in a long time. It was like a feeding frenzy in some stores. There seemed to be little price sensitivity with hanging baskets at $26.98 moving briskly through the cash registers. We noticed lots of shopping carts with $100 to $200 worth of garden plants. Home Depot Home Depot in the Baltimore area is serviced by Bell Nursery, arguably their premier vendor of green goods. Bell Nursery […]

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April 27, 2009

Who Will Fill Empty Box Stores?

In the last couple of decades, box stores rose dramatically in numbers across the country. With the most recent economic downturn, though, they have fallen on hard times and either closed large numbers of stores or—like Circuit City—gone out of business completely, leaving vacant boxes in their place. “This isn’t a time that big box tenants are looking for new deals,” The Chicago Tribune quotes Mike Jaffe, a managing member of the Arboretum of South Barrington in Illinois, an outdoor mall that counted Circuit City as an anchor. “Centers that will survive will need to think outside the box.” According to the recent Tribune story, more than 100 million square feet of retail space has opened up throughout the United States in the last year as retailers have gone bankrupt or shuttered unprofitable stores. The story lists retail casualties like Circuit City, which closed more than 700 stores nationwide, as […]

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April 23, 2009

New Athens Select Look Keeps Trees Happy

Does this tag catch your eye? Athens Select just created a brand new tag that is not only pleasing to the eye but is also environmentally friendly. The tag is made from a material that can be recycled, giving Athens Select a new “go green” attitude. The new tags are designed with graphics that allow the buyer to see how tolerant a plant is under certain conditions. For example, a sun pictured on the tag shows the plant surviving under hot and humid conditions. Athens Select hopes these new attractive graphics will catch the eyes of consumers. The founder of the program for the creation of these new tags is Dr. Allan Armitage. “We were looking for a fresh new look for our tags,” Armitage says, “but we also wanted to minimize the impact on the environment. So we chose an environmentally responsible option without compromising visual appeal.” The tags […]

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April 21, 2009

Montgomery’s Atlanta Retail Report

The weather was ideal for gardening last weekend with day temperatures of 75 to 80°F and nights in the 40s and 50s. As we observed in other areas, vegetables were selling like hot cakes along with T-18 Landscaper trays, 4.5-inch annuals and 10-inch baskets. As an observer, it seemed prices points above $15 were not moving well. We saw a more basic assortment in many shopping carts. Premium hanging baskets were moving well, but it is clear only if they are full and colorful. The higher the price, the more consumers look for value. I saw a lot of empty patio pots in the 10- to 12-inch sizes being sold. Home Depot Its stores were really busy, particularly between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., with lots of Bonnie vegetables in shopping carts of consumers–along with 10-inch hanging baskets (basic seed) on sale at $5. The T-18 Landscaper tray was moving […]

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April 17, 2009

White Flower Farm Celebrating Earth Day

White Flower Farm, a family-owned nursery in Litchfield, Conn., is celebrating Earth Day this year by focusing on native plants and educating consumers about them. White Flower Farm offers many native plants and shrubs, including butterly larva food plants like asclepias, aster, aristolochia and baptisia. Among the best perennials to provide nectar for adult butterflies are asclepias, echinacea, eupatorium, heliopsis, liatris, monarda and rudbeckia. For more information on White Flower Farm, go to WhiteFlowerFarm.com.

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April 14, 2009

Ravin’ Traven: Response To Last Week’s Rant

WOW, that was sure some response I got from the rant last week. It’s gratifying folks actually read the thing, but it was surely overwhelming I think it might be time to reflect upon the depth and VIGOR of the response, too. Allow me to remind you all of a few things first: 1. The rant is intended primarily as a communication to MY customers, a vehicle for me to get the Peace Tree message through the piles of faxes and e-mails flooding their desks. 2. It is not intended to do anything other than to make people THINK about things, not to pontificate, not to tell anyone what they must think, but what I’m thinking and how I see things. Well, it’s fair to say that people surely were thinking about this one!!! 3. The entire response trail was about the last couple sentences only, not the main thrust […]

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April 7, 2009

Ravin’ Traven: Spring In Full Swing

IT’S EASTER WEEK. The customers are calling, the greenhouse is doing its thing and we’re ready for the onslaught of spring. Are you? Herb and veggies are HOT, HOT, HOT. Somehow, it seems they are satisfying a real need, a DESIRE for real-world folks, under lots of pressure, to feel like they are doing something, anything, to take care of themselves. They’re bringing CONTROL back into their lives, some clarity of purpose and the belief that you control your own destiny. Gee, it’s been a long time since we felt that way, so this is a good thing. We’re also seeing strong, pent-up demand for COLOR on anything. It may be “seasonally inappropriate,” like a New Guinea impatiens, but if it can be jammed in a color basket for Easter, it is going. We welcome this type of insanity, but it also creates some potential issues farther down the road–when […]

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April 7, 2009

Target Unveils Eco-Friendly Outdoor Living Collection

This spring, Target is introducing MIO For Target, a line of environmentally responsible outdoor living products. “We’ve worked closely with the MIO team to ensure this eco-friendly collection is an easy and affordable starting point for our guests to lead greener lives,” says Gina Sprenger, senior vice president, merchandising. The collection includes eight outdoor items made from recycled and renewable materials, including a watering can, trowel, cultivator, weeder, mini herb garden, solar lights, hammock and composter. The products range from $6.99 to $99.99. Read more here.

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April 7, 2009

Montgomery’s Orlando Retail Report

Introduction It was an ideal day for gardening, as well as shopping with temperatures of 55°F at a.m. rising to 85°F by the p.m. hours. Consumers were out in droves during the a.m. hours, but the traffic subsided dramatically in the afternoon. Bedding plants, perennials and vegetables were moving well with the top selling annual appearing to be the T-18 landscaper tray. In the vegetables category, both seed and plants were selling well along with tremendous volumes of potting soil, top soil and mulches. There was also good movement in foliage plants that double as landscape plants in this market. We visited two independent garden centers, but both were more focused on landscape plants, fountains and containers, so there was little to report about annuals and perennials. Home Depot Home Depot clearly has improved its products, quality and merchandising with better color, plant size and improvements in accuracy of pricing. […]

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March 31, 2009

Taking A Message To Times Square

The City That Never Sleeps will be getting a whiff of our industry over the next few months, as Asocolflores has contracted the CBS Super Screen in Times Square as part of its Colombia, Land of Flowers marketing campaign. Anybody who’s been to Times Square has stood and stared up at the gigantic Super Screen, which measures 26 feet wide by 20 feet high. We’ve seen the Super Screen repeatedly on TV shows and in the movies, and Asocolflores now has access to it with several spots over the next few months. Asocolflores is scheduled to run two 15-second spots per hour, running 18 hours per day (6 a.m. to midnight) and seven days per week into June. According to Asocolflores, the screen generates more than 1.5 million consumer impressions per day. For more information, visit www.Asocolflores.org.

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