Ramping Up Rose Sales

Ramping Up Rose Sales

Every nurseryman is a risk taker and has had the fantasy of selling to the box stores, says North Carolina rose grower Pat McDonnell of McDonnell Horticulture. “It’s all growth and opportunity,” he says. “You can grow two acres of something and scale it up.”

McDonnell has six acres of greenhouses and 150 acres of outdoor production on a 225-acre site in Cameron, N.C., near Pinehurst but lives in Raleigh. His first exposure to horticulture was through a friend of his father who grew nursery stock and was involved in landscaping. As a teenager, McDonnell also worked for a greenhouse vegetable operation in the Old Brooklyn part of Cleveland, Ohio.

After graduating from college, he began his career in the crop protection side of agriculture working for Diamond Shamrock in Cleveland, which was later purchased by Ciba Geigy and then Novartis, which became Syngenta. Over the tenure of his career, he helped growers produce roses and azaleas, fruit, vegetables and soybeans. The corporate mergers presented the right time and opportunity to start his own venture as a nursery grower.

McDonnell’s first foray into serving the box stores was growing Jackson & Perkins roses and other shrubs for Lowe’s in Kentucky and Tennessee in 2003. “We couldn’t do it in North Carolina or South Carolina, which are closer to home, because the market was being served by another grower in Florida, which also grows poinsettias and mums along with roses,” he explains. “Then we got Virginia and kept stretching to Southern Ohio/Cincinnati and Southern Illinois, but staying within the Zones 6-7 market. We agreed to grow 250,000 Jackson & Perkins roses. Then in 2005 we were asked to grow for the Northeast.”

Although this growth was great, price controls made it difficult to make money. “We were getting other business from Lowe’s in shrubs because we were not making money on roses,” he says. “But unlike shrubs, roses are more like annuals and more perishable. If you grow 500,000 roses, you’ve got to move them somewhere. You can’t carry them over.”

In 2006, McDonnell received a call from Home Depot, asking him to supply roses in the same geographic footprint for the next year. “Although Lowe’s is a great company, we couldn’t do both and we made the business decision to go with Home Depot,” he says. 

Partnering For Profit

In 2007 and this year, McDonnell has been working with Bell Nursery in the Mid-Atlantic region. Based in Burtonsville, Md., Bell is famous for its service model and taking care of all the live goods at Home Depot.

“We were introduced to Pat (McDonnell) by the Home Depot merchant we work with, Mike Duvall,” says Gary Mangum, owner of Bell Nursery. “McDonnell was growing specific plant material for Mike’s stores, and when we transitioned to handling the business in 2007, Mike wanted to make sure the growers he had in place did not lose out on the business and had an opportunity to grow in the marketplace.”

McDonnell Horticulture provides Bell Nursery with select portions of its overall rose program, working on a contract basis for specific SKUs. “The arrangement we have with McDonnell is similar to how we work with others in the tree and shrub category,” Mangum says. “In all cases, we took what we learned in 2007 and have altered planning to the extent needed to further grow sales and deliver the best plant possible to the customer.”

McDonnell says he has been especially impressed with Bell’s strategies to counter the commodities trap so many growers find themselves in. “Traditionally, the box stores have wanted commodity items to blow through the stores and growers wouldn’t make money,” McDonnell says. “For 2-gallon roses, we’d grow them for $5 and they’d retail for $6. Bell doesn’t like that approach. The customer is not price sensitive, so why sell a $5 rose and not make money when we can sell a $7 or $8 rose? We used to grow 80,000 1-gallon azaleas for $1.50 that would sell for $2. Bell would rather sell a 3-gallon azalea for $15.”

Together, Bell and McDonnell have been working on growing the quality required to command a higher price point. “In the past, McDonnell had focused more energy on growing to meet specific retail price points that he felt were important,” Mangum says. “His growing times and in some cases initial input stock have shifted to give us a bulkier plant with plenty of energy to produce desirable flowers. We are confident that we will see stronger sales in 2008, and Home Depot is definitely offering price points that the consumer will appreciate. The commodity items are very important for many reasons. We definitely can’t ever walk away from that, but with the help of Home Depot merchants, we can expand offerings available to the consumer.”

On the input side, McDonnell has partnered with Canadian grower Westbrook Greenhouses, which specializes in miniature roses. “They sell us liners. It’s a beautiful deal for them because I take them during their down cycle,” McDonnell says. “It’s about $1 million worth of business.”

Sharing Risks And Rewards

On the retail side, with the increasing importance of pay-by-scan at Home Depot, Bell has implemented shared risk pricing with its contracted growers. “Bell owns the inventory and we share the risk with them,” McDonnell explains. “This way we have as much to gain or to lose and an incentive to provide the right product at the right time. You don’t go into the produce department and see a rotten head of lettuce, so why do it in a garden center? We believe this is the model of the future.”

Mangum says sharing risk ensures Bell gets the best quality product possible with every delivery. He’s also a firm believer in ownership on the service side. “I know that the third-party models in place work well and provide the stores with a fantastic resource, but I do feel that our model provides the strongest incentive to grow sales. If it doesn’t sell, we don’t get paid,” Mangum says. “Everything we do, starting with the enforcement of retail-ready quality standards is directly related to our ownership interest.”

Always a pragmatic optimist, Mangum says he believes there is a very bright future for growers who choose to work together. “The most important part of the scenario for each of us is the focus we need to always provide the consumer with the best value that we can,” he says. “In addition to price, innovation and dedication to that consumer’s success is what will help us all move ahead over the long term.”

Leave a Reply

4 comments on “Ramping Up Rose Sales

More From Marketing...
Stephanie Whitehouse-Barlow, Peace Tree Farm

October 6, 2015

Generation Y’s Reluctance To Garden Linked To Fear Of Failure

The Rookie Gardener is easily spotted at a garden center by her nervous and unsure energy that’s as glaring as a scarlet letter, or by his exuberant, self-assured confidence that is only otherwise seen at a college fraternity party. They are our industry’s enigma, our Kryptonite, the treasure chest we cannot open. The Rookie Gardener’s reluctance to garden isn’t from our industry’s lack of targeted marketing or encouragement but from Millennials’ Fear of Failure (FOF). It is obvious that failure is a part of life, but we as a generation have been programmed to not expect or accept failure. Since early childhood, we were encouraged to always win, to do our absolute best at school every day, to beat the competition. “Focused on getting the grades or winning the game, these children have internalized the pressure, (which) paralyzes kids in their ability to take risks,” writes Holly Korbey in an […]

Read More
CropKing Fall Workshop Schedule 2015

October 6, 2015

CropKing’s Grower Workshops Offer Training On Growing In Controlled Environments

The next two workshops take place Oct. 9-10 in Oregon and Nov. 6-7 in South Carolina. Space is limited, so sign up quickly.

Read More

October 6, 2015

NASA Scientists To Discuss Indoor Agriculture Innovations That Could Be Used On Mars

The University of Arizona’s Controlled Environmental Agriculture Center (CEAC) will host Dr. Jacklyn Green, CEO and founder of Agate Biosciences, and Dr. Roger Kern, president and founder of Agate Biosciences: Science & Systems Engineering, on October 30, as part of its seminar series. Both Green and Kern are former NASA scientists and engineers, and they will discuss their continuing efforts to develop technology and seek innovations to address issues concerning urban indoor agriculture, with a potential for application on Mars. Through the creation of Agate Biosciences LLC, Kern and Green have turned their attention to earth-bound issues of food production, to provide advanced technologies for plant nutrition, biosecurity and the undertaking of scientifically based research in greenhouse design and controls systems, and in plant health under controlled environment agriculture. A recent NASA news release reports that the Mars Rover 2020 mission is planned to deliver an extensive array of instruments designed to explore the habitability […]

Read More
Latest Stories

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

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