What was your take on the live goods industry as a vice president for Wal-Mart?
“Over my span of about 15 years at Wal-Mart and in my experience before, I noticed there was a lull in the marketplace about getting product to market. You were always handcuffed as a buyer, or even as a grower, getting certain products to market because you could never meet minimums. The funny thing is that everybody was looking at different ways to do deliveries because they knew the old way was archaic, and we were the last industry to go door to door.”
Why might some growers still be slower than others about adopting the cross-docking model for delivery?
“We’re a new concept, and I think that’s why we catch everyone a little bit leery. We’re a third party in the truest form, and everyone thinks we’re trying to buy something or be a re-wholesaler. The model really works like this: You cut your deal with the retailer–a big box or an Ace Hardware–and work out your prices. Then, all you have to do is get the truck full, palletize the product, buy the one-way freight to us and we’ll take care of it. We make all of the store appointments, we collect your racks for you–we do all of the things needed to get product to the stores.”
What are some other, less obvious benefits that growers receive through GardenReady solutions?
“Whether a grower had sold in a particular area before or not, GardenReady has now opened that area up for them. A lot of growers say, ‘I can’t go into Texas because I don’t have the distribution.’ The grower now has a horizon to say, ‘I can sell into Texas because I don’t have to worry about the logistics anymore.’ The synergy created through that also goes to the buyer, who can now buy, for example, gaillardia from Grower X and get gaillardia into the market. Growers don’t have to meet minimums; they just need to get them to GardenReady and we’ll get them into their stores for the weekend.”
How was business for GardenReady this spring?
“We were doing over 40 trailer loads a day of consolidated goods into the marketplace in our peak season. We have 53-footers, and we have drivers who have been delivering horticultural products for years now, and they’re very accustomed to plant material.”
How does the company manage trucking?
“We hire a dedicated logistics person, who works on our dock with our load builders. We’ll do a yearly contract. We tell them our needs and how many trailer loads we need by week. The good part about it is if we need more, we can ramp up. This time of the year, of course, with it being 98 degrees in Texas, it’s starting to slow down a little bit. So we have the ability to ramp down by having dedicated logistics.”
How difficult is it to strike a balance for the growers you serve in terms of when product is received and when it’s delivered?
“That’s probably the toughest part when we get busy. We have two shifts on our dock in the springtime, just making sure we turn that product. That’s always going to be a struggle, but we’ve proved this model works. It’s all about keeping the volume up and keeping growers informed about which markets we’re going to on what days.”
Does GardenReady have big expansion plans for the next few years?
We’re involved in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, a little bit of Missouri and Louisiana and New Mexico. We’re fairly centralized here in Texas. We have two docks open, and another will be open later this fall in Texas. We want to continue building volume in the Texas market. We’re going to try to move to involve more great growers. We’re looking at some places in the Midwest and over East.”