Monrovia Update: CEO Confirms Rumors

Monrovia CEO Miles Rosedale confirmed this morning they have hired Mike Trebing, former Hines Nurseries senior vice president for sales and marketing, to explore the box store channel. “Yes, he’s absolutely on board,” Rosedale says. “We’re certainly looking at the channel, we’ve tried to make that clear.”

He also says Monrovia is 40 percent of the way to its goal of $20 million in additional spring bookings to meet pressure from its banks. “We are certainly optimistic that we could (meet our goal). It’s quite a remarkable start,” he adds. “We’re looking for all avenues to keep our business going.”

Will Monrovia supply plant material exclusively to independents if it meets its goal? “That would certainly be one of our choices,” Rosedale says, who adds that at this point there are no orders placed through the box store channel, contrary to rumors on the Internet.

However, if Monrovia were to enter the box stores, executives have made it clear it would be in a black pot with no branding, and that the brand would stay exclusive to independent retailers.

Rosedale says he and the Monrovia team continue to appreciate their independent customers’ willingness to help them.

More than 100 retailers listened in to each of four conference calls last week as Monrovia executives detailed their request for $20 million more in bookings before Jan. 31. (Click here for the original story with more detail about the request.) The increase is in response to bank pressures due to multiple soft years, according to Monrovia executives.

“We have three banks that bank us,” explained Rosedale on one of the calls. “One does not wish to bank companies that take more than a year to produce inventory. We are trying to replace one bank.”

Chief Sales & Marketing Officer Bob Smiland noted that Monrovia has more than 3,000 retail customers, and that a $20 million target was not so unattainable. He also added during one of the calls that rumors of Monrovia already filling orders for a box store customer is not true.

“If a decision is made to sell any product into those channels we would advice and communicate that to our independent garden centers in advance. Until you hear from us, all the rumors that we’ve already accepted orders from somebody or another, just know that they are not true.”

Here’s a brief summary of some of the main questions and the answers from Monrovia executives:

Q: In the next two or three years will you be selling to the box stores?

Rosedale: We really don’t know at this point. We haven’t done business in the box channel in 15 years …but it wouldn’t be prudent, facing our demise, so to speak, to not consider all the channels, and that’s what we’re doing. We know our approach in the box store is not with the brand. We know the brand is something that has been built by the independent garden center and we want to keep that exclusive to your channel.

Q: This $20 million you need–is that over and above what’s already booked?

Smiland: Yes it is. We need an increase of $20 million to reach a reasonable spring next year. The kind of spring we’re hoping to have. We know that about half of our business is generally booked, and half comes off of open inventory.

Q: What has Monrovia done on the operating cost side to temporarily support a lower level of sales?

Elin Dowd (President): Since August we’ve been putting into place an operating plan to decrease our production. Since the summer we’ve decreased our headcount by 20 percent, we’ve reorganized our growing grounds to take out a level of management and we’ve brought in some outside resources to help us look at different ways to make our operation more efficient.

Q: Will there be any change in terms?

Smiland: I’ll take your comment as a request we can consider.

Q: If you do have to go into the box stores will you be running trucks in with big Monrovia signs making the deliveries?

Smiland: If that happens, it would be our intention that we would not intermix our trucks. We would not use our Monrovia trucks–those shipments of larger quantities of bulk plants would be on common carrier. It is not our style or our intent to mix shipments.

Q: If you do go into the box stores would we be able to purchase the black pots at any lesser rate?

Smiland: I don’t think we have a good answer on that–the answer is probably not. We don’t grow black pot products for our current retail and re-wholesale markets. We’d probably look at the plants involved. Currently it is not our desire to expand our plain pot business. That is detrimental to what we’ve worked so hard to build our brand up over the last 20 years.

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12 comments on “Monrovia Update: CEO Confirms Rumors

  1. Anonymous

    Black pot and common carrier deliveries or not, there are very few secrets in this industry. If Monrovia begins selling to the big boxes who, in turn, retail at much lower margins, it will be the beginning of Monrovia’s demise as the main player with the independents. The “bloom will be off the rose,” so to speak.

  2. Anonymous

    Monrovia has given their customers plenty of notice in a very professional manner of what might happen if they do not meet their bank’s goal. The IGC’s that have the (exclusive) opportunity to sell Monrovia porduct, now have the opportunity to preserve that relationship. If Monrovia ends up selling to the box stores to keep their company alive and well, no one in this industry can say that they did not see it coming. The IGC’s have been asked to help, we’ll see if they do…I would fear that if Monrovia did enter the box store business, it would not be temporary. In that case the IGC’s would lose their edge of having the right to Monrovia’s amazing product line. Their honesty and integrity to come forward publicly in this unfortunate business situation should have everyone in the industry pulling for them…I certainly am!

  3. Anonymous

    Monrovia has been an integral part of our nursery plant purchases and we hope for
    our strong relationship to continue. As a buyer and co-owner in
    my nursery I would hope that the plant quality of all the nurseries remains
    at a high standard. For many independents, plant quality is the
    most important factor when purchasing. Making sure that delivered
    product is of the highest quality will insure turns in the garden
    centers, bad plants will insure credits and a loss of revenues
    for both companies. Big boxes demand the same quality, so independents and
    big boxes will have the same quality plants. Just please do not start shipping independents lesser
    Quality plants than the big boxes. Hopefully we rally and purchase enough
    plants so that MINUTE does not go to the boxes, ship great plants the
    First time.

  4. Anonymous

    It will be very difficult for a nursery like Monrovia to service both the box stores as well as the independents. Monrovia is a high end wholesaler whose prices are far from what the box stores are willing to pay. There are plenty of nurseries who grow for the box stores and I am not sure where Monrovia would fit in, nor if they could produce a product for the price the box stores are willing to pay.
    I would rather see Monrovia concentrate on producing fewer items for the independents and making sure they have sufficient quantities of those items. All too often an order is place with Monrovia only to have those items you really want be cancelled or cut back. Alsothey should consider propagating more liners and offering those for sale to independents and other nurseries.

    Over time the box stores will nickel and dime them to death and the quality will suffer. In the end it is not how big you are, but how much money you have at the end of the year.

  5. Anonymous

    Over the last decade the nursery retail traffic footprint has been growing stronger in the boxstores. Several independent brands have not been able to make it work with the independent GCS, so it is only applicable that nurseries do need to look at boxstore supplying to survive in our industry. We can easy come up with 5-10 nurseries that have not been able to survive by soley supplying the independents. With a slugish economy and carry over inventory in many GCS, it will be interesting to see if Monrovia is able to write those orders needed at the January Nursery Tradeshows MANTS, MID-AM, CENTS etc. It has to be an all out effort from their side if Monrovia truley committed to this plan. Of course hiring Mike Trebing does kind of blur their motive towards the indepenent Gardencenter owners-buyers.

  6. Anonymous

    Over the years Monrovia has produced premium plants and so have many other nurseries. Some of those nurseries went into the box store and now are on a shoestring from going under. The box store tells you what they are going to pay for a particular product, and how they are going to pay you. Did you know many of the box stores only pay for what is sold. Yes they only pay if it goes through the register. Hey Independents wouldn’t you like that. How would Monrovia or any other nursery like us to do that to them. I don’t think they would stand for it. Face it Ortho, Schultz, Bayer and many other companies are in the box stores, but guess what they are not on my shelves.

  7. Anonymous

    Black pot and common carrier deliveries or not, there are very few secrets in this industry. If Monrovia begins selling to the big boxes who, in turn, retail at much lower margins, it will be the beginning of Monrovia’s demise as the main player with the independents. The “bloom will be off the rose,” so to speak.

  8. Anonymous

    Monrovia has given their customers plenty of notice in a very professional manner of what might happen if they do not meet their bank’s goal. The IGC’s that have the (exclusive) opportunity to sell Monrovia porduct, now have the opportunity to preserve that relationship. If Monrovia ends up selling to the box stores to keep their company alive and well, no one in this industry can say that they did not see it coming. The IGC’s have been asked to help, we’ll see if they do…I would fear that if Monrovia did enter the box store business, it would not be temporary. In that case the IGC’s would lose their edge of having the right to Monrovia’s amazing product line. Their honesty and integrity to come forward publicly in this unfortunate business situation should have everyone in the industry pulling for them…I certainly am!

  9. Anonymous

    Monrovia has been an integral part of our nursery plant purchases and we hope for
    our strong relationship to continue. As a buyer and co-owner in
    my nursery I would hope that the plant quality of all the nurseries remains
    at a high standard. For many independents, plant quality is the
    most important factor when purchasing. Making sure that delivered
    product is of the highest quality will insure turns in the garden
    centers, bad plants will insure credits and a loss of revenues
    for both companies. Big boxes demand the same quality, so independents and
    big boxes will have the same quality plants. Just please do not start shipping independents lesser
    Quality plants than the big boxes. Hopefully we rally and purchase enough
    plants so that MINUTE does not go to the boxes, ship great plants the
    First time.

  10. Anonymous

    It will be very difficult for a nursery like Monrovia to service both the box stores as well as the independents. Monrovia is a high end wholesaler whose prices are far from what the box stores are willing to pay. There are plenty of nurseries who grow for the box stores and I am not sure where Monrovia would fit in, nor if they could produce a product for the price the box stores are willing to pay.
    I would rather see Monrovia concentrate on producing fewer items for the independents and making sure they have sufficient quantities of those items. All too often an order is place with Monrovia only to have those items you really want be cancelled or cut back. Alsothey should consider propagating more liners and offering those for sale to independents and other nurseries.

    Over time the box stores will nickel and dime them to death and the quality will suffer. In the end it is not how big you are, but how much money you have at the end of the year.

  11. Anonymous

    Over the last decade the nursery retail traffic footprint has been growing stronger in the boxstores. Several independent brands have not been able to make it work with the independent GCS, so it is only applicable that nurseries do need to look at boxstore supplying to survive in our industry. We can easy come up with 5-10 nurseries that have not been able to survive by soley supplying the independents. With a slugish economy and carry over inventory in many GCS, it will be interesting to see if Monrovia is able to write those orders needed at the January Nursery Tradeshows MANTS, MID-AM, CENTS etc. It has to be an all out effort from their side if Monrovia truley committed to this plan. Of course hiring Mike Trebing does kind of blur their motive towards the indepenent Gardencenter owners-buyers.

  12. Anonymous

    Over the years Monrovia has produced premium plants and so have many other nurseries. Some of those nurseries went into the box store and now are on a shoestring from going under. The box store tells you what they are going to pay for a particular product, and how they are going to pay you. Did you know many of the box stores only pay for what is sold. Yes they only pay if it goes through the register. Hey Independents wouldn’t you like that. How would Monrovia or any other nursery like us to do that to them. I don’t think they would stand for it. Face it Ortho, Schultz, Bayer and many other companies are in the box stores, but guess what they are not on my shelves.