January 16, 2009

Meeting Market Needs

As a barometer to see how the spring season was shaping up, I checked in with six leading young plant growers in three regions of the country who specialize in plugs, liners, annuals and perennials. Although the trend toward orders being placed later has gotten progressively worse the last five years, this year has been significantly worse, they say. On average, growers are booking about 20 percent less than last year and the busiest shipping weeks have moved from nine and 10 to 10, 11 and 12. While numbers may be down, plug and liner growers are seeing gains with certain customers and new customers but not enough to offset the overall reduction in orders. Many growers have opted to sow seed and stick cuttings instead of buying plugs and liners. Some are purchasing larger sizes for quick turns later. Others switched to lower-cost suppliers. Some orders had to be […]

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January 13, 2009

View: A Positive Outlook On 2009

Al Zylstra, a TrueLeaf Technologies national sales manager based in California, can see the light at the end of the tunnel. He believes the economy is on the upswing and that growers and garden center retailers should be prepared to pounce on the opportunities ahead. And The Economic Reality Is?   Recession. Depression. Economic adjustment. Financial meltdown. Conflagration of Wall Street and financial industry greed. Housing market bubble bursting. Deleveraging. Or, whatever it is you want to call it! How much longer will it last? What can growers expect this spring? I’m going to go out on a limb and hereby prognosticate that we will soon see that we’ve already hit the bottom of the trough, and that we have already been bumping along the bottom for a few weeks or so. After another month or so, we will begin the slow, initially jerky but none-the-less steady rise back to […]

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January 6, 2009

Storms Setting Some Oregon Growers Back

The state of Oregon endured one of its worst winter storms in years late last month, resulting in hundreds, if not thousands, of damaged greenhouses that could not withstand the weight of snow and ice that built up on their roofs. The Oregon Association of Nurseries (OAN) estimates millions of dollars of damages. OAN asked its members to complete an online survey about damage to their businesses, and it learned 160 growers in 12 Oregon counties reported that the cost of damage to structures and crops ranges from $18 to $31 million. Growers reported the total estimated cost to repair or replace greenhouses and structures equals $10.8 million. OAN is now seeking disaster relief in 12 counties. “Our growers are self reliant and unaccustomed to government assistance,” says OAN President Tom McNabb. “But during these tough economic times, when banks are more cautious about making farm loans, we need access to […]

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December 17, 2008

State Of The Industry: The Independent Garden Center In Unchartered Waters

Most years at about this time, if you were to ask a garden center owner about his or her expectations for the coming season, you could pretty much predict the response: “Well, as long as we have good weekend weather in the spring I think we’ll do all right.” But ask that same question as 2008 turns to 2009 and the answer isn’t quite so predictable. Because nothing in today’s economic conditions seems predictable. Some retailers are surprisingly optimistic about 2009. Others are holding their breath while keeping a close eye on Wall Street and a tight grip on their checkbooks. And everyone wants to know where their customers will be on that first warm, sunny Saturday afternoon in April. Prepare To Succeed–Or You Won’t For many garden centers, the script for spring may already be written. Success this season could have less to do with what’s going to happen, […]

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December 17, 2008

State Of The Industry: A Search For Quality

In ornamental floriculture, we have learned how to manipulate plant growth through scientific research and have the ability to produce great plants at reasonable costs. We use short days, long days, supplement lighting, soil testing, water testing, tissue culture, biotechnology and plant growth regulators (PGRs), just to mention a few of the tools available to produce superior plants. The purpose of all the available tools for plant production is to provide products that will ensure the consumer can purchase plants they can be successful with and the plant manufacturers can control their cost of production. It seems as though in some cases, these tools are only used for the benefit of the manufacturer with little concern for the results the consumer might achieve. As an avid gardener, I have purchased plants that looked good on the retail shelf, planted them and then found out they would not grow. They didn’t […]

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December 16, 2008

State Of The Industry: Rising To Challenges

Kicking off the year, we’ve identified the top 10 challenges growers are facing and the opportunities and strategies that come with them. 1) Profitability–Financial standing and banking relationships will be critical this year as lines of credit tighten up. Growers who rely on lines of credit for cashflow in between seasons may be in a precarious position if they have deep debts. We anticipate brokers, distributors and vendors will be pressured to help keep grower customers afloat in between seasons with extended payment terms, which will also put the supply chain at risk financially. The growers who will be best prepared to weather rising input and overhead costs will have low debt and have made investments in technologies that will lower their labor and energy costs. Smaller growers who are highly specialized or seasonal with low overhead should be nimble enough to adjust, too. Precise, high-quality production will be key […]

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December 16, 2008

2009 State Of The Industry Report

If you stop to think about the developments our industry has seen over the past couple of years, your head will spin. There’s been plenty of change lately but through it all, your goals as growers have remained the same: You still strive to produce quality plants in the most efficient manner possible, and all the while turning a nice profit. Lately, though, profitability has been more of an uncertainty than a guarantee. There’s no room for error in production anymore. And with the current state of the economy, while some growers see the opportunity to invest in their businesses and push ahead, others are nervously pulling back into wait-and-see mode. Despite all this turmoil, however, there’s reason to be upbeat. Greenhouse Grower’s 2009 State of the Industry report looks at all these challenges and focuses on actions growers can take in the new year. We went to a panel […]

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December 16, 2008

Online Only: Complete Industry Pulse Survey Responses

We surveyed readers to create a profile of the typical greenhouse grower in 2009 and to gauge the current state of the market. Here are the complete findings from our 250 respondents. Which of the following best describes your business? Wholesale grower, finished plants    32%    Grower/retailer    32%    Wholesale grower, young plants (plugs & liners) 8% Wholesale grower, finished & young plants    16% Other 12% What percent of the plants you grow was sold through each of the following outlets in 2008? Mass merchandiser (e.g. Wal-Mart,Target)     11.63    Home improvement chains (e.g. The Home Depot, Lowe’s)11.54   Supermarkets         8.92    Independent garden centers    45.83       Own retail operation         57.43   Where is your business located? Northeastern U.S.20.8%   Midwestern U.S.    29.2%   Southeastern U.S. 20.0%   Southwestern U.S. 6.0%   Western U.S.    16.8%   International    7.2%   How long has your greenhouse operation been in business? 5 years or less    14.0%   6 to 10 years    8.6%   11 to 15 […]

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December 16, 2008

State Of The Industry: Branding In Action

What does it take to be a king or queen of branding? Well, a great product for starters. Beyond that starting point, you’ll need a meaningful message and a forum to relay that message. A few plant brands are setting the bar high in our industry and designing the templates for getting messages across to consumers. Here’s a glance at what these brands have been up to lately, and what they’ve done to position themselves as leaders. Hort Couture The original idea for this brand was to create a program for independent retailers with high-fashion design and marketing, as well as high-quality plants. But Hort Couture has taken off in such a short time and is easily recognizable now because of a strategic marketing campaign that’s positioned the brand as the one that does plants with style. This year, Hort Couture hosted its first Dressed For Success display contest for […]

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December 16, 2008

State Of The Industry: A Snapshot

         

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December 16, 2008

State Of The Industry: Building A Collective Voice

We’ve all heard about the need for one unified message the industry could deliver to consumers, and several organizations are already on the right track promoting the benefits of the crops you grow. Here’s a breakdown of a few industry organizations and the specific messages they’ve been delivering lately. America In Bloom Last year, 30 U.S. communities participated in America In Bloom (AIB), the national grassroots community enhancement program that engages communities in a friendly beautification competition each year. Nearly 160 communities have been involved in the program since the organization was founded in 2001, and several cities have made their participation in America In Bloom a regular affair. Many times, in fact, communities enter the competition after a neighboring community has already done so. The benefits, AIB finds, are economical, environmental and in the human lifestyle. Next year’s annual symposium and awards gala will be held in Hershey, Pa. […]

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