August 16, 2013

The Even-Higher-Tech-Future Of The Top 100 Grower

As part of Greenhouse Grower’s 30th anniversary celebration, we’ve been taking a look at the current state of various segments of our industry in 2013. But there’s also value in looking ahead at — and preparing for — the next 10, 20 or 30 years. “The Even-Higher-Tech Future Of The Top 100 Grower” was the theme for Greenhouse Grower’s annual Top 100 Growers Breakfast, held during OFA Short Course. The Top 100 program was sponsored by BASF. The breakfast featured a panel discussion with experts in web technology, robotics and production: Gary Falkenstein, president and CEO of ePlantSource, Charles Grinnell, COO of Harvest Automation and Paul Pilon, owner of Perennial Solutions Consulting. Each shared his vision of the future and identified readily available technologies and opportunites that growers should be exploring for their business today. Where are the Top 100 Growers on the technology curve? Falkenstein: On the technology side, […]

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August 14, 2013

Growing With Ecology In Mind

North Creek Nurseries, based in Landenberg, Pa., is making a name for itself providing sustainably grown plants for ecological installations, including working with LEED-certified engineers and landscapers. We talked to the operation’s owner, Steve Castorani, about how this market impacts his business, and how you can take advantage of the growing ecological trend. GG: When did North Creek Nurseries begin growing native plants and plants for ecological applications? Castorani: We founded our nursery with an emphasis on ecological plantings. One of our bylines is, “Where horticulture meets ecology,” and we’ve stayed true to that value statement. We use it as a barometer when we introduce plants to determine how sustainable they are and what their life span is in the market. Our mission is to propagate and market plants that develop a relationship between people and sustainable outdoor environments, so we look for plants that will thrive and last for […]

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August 13, 2013

State Of The Supply Chain

The greenhouse supply chain has evolved since 2000 like no other time in industry history. These dramatic changes were driven by a number of factors, including: • Consolidation at all levels of the chain • The massive explosion of retail space in the 1980s and 1990s • Power shifts from growers to retailers • The declining size of the grower base • Changing levels of support between the breeder/producers and the brokers • The economy Let’s take a look at some of these changes, and how they’re impacting you and your business. Retail: The Box Stores In the ’70s and ’80s, Kmart was the market leader in bedding plant retail. That changed by 1995, when Home Depot, Walmart and Lowe’s combined had 2,913 stores with 33 million square feet of outdoor garden selling space. By 2000, these giants grew to 4,228 stores and 72 million square feet of outdoor space. […]

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August 13, 2013

Three Keys To World-Class Customer Service

Are you doing everything you can for your customers? Dennis Snow thinks you can step it up a few notches and wow your customers with world-class customer service. As a veteran employee at Walt Disney World, where customer service is essential to creating magical, memorable experiences for the popular theme park’s guests, Snow was on the front lines of dealing with customers every day.  At OFA Short Course, Snow delivered a funny, irreverent and enlightening keynote address during the Sunday morning session, setting the tone for the event. Now a business consultant at Dennis Snow and Associates and an author of two books, Snow has built on his experience working at Disney and counsels organizations worldwide. Snow thrilled and engaged the audience with humorous stories about Disney customers, and how his team worked to create solutions that would infuse a little bit of magic and wonder in every Disney experience. […]

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July 31, 2013

Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show Changes Dates

The Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show (MANTS), now in its 44th year, has announced a change of date for its January 2015 trade show event. Due to scheduling concerns, MANTS will swap show dates with North Carolina-based Green & Growin’ Show for January 2015 only. In 2015, MANTS will be held January 14-16 at its home venue, the Baltimore Convention Center. MANTS, one of the largest trade shows serving the horticulture industry, is sponsored by the state Nursery and Landscape Associations of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, and brings together 1,000 vendors of top industry products from across the U.S. and internationally. “These shows collectively support our industry and the fact that the Green & Growin’ Show and MANTS are able to work together is good for our exhibitors, good for our attendees and good for the industry,” says MANTS Executive Vice President Vanessa Finney. The Green & Growin’ Show will […]

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July 30, 2013

Box Stores And Facebook: How Social Media Has Changed Sales

How many box stores are seeing direct sales in plants from social media? That was a question on the minds of attendees at OFA Short Course’s Grower Town Hall. Here are the thoughts of the grower panel.  “I am a Facebook advocate. We don’t get a lot of Likes each week, but we see visits and unique visits from it over a week. I can tie sales to what we’re doing on Facebook. We’re trying to get potential customers into Home Depot stores. We do talk about pricing, what’s hot this week and what’s shipping. We get a good reaction to Facebook.” “Our goal is to get on the Facebook pages of Walmart or Lowe’s. This will have huge impact on our business. It doesn’t always benefit the stores we serve, but that doesn’t bother us. It’s better for everyone involved [when plants are featured on their Facebook pages].” “The […]

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July 16, 2013

Garden Retail 2013: Chicago

The weather in Chicago was perfect and the shoppers were out in huge numbers filling almost every garden center we visited on May 18 to 19, 2013. Home Depot was the most crowded, with a busy parking lot. In looking closely at a number of shopping carts, customers were buying a wide variety of items, including large patio containers and hanging baskets. In this market, there has been seemingly no impact on the sale of Impatiens walleriana. We observed large inventories in all retail locations. The main objective of this retail tour was to see the initial launch of the Miracle Gro Syngenta branded annuals. They were on the shelves in every Home Depot, with larger displays in the suburbs than the city stores. Here is what we saw: • Two SKUs: a 5-inch annual retailing for $6.98 and a 12-inch fiber hanging basket with Calliope geraniums retailing for $19.98. […]

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July 16, 2013

What Is The Place Of The Box Store In Horticulture: OFA Town Hall Meeting

The Grower Town Hall at OFA Short Course took a critical look into the relationship between the larger and smaller growers and the retailers they serve. The audience asked questions of a panel of Hort Couture’s Jim Monroe, Bemis Farms’ Tina Bemis, Bell Nursery’s Gary Mangum and Metrolina’s Art Van Wingerden. An audience member asked about the strengths of the box stores, what they offer to customers and what they contribute to the horticulture industry. Here’s how that conversation flowed. - They offer buying power and advertising. Whether we like it or not, it’s part of the planting season for the consumer. People who see the big box commercials make it into the independent garden center eventually. It’s a cause and effect benefit. - Vendor-controlled merchandising. You’re controlling your own destiny about what product looks like in the store. The box stores carry so many categories and plants benefit from […]

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July 11, 2013

New Rules Of The Road

As if we didn’t need more stress and strain, another challenge is headed our way that will further impact our day-to-day efficiency and profitability. The trucking market is in rapid decline and we will see even further rate increases over the next year or two. This time, the culprit is not a short-term spike in fuel prices, which often decline as quickly as they rise. Rather, the issue now is more structural in nature and will be with us for the long term. The good news is that when something is structural, we know it will be with us for awhile and we can plan for it. But the bad news is that it will be with us for a long time and that we need to plan for it. New Rules Now In EffectAs of July 1, new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rules went into effect. Within […]

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July 9, 2013

Garden Retail 2013 Report: Hartford, Conn.

The Hartford area is a mixture of some outstanding IGCs and the usual spread of national retailers based on population density. My visit was June 12 (warm with intermittent rain) and June 13 (cool and rainy). There was not much traffic in any garden center during this two-day retail tour. In almost all stores, whether big boxes or IGCs, there was a lot of inventory on the shelves and in some instances it had some age to it with a typical spring product mix. There was no indication of a transition to a summer product mix. In talking to the retailers, they had a decent year but most thought they still needed a good solid weekend of sales to make their year compete with last year. Walmart: Emphasis On Merchandising And Perennials It seems as though there is far less emphasis on the Better Homes and Gardens brand this season, […]

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July 1, 2013

House Rejects Farm Bill

Specialty crop provisions that SAF members lobbied for during Congressional Action Days are in a precarious position after the U.S. House of Representatives defeated the Farm Bill (H.R. 1947). In a stunning turnaround, only 24 Democrats voted for the measure last week; 62 Republicans voted against it. “The defeat of the House bill is shocking,” says Lin Schmale, SAF’s senior director of government relations. “It is, sadly, a demonstration of partisan gridlock, which is in no one’s best interest. We had a strong, bipartisan bill for specialty crops and indeed for all of agriculture.” The current Farm Bill expires Sept. 30. A controversial centerpiece of the House bill would have cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — or food stamp program — by $20.5 billion, far more than the Senate-passed bill. Democratic leadership said that even with those cuts, they had the votes for the bill, but that the adoption […]

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