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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July 1, 2013

Millennials Home Buying Boom May Be On The Horizon

Millennials may be closer to home ownership and gardening than ever before. In a survey by homebuilder Pulte Group Inc., of renters aged 18-34 with an income of more than $50,000, 65 percent say their intent to buy a home has significantly or somewhat increased in the past year. Their feelings about how landscaping plays into their future of homeownership, however, isn’t clear. In the survey, millennials rated the following aspects in a new home as extremely important/very important: 84 percent said ample storage for daily items 76 percent said space for TV, movie, sports watching 73 percent said the entry to the home 63 percent said outdoor living/deck 36 percent said the ability to conduct business from home In addition to this data, an article by Builder Magazine points out a recent survey conducted for Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, which found that 56 percent of millnnials said […]

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June 24, 2013

Stacy’s Greenhouses Files For Bankruptcy

Stacy’s Inc. has filed for Chaper 11 bankruptcy protection in order to facilitate an upcoming sale. “The process is going forward the way we had hoped,” says Stacy’s President Tim Brindley. “The court has approved a working budget to keep everything moving forward through July 26, and we have another hearing soon to approve a budget through August.” With the company going through Chapter 11 proceedings, any sale will be an asset purchase rather than a sale of the company. The business will no longer carry the Stacy’s name. “We have been in negotiations with a potential buyer for several months, and have a signed asset purchase agreement in place,” Brindley says. “Everything has to be approved by the courts and there are a lot of steps that still have to take place, but the goal is to have the sale complete by the end of August. The sale of Stacy’s […]

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June 13, 2013

Emerald Coast Growers Adds Greenhouse Space

Emerald Coast Growers has completed construction on a new 18,432-square-foot greenhouse at its Milton, Fla., location. “The expansion gives us the opportunity to add even more new varieties and deepen our availability, which means we can carry more of the plants growers are looking for,” says Cheri Markowitz, sales manager. “In addition, the new house offers increased production efficiencies through advantages like enhanced crop flexibility and better climate control, letting us further enhance our quality standards.” With the expansion, Emerald Coast Growers now has the capacity to hold nearly 200,000 trays at its Florida locations. The new house will be used primarily for grass production, but flexibility of design and equipment will allow the operation to produce a variety of material as needed. “The natural venting setup of this style of house gives us a low-input way to battle the high temperatures we see during our extended summer,” says Head […]

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June 10, 2013

Spring 2013 Trend Watch: Top Sellers

We asked retailers across the country about which three specific products/plants were the best sellers for their store. Not surprisingly, bedding plant and vegetable and herb varieties were the most cited. The most striking result was that no single variety or even plant garnered enough votes to head the list. The best sellers were diverse, from beefsteak tomato to a dark-red geranium to a hydrangea. It was only when the products and plants were grouped into broad categories that trends emerged. Best-Selling Categories Bedding plants slightly edged out edibles in the lists, but we noticed an interesting pattern. Although bedding plants were mentioned most often by garden retailers, bedding plants were often the retailers’ No. 3 bestseller. When a vegetable or herb was included, in contrast, it was most often in the No. 1 slot. “I sell a lot of veggies. Flowers as well, but veggies dominate,” says Patricia Niedrich, […]

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June 5, 2013

Benary’s Matthias Redlefsen On The Importance Of Independents [Opinion]

Over the past six years, the number of seed breeding companies for the professional bedding plant market has undergone a substantial consolidation. Major players that had been institutions for generations of growers have been taken over. Syngenta bought Goldsmith Seeds, Takii bought Sahin and Global Flowers, Benary bought Bodger Seeds and PanAmerican Seed bought Kieft, just to mention the tip of the iceberg. In fact, today, only seven relevant breeders are left who develop and produce seeds for our industry: PanAmerican Seed, Syngenta, Sakata, Takii, Benary, Hem Genetics and Floranova. That’s it, worldwide. The majority of these players are an integrated part of larger corporations, which are also operating in different markets or on different levels of our industry. And some of them are independent breeders, who do nothing other than breed seeds for the bedding plant industry. I believe that these independent breeders are important, if not key, for […]

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