Ravin’ Traven: No Cutting Back

Ravin' Traven: No Cutting Back

Each week, wholesale grower Lloyd Traven of Peace Tree Farm in Pennsylvania sends out an engaging and highly opinionated rant to his garden center customers along with the most current availability, order forms and pictures of plants in the greenhouse. Here is his most recent rant, in which he encourages grower-retailers to stock great plants and hope for the best rather than assume customers simply won’t buy in these uncertain times.

November 28

Steely Dan had a GREAT tune called “Black Friday.” Call it up on iTunes–it’ll cheer you and get you jumping. It should be required at 7 a.m. on this day, to get your employees moving and grooving.

So, it is now 2:30 on Friday, well into the day after Turkey Day, and we’re all fully awake after the turkey coma. We hope you are swamped with people spending money. By Monday, no doubt, you WILL need to restock. We’re here to help.

For all the Doubting Thomases, those who STILL persist in saying that “I’m going to see what develops, who comes in and then bring some stuff in,” be assured: That is ALREADY too late!!! As the garden center guru Robert Hendrickson says, “What the customer wants is simple: a PERFECT PLANT every time, on time, all the time.” They won’t come back later to see IF you brought good material in; they demand it RIGHT NOW. There is no later!!

So, why wait? Get great material right now, sell it and get more. If it doesn’t sell, then you don’t need more. BUT, if you don’t have it at all, you KNOW it will NEVER sell!! If you are not optimistic in this industry, perhaps a change of direction is called for, because isn’t that pretty much what all farmers (and we are definitely farmers!!!) do? We plant a crop, work real hard to make it perfect and HOPE that everything works out.

Of course, we would have to be crazy to not expect to be fairly paid for this risk and exposure. Going into a season hoping to do nothing more than break even is NUTS!!! Unfortunately, WE seem to be the worst offenders when it comes to making sure we don’t value our own product very much. You see that clearly when there are poinsettia promotions at Depot for 99 cents, four for $10 at Walmart, etc. Yet, there are customers out there who WILL pay fairly for excellent products (but we have to ASK for a fair price). The consumer WANTS our product, and it gives them great pleasure. Somehow, a plastic poinsettia centerpiece from China doesn’t cut it.
 
When you need a coronary bypass, do we ask which doctor is cheapest? When you take your good customer out for dinner to thank them for all their business and their loyalty, do you ask the sommelier what is the cheapest wine you can “get away with,” or do you impress them with the best? We TEACH our customers to accept lesser quality at dirt-cheap prices and complain when they get used to it and expect superior quality (what they REALLY want) at the same cheapo-cheapo prices.

Get GREAT product, price it so the customer perceives it as a fair value for THEIR purpose (like impressing the mother-in-law or the new squeeze) and close the deal. Let THEM make the decision of what it is worth. Don’t TELL them that you see it as worth chump change. You’ll get chump change that way.

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6 comments on “Ravin’ Traven: No Cutting Back

  1. Hallelujah! Finally someone who agrees with my point of view. I have a small nursery near Baton Rouge. I have found that the customer is also looking for plants that the Big Boxes don’t have, and are more than willing to pay for “one of a kind”. This has worked greatly to my favor. Keep penning the truth!

  2. You can not sell from an empty cart! We are doing our regular floral production and increasing vegetables and herbs for the horde of new gardeners we expect. We already have 70 types of Tomatoes and Peppers so we can compete with the Big Boxes or anyone else. We found that in our rural area hybrids to heirlooms to ethnic varieties sell well. It took a couple years to develop the market but it really helps single you out. I am also hopeful that the new administration will help out us regular folks after they take office next month.

  3. As usual, Lloyd is so right! (I like to think those of use from Del Val class of ’79 sieze opportunities) There are more than enough customers out there who value quality product. Let’s keep them happy and coming back for more!

  4. Hallelujah! Finally someone who agrees with my point of view. I have a small nursery near Baton Rouge. I have found that the customer is also looking for plants that the Big Boxes don’t have, and are more than willing to pay for “one of a kind”. This has worked greatly to my favor. Keep penning the truth!

  5. You can not sell from an empty cart! We are doing our regular floral production and increasing vegetables and herbs for the horde of new gardeners we expect. We already have 70 types of Tomatoes and Peppers so we can compete with the Big Boxes or anyone else. We found that in our rural area hybrids to heirlooms to ethnic varieties sell well. It took a couple years to develop the market but it really helps single you out. I am also hopeful that the new administration will help out us regular folks after they take office next month.

  6. As usual, Lloyd is so right! (I like to think those of use from Del Val class of ’79 sieze opportunities) There are more than enough customers out there who value quality product. Let’s keep them happy and coming back for more!

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