State Of The Industry: Leaders Sound Off

So many questions, so many different answers. Determining whether the state of our industry is good, bad or something else is a mighty challenge when you take into account the fact that growers, retailers and others have vastly different opinions on the issues pressing us most. Business may be booming for some yet hard to come by for others, and a challenge to one grower may be the least of another’s worries.

To give you an idea where people in the industry stand, we approached growers and others with five questions about the state of greenhouse floriculture in 2010. Most of those we approached expressed concerns about the state of things. But here’s what they said − in their own words.

How would you describe the state of the greenhouse floriculture industry today?

 

Fran Hopkins
President, Under A Foot Plant Company

In complete disarray and total pandemonium. I must say this is the most disturbing place I have ever been as a grower, as an owner and as a marketer. Instead of a unified front, forging forward in this horrible economy, we are regressing into civil war–box store versus independent, generic versus brand, paper versus plastic. You name it, our industry has pushed itself into every corner it can with a fight or flight mentality.

I used to love this industry, but going to meetings now is a dreadful undertaking. It’s vigilante time for many I think. Instead of pulling together and finding a common cause to whip this bad economy, my friends and colleagues are yelling at each other and pulling the industry I love so much apart.

Denise Godfrey
Olive Hill Greenhouses

Like the rest of the economic sectors, we are suffering from decreased demand and we hope to maintain during this uncertainty by looking at old and new ideas and technology; by relying more on relationships and working together with fellow growers, suppliers and customers to better define and react to what is happening; to take advantage of opportunities; and to maintain a positive outlook in order to overcome adversity and persevere.

Tony Barcelo
Vice President, Barcelo Enterprises

I think the biggest problem is the industry has consolidated. As a larger grower on the West Coast, our outlets have shrunk to five or six customers. The economic situation, especially in California with the housing crash, has really devastated the market. California, Nevada and Arizona have extended markets. It’s not the same as in the Northeast, where a season is a season. You plant or you don’t. It’s hard to spend money on plants if you don’t know if you’ll be living in your house. If consumer confidence doesn’t turn around, I don’t know how long Home Depot and Lowe’s can withstand this downturn.

Chad Underwood
General Manager, Kalamazoo Flower Group

The state of the industry is good but could certainly be better. I think collectively we have an opportunity today to capitalize on the new attitude Americans have as a result of the economic downturn. Our products match the shift in values and priorities we’ve seen as a country.

Anthony Van Hoven
Battlefield Farms

I think the greenhouse floriculture industry is still strong, but there’s been a shift brought on by the economy, forcing a domino effect of decisions. Big boxes want to be more efficient, knocking down the number of suppliers to manage. They want the big guys to take more control and to hold them accountable. Ten years ago, growers could get away with sloppiness. The motivation now is to develop new products to keep buyers happy and to stay ahead of the industry with state-of-the-art facilities. Those who don’t are losing market share to those modern facilities.

Has our industry entered a new era or paradigm shift? Please explain why or why not.

 

Art Van Wingerden
President, Metrolina Greenhouses

We have hit a shift. If you told growers a few years back they would be contract growing, they would have told you no way. The number of people who contract grow for others is increasing every year. We are currently at 25 percent of our sales are grown by others.

Dominik Neisser
EuroAmerican Propagators

Yes, we are in a different era right now. The last years have been beneficial for the floriculture industry. People beefed up their front yards to raise the house evaluation. Many apartment renters became homeowners and invested in their property (well sponsored by the bank). Overall, there was more spending than earning, and flowers have been part of that wild party.The price was a secondary criteria when customers shopped in the garden centers.

It’s been more than a year now since we returned to “reality,” and consumers realize their flower budget is lower than the years before. Cheaper varieties will be accepted more often and the price is a more watched criteria. But greenhouse operations invested and built up production space based on the better times before. Investments have been done and credits need to be paid back to the bank. That’s why the overproduction of flowers will not be adjusted in short time. Everybody is trying to keep their share of the market and competition will be much harder and rougher.

Andy Ambrosio
Wenke Greenhouses

It’s all about the weather. The best-laid plans, along with great product quality and packaging, are laid to waste if it rains every weekend. The opposite is not true, but to the same degree: Great weather will make it somewhat easier to sell “C” grade product, but only after the “All-Stars” are done shipping.

Fran Hopkins
I believe it has. We have seen these shifts before over the last 20 some years, but never this dramatic. We are all working for pennies now instead of dimes. What used to be an easy sale is getting harder and harder. Many, many people are sitting on the sidelines and complaining about how hard it is, complaining about the “other” side making their life harder, instead of rolling up their sleeves and accepting that things have changed.

I hope (for the independent retailer’s sake) we have seen the last of the double plus 10 pricing structure. Shoppers are smarter than that now–they have to be. Every dollar counts now. Pricing products to grab all the money from one customer instead of a little bit from many is a mentality that has sent many retailers to the big dark retailer in the sky.

Tony Barcelo
I think the industry is lost now. I don’t think there is leadership. I don’t think there’s an area of the industry that’s solid. Everything is in limbo.

My father, who is 69, was in the industry for 40 years. Old guys like him were mentors to me. When they sit back and see how the industry has evolved, you’d like to think they’d be proud of where the industry is at and they really are not.

Chad Underwood
With regard to retail, I think it has. We no longer ship as much as possible into a store and leave the retailer to worry about it. Today, we are actively engaged with our customers’ retail success. In fact, in some ways I think the roles have been reversed.

Has there been a changing of the guard in industry leadership


Dave Doolittle
Terra Nova Nurseries

Not yet, and in many ways that can be a very scary thing. When I attend industry events, I’m often jokingly–I hope–referred to as a kid or a member of “the other generation.” The truth is, there is a huge generation gap between the current industry leadership and the future leaders of horticulture.

Fran Hopkins
What industry leadership? We have factions around the country that are more intent on getting “their” viewpoint heard rather than a communal message. Until this industry steps away from the Dark Ages and comes into the light of the new millennium, I am afraid our industry will continue to deteriorate.

If there are “leaders” of this industry, lead! Bring this industry together rather than pull it apart for your own sector’s interest. We are “the” green industry, all of us: trees, shrubs, grasses, perennials, annuals, independents, boxes, landscapers and growers. Everyone is in this industry and our products help the world breathe. No one else in the world can state that equivocally.

Denise Godfrey
I am thinking it is not exactly a changing of the guard, but rather more reinforcements to fight individual challenges to our multi-front battle.

In order to be successful in the future, the industry must have all types of leaders employing different techniques and strategies to engage with environmental groups, legislators, the general public and young students. Leaders need to communicate our accomplishments, goals and aspirations to get them excited about the floriculture community and to help them recognize the importance of our industry. Our success is more tightly tied to their perceptions and their willingness to help us thrive.

What are the greatest challenges growers are facing today?


Ed Overdevest
President, Overdevest Nurseries

The downturn in the economy has spawned an expectation of lower prices at every level of business. Consumers expect it, retailers expect it and growers expect it. While it’s helpful lower prices can be offset somewhat by lowered input costs, the threat of volatility remains with key inputs such as energy. All of this puts businesses in uncharted waters as to gauging future costs and prices. No doubt things will return to more stable patterns, but the question is how soon?

Denise Godfrey
We are fighting a multi-front battle. On the sales front, growers are working to identify how the demands of their customer bases are changing. They are looking for assistance from their suppliers to optimize the quantities and number of varieties grown to meet this changing demand, and they are evaluating new and old ideas to better interface with their customers to help them sell more plants and be more successful.

Anthony Van Hoven
It’s a challenge to keep up with or stay ahead of the large retailers. Every year they want new things to draw in the consumer. Now there’s so much at stake. Where’s your performance? What are you going to do? Don’t come to them with the exact same program as the year before.

For the growers, it requires strong research and development and motivation. Those are the companies who are expanding and staying in the game. They have a desire to impress, not just maintain. There also has to be a willingness to take risks and even lose money. With high risk come high rewards. You’re not going to win on everything. Some products are great. Some bomb out. You can’t let that discourage you.

Dominik Neisser
Competition. Desperate sellers will extend their sales territories and try to convince established markets to buy their products. With that, wholesalers will have more offers on their desk and pick the best product and the best price. This can raise the quality standard and lower sales prices.

Nurseries also have to create very careful business relationships. Missed calls or skipped visits could lead to fewer orders because there are more competitors out there knocking on customer doors. Marketing investments need to be higher to still be visible on the market.

With all the extra effort and higher quality standards, growers need to be very good in math. Besides fulfilling the high demands of the market, they have to still overlook costs and compare them constantly with the income. They have to know their costs and give the best prognoses of the income. To do the math before was important to maximize the profit. Today it is essential to survive the business year. Who did not watch costs before just lost money that year. Nowadays, there will be a call from the bank and trouble is on the way.

What are the greatest opportunities for growers to build their business?


John Bonner
Eagle Creek Growers

The current economy is challenging. But it has created great opportunity in that those who have positioned themselves by reinvesting in their business now stand to reap huge rewards.

It seemed like just a couple years ago there was some concern that there was just too much capacity out there serving the market. The mentality that “more is better” then shifted to “reduce the shrink, control variable costs and sell through.”

Today, there are businesses falling by the wayside that have not been able to weather the economic stress we are all facing. That puts those who have reinvested in their businesses in a very unique position–if only in the short term.

On the macro level, this economic environment is forcing people out of business and therefore aggregate supply is contracting. The good news is that same business environment is only marginally reducing the aggregate demand in the market. I see evidence of this, as last season galvanized my understanding that our industry has a low “beta,” meaning we are only moderately affected by changes in the economic business environment.

Andy Ambrosio
Focus on the ultimate consumer and what they are looking for with our product. Convenient and eye catching packaging and tagging; easy-to-understand product applications; consistently excellent product quality; healthy and vibrant plants.

At the same time, we should focus on the retail chain by utilizing technology to reduce transaction costs, minimize delivery surprises and improve product flow from the production greenhouse to the retail floor.

Dave Doolittle
Encouraging their strongest employees and promoting an environment that makes these employees never want to leave their source of income: your nursery. A lot of people might answer this question by saying “investing in cutting edge improvements in technology that decrease labor,” but no machine has a heart. In my opinion, a satisfied employee that truly believes in the better good of your nursery operation is the strongest investment a company can make.

The freshest and most profitable ideas often develop within an organization from employees that have had the opportunity to witness the evolution and growth of the nurseries they work for.

Chad Underwood
I think growers’ single biggest challenge today is finding truly effective and efficient shipping solutions. We are going to see more and more folks working together to consolidate shipping. Over time, the cost of oil is only going to increase. This fact, combined with retailer costing pressures, will force growers to innovate in this area.

Leave a Reply

More From State of the Industry...
Joe Bischoff

July 26, 2016

SAF Partners With Cornerstone Government Affairs To Advance Industry’s Policy Priorities In Washington

A new partnership between the Society of American Florists (SAF) and Cornerstone Government Affairs ensures that SAF will continue its highly effective work advocating for issues that affect the floriculture industry. “SAF and Cornerstone together provide experienced voices on Capitol Hill to protect our growers’ interests,” says SAF CEO Peter Moran. “We’ll continue to move major policy priorities forward on behalf of small business and agriculture.” Cornerstone is a public affairs firm specializing in government relations, strategic consulting, and advocacy. Its team of more than 50 senior professionals includes former senior professional staff from both authorization and appropriations committees and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as well as veterans of the horticulture industry. Agricultural and horticultural issues of primary concern to SAF members include access to labor, immigration, crop protection, international trade and other matters related to the day-to-day operations of growers. Before she retired this year, SAF lobbyist Lin […]

Read More

July 26, 2016

AFE Releases New Videos Highlighting Industry Successes

The American Floral Endowment (AFE) recently released five new videos, created to highlight floriculture successes through industry collaboration, support, and participation. “Each video shares real stories from industry members on career development through scholarships and internships, and true examples of research solutions that have shaped how the industry operates today,” says Laura Shinall, President of Syndicate Sales, Inc., and AFE Public Relations and Development Chair. “We’re excited to be able to share some great success stories in an effort to increase industry participation.” The introductory video “Heard of the American Floral Endowment?” helps educate those who aren’t currently aware of AFE’s programs, while other segmented videos (retail, wholesale, grower) share how Endowment programs complement each group and why it’s so important that everyone in the industry participates: Retail Florists Share Why They Turn to AFE New Resources for Floral Wholesalers and Suppliers AFE Helping Growers Profit Ready for a Career in Floriculture or Horticulture? […]

Read More

July 19, 2016

Do You Grow Young Plants? Only 4 Days Left To Take Our 2016 Young Plant Survey!

If your operation produces plugs or liners for wholesale growers, please take a few minutes to participate in Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Young Plant Grower Survey. We know you are very busy and we value your time and input. This survey should only take a few minutes. Greenhouse Grower’s Young Plant Grower Survey has played a key role in building our Top 20 Young Plant Growers list over the years. The information helps us zero in on trends taking shape and the challenges you’re facing as young plant growers. If you have any questions about this survey or you are not the right contact for this at your operation, please email me at [email protected], or please forward the survey link to the appropriate person. We would like to wrap up this survey by July 25, so please take it soon! Thank you in advance for your participation. We value your opinion! » […]

Read More
Latest Stories
Joe Bischoff

July 26, 2016

SAF Partners With Cornerstone Government Affairs To Adv…

A new partnership between the Society of American Florists (SAF) and Cornerstone Government Affairs ensures that SAF will continue its highly effective work advocating for issues that affect the floriculture industry. “SAF and Cornerstone together provide experienced voices on Capitol Hill to protect our growers’ interests,” says SAF CEO Peter Moran. “We’ll continue to move major policy priorities forward on behalf of small business and agriculture.” Cornerstone is a public affairs firm specializing in government relations, strategic consulting, and advocacy. Its team of more than 50 senior professionals includes former senior professional staff from both authorization and appropriations committees and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as well as veterans of the horticulture industry. Agricultural and horticultural issues of primary concern to SAF members include access to labor, immigration, crop protection, international trade and other matters related to the day-to-day operations of growers. Before she retired this year, SAF lobbyist Lin […]

Read More

July 26, 2016

AFE Releases New Videos Highlighting Industry Successes

The American Floral Endowment (AFE) recently released five new videos, created to highlight floriculture successes through industry collaboration, support, and participation. “Each video shares real stories from industry members on career development through scholarships and internships, and true examples of research solutions that have shaped how the industry operates today,” says Laura Shinall, President of Syndicate Sales, Inc., and AFE Public Relations and Development Chair. “We’re excited to be able to share some great success stories in an effort to increase industry participation.” The introductory video “Heard of the American Floral Endowment?” helps educate those who aren’t currently aware of AFE’s programs, while other segmented videos (retail, wholesale, grower) share how Endowment programs complement each group and why it’s so important that everyone in the industry participates: Retail Florists Share Why They Turn to AFE New Resources for Floral Wholesalers and Suppliers AFE Helping Growers Profit Ready for a Career in Floriculture or Horticulture? […]

Read More

July 19, 2016

Do You Grow Young Plants? Only 4 Days Left To Take Our …

If your operation produces plugs or liners for wholesale growers, please take a few minutes to participate in Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Young Plant Grower Survey. We know you are very busy and we value your time and input. This survey should only take a few minutes. Greenhouse Grower’s Young Plant Grower Survey has played a key role in building our Top 20 Young Plant Growers list over the years. The information helps us zero in on trends taking shape and the challenges you’re facing as young plant growers. If you have any questions about this survey or you are not the right contact for this at your operation, please email me at [email protected], or please forward the survey link to the appropriate person. We would like to wrap up this survey by July 25, so please take it soon! Thank you in advance for your participation. We value your opinion! » […]

Read More
State of the industry 2016

February 23, 2016

Download Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 State Of The Industry…

A year of growth in 2015 also had its share of challenges, and as a result, growers and suppliers were a bit more guarded going into 2016. After a few years of extreme weather and drought, a massive ongoing labor shortage, a shaky economy, and increased government regulation, Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 State Of The Industry Survey shows growers and retailers are moving forward with cautious optimism. Despite their many concerns, growers are ready to tackle another spring season in 2016, and many have reported that investments they have made within the past year are helping to drive their operations into the future. Further, rising consumer confidence indicates good things for 2016, growers said. Greenhouse Grower‘s 2016 State Of The Industry Whitepaper includes all the results of the survey, including comparisons of 2015 sales to past years, details on how 2016 production volume and prices will compare to 2015, crops that […]

Read More

February 18, 2016

Poinsettia Survey Shows Strong Sales For Greenhouse Gro…

The year 2015 might have been one that many were glad to see in the rear view mirror, but for poinsettia growers, it was a good sales year — perhaps the strongest in quite a while. Compared to 2014, which was also widely deemed a success among growers for its seasonal cold at just the right time, good weather for shipping, and a good holiday spirit, the 2015 season was solid for a number of reasons. The weather, a rebounding economy, and increased demand all contributed to what growers said was a “very strong” sales season. “It was a strong year beginning to end due to great weather and quality product as the market demanded,” said Dan Chaney of Ivy Acres, in Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Poinsettia Survey.     “Sales were strong. Demand was better than the previous two years,” said Larry Windham of Windham Greenhouses Inc. “Very good. The […]

Read More
Pot Mum Combos (Syngenta Flowers)

February 8, 2016

Syngenta Has A New Buyer, Will Not Divest Flower Seeds …

Syngenta has announced that it will likely approve an offer from ChemChina to acquire the company, which means it no longer plans to divest its flower seed business.

Read More
State of the industry 2016

January 21, 2016

Green Industry Is Set For Continued Growth In 2016

Economist Charlie Hall says the outlook for the green industry is promising despite the havoc wreaked on plant sales by the downturn in housing.

Read More
How will growers' production in 2016 compare to 2015

January 18, 2016

2016 State Of The Greenhouse Industry Numbers At A Glan…

Greenhouse Grower‘s 2016 State Of The Industry Survey shows some promising trends for the new year. Here’s a look at the greenhouse market for 2016, in graphics.     For a more in-depth analysis of where the industry stands, read Greenhouse Grower‘s 2016 State Of The Industry article, “Growers And Suppliers Move Forward With Cautious Optimism In 2016.”

Read More
Top Concerns sidebar

January 18, 2016

Growers And Suppliers Move Forward With Cautious Optimi…

A year of growth in 2015 also had its share of challenges, and as a result, growers and suppliers are a bit more guarded going into 2016. After a few years of extreme weather and drought, a massive ongoing labor shortage, a shaky economy, and increased government regulation, Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 State Of The Industry Survey shows growers and retailers are moving forward with cautious optimism. Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 State Of The Industry Survey included separate questions for growers and for suppliers. Of our 358 respondents, 103 were suppliers, 111 were grower-retailers, 109 were wholesale growers, and 35 were young plant growers. Among growers, 57% indicated their operations were small (less than 100,000 square feet), 21% were medium-sized (100,000 to 399,999 square feet), and 22% said they were large growers (400,000 square feet or larger). Sixty-eight percent of the grower respondents said their sales grew in 2015 over 2014, down […]

Read More
State of the industry 2016

January 14, 2016

Craig Regelbrugge Says 2016 Will Be A Year Of Waiting F…

The 2016 presidential election will make for slow progress on critical regulatory issues like health care, pollinator health, and immigration reform.

Read More

December 29, 2015

The Home Depot Says No To Neonics

The Home Depot plans to phase out neonicotinoids by 2018, according to a recent statement on the company’s website. The large home improvement retailer stated that its live goods suppliers have reduced the number of plants that they treat with neonicotinoids, and now more than 80% of all flowering plants sold at The Home Depot are not treated with neonicotinoids. The retailer said it will continue this decrease unless: Treatment is required by state or federal regulation, or Undisputed science proves that the use of neonicotinoids on live goods does not have a lethal or sub-lethal effect on pollinators Aside from these exceptions, the retailer has implemented a complete phase-out of neonicotinoid use on live goods by the end of 2018. Meanwhile, The Home Depot has required all of its live goods suppliers to label plants that have been treated with neonicotinoids. “The Home Depot is deeply engaged in understanding the […]

Read More
Pollinator-Conference-NC State

December 9, 2015

Pollinator Gardens Are On The Rise, Provide Opportuniti…

Thanks to the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, enacted in June 2015 by the National Pollinator Garden Network, scores of new pollinator gardens to be planted over the next year and beyond will provide growers with ample opportunities to produce, promote and sell plants that are ideal for pollinator forage and health. And with research underway within the industry, we’ll soon have more knowledge about which plants are the most beneficial and attractive to pollinators. At Bayer’s Bee Care Center, the level of consumer engagement and interest in planting pollinator gardens is very high, Bayer’s Sarah Myers says. Bayer now has 73 local and industry partners and counting in its “Feed A Bee Campaign,” launched in March. Educating consumers about what they can plant to attract bees, and the impact they can have with even the smallest amount of space, is highly important, Myers says. It’s worth explaining to them that […]

Read More
foodscaping at epcot - Foodscaping Goes Big At Disney

December 9, 2015

Foodscaping Challenges Conventional Ideas About Landsca…

Conventional ideas about what a landscape should look like are being challenged left and right, from young homeowners like Sarah Baker of Baker’s Acres, who are standing up for their right not to mow their lawns, to Brie Arthur’s passion to start a movement to incorporate food with flowers throughout suburban and urban landscapes nationwide. As younger generations step up as consumers and industry leaders, these changes are likely to continue, and the horticulture industry, which has the most to gain, would be remiss not to embrace and influence them. Well known for her personal foodscape, which she has promoted across social media, and her annual tomato-tasting fundraising event benefiting the nearby J.C. Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh, N.C., Brie Arthur has also been working with schools and her local Homeowner Association (HOA) to challenge the traditional idea of the landscape to one that incorporates the growing of food with mainstream, […]

Read More

November 20, 2015

Lessons Learned From The California Drought

For those of us who live in the areas of the country that experienced harsh winters and significant rain over the past three seasons, water has become a nuisance in some cases, rather than a blessing. I can’t count the number of times I have wished to be able to send the snow or the rain to the West Coast, tied up with a big red bow. But think about how we’d feel if we didn’t have the snow and the rain, and we were experiencing the same dry conditions that the residents of California, Oregon and Washington have. With fresh water supplies dwindling in regions of the world, and the resistance of residents in states like Michigan to share water from the Great Lakes, it’s likely that the next civil or world war could be fought over our most precious resource. California’s epic drought should cause everyone to look […]

Read More
Kate Santos Operations Director Dummen Orange

November 18, 2015

Kate Santos Presents New Opportunities For The Horticul…

Dr. Kate Santos is a scientist, an artist, an advocate, a traveler, a dreamer, a visionary and a go-getter. Well-known for her work managing Dümmen Orange as Operations Director, Santos has taken on a new role as co-founder of Luxflora, an organization for women in horticulture.

Read More
MPS Sustainable Quality Logo

November 17, 2015

International Seminar Finds Broad-Based Need For Indust…

Achieving durability and maximum transparency is the responsibility of the entire floriculture supply chain, was the main conclusion of the seminar “Shaping the Future of Floriculture,” which took place on Monday 9 November on the S.S. Rotterdam in The Netherlands. With just under 300 participants, the seminar, organized by Union Fleurs, VGB and MPS, received plenty of attention.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry

November 11, 2015

Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 State of The In…

The State of the Industry report, which uses input from both growers and suppliers, is designed to help you understand this year's crop and sales trends, as well as the issues that keep you up at night.

Read More

November 11, 2015

Drought Has Triggered A New Normal For The California L…

California is now entering its fifth year of the worst drought in 500 years, with no end in sight. Weather experts predict the current drought will continue into 2016, despite optimistic projections of increased rain patterns this winter caused by a strong El Niño ocean current. Residents have fully bought in to the emergency, and embraced Governor Jerry Brown’s April 1 mandate to reduce water usage by 25 percent. Even after an above-average hot summer, the state has exceeded its goal, with a per-month average of 28 percent water reduction. Some of the ways homeowners are being encouraged to reduce their outdoor water use are concerning, but the good news is, drought-tolerant landscaping and awareness of water-wise gardening is on the rise. Cash For Grass Rebates Have Landowners Trading In Their Lawns When Governor Brown’s water reduction mandate was announced in April, consumer reaction was reflected in the sales at […]

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]