Delray Plants Says Marketing Is Now A Must

Delray Plants' Cerie Velez, Randy Gilde and Natalie DiScascio

The Top 100 Growers were production-driven businesses just a few years ago. Many grew seemingly endless products and had the good fortune of finding buyers even in a pinch. Discounting was an option to keep product moving, and margins were favorable.

Fast forward to today’s Top 100, and it’s a sales-driven group that talks largely about tighter margins and the need to have the right product on the right shelves at the right time. The truth is today’s industry is vastly different than the one many of the Top 100 originally experienced. And the strongest growers are the ones adapting their operations and tailoring products to the retailer’s needs.

“You just can’t overproduce something today,” says Randy Gilde, an owner at Delray Plants. “You can move some of it, but generally if your product isn’t positioned at the right time and place for the store and its customers, you can’t sell it. And you can’t discount anymore because everyone is working off thin margins.”

These are realities growers like Gilde have come to accept. Gilde and others would probably love to return to the golden days of simply growing and selling. To be a Top 100 Grower and maintain the high-volume customers many of the Top 100 have, however, it’s critical growers evolve as marketers to ensure sell-through for retailers and success for consumers.

“Years ago you didn’t have to do the marketing,” says Gilde, whose company serves Walmart and Home Depot. “Many of the big boxes, independent garden centers and grocery store chains did a lot of the marketing for you. Today, growers have to do it. You either do it or you have to get a new career.”

Changing Roles

Rather than pursue a new career, Gilde chose to adapt his business about five years ago when he ramped up Delray’s focus on marketing. Marketing used to be a function of sales at Delray. Now marketing and sales act as their own entities.

3 Programs With A Purpose

Part of Natalie DiScascio’s job as marketing coordinator at Delray Plants is to develop programs that tell a specific story to consumers. Here are three programs DiScascio and the marketing team have developed.

1. Direct To Dirt. Launched last year for Earth Day, this program features sustainably grown products with a rice hull pot that’s fully plantable and biodegradable. Direct To Dirt is available in four-pack carriers. “This is an Earth Day program but it can go in stores anytime throughout the year,” DiScascio says.

2. Green Greetings. Delray came up with this program after receiving a unique pot cover that resembles a coffee cup. After a brainstorming session, the team decided to print messages across them for holidays and other special occasions. Delray already shipped Green Greetings to Home Depot and Walmart stores for Valentine’s Day, and it planned to ship more there for Mother’s Day.

“It’s a greeting card and plant all in one,” DiScascio says. “In our research we found out there are 7 billion greeting cards purchased in the U.S. alone. You really can’t get a greeting card for less than $3.99 anyway, and these are 4-inch plants that are less than $4.

Delray developed six designs for Mother’s Day. Each holiday will have a Green Greetings available in Spanish, as well.

3. Breath Of Fresh Air. Expected to launch in stores last month, Breath of Fresh Air is focused on educating consumers on houseplant benefits. Delray has selected 6-inch foliage varieties that purify the air.
“We took those varieties and applied it to this program,” DiScascio says. “It’s visually appealing and it’s in a sleeve.”

Natalie DiSciascio was hired nearly two years ago as a marketing coordinator to lead the company’s effort in telling consumers the stories behind each plant Delray grows. DiSciascio’s hire allowed sales manager Cherie Velez to focus exclusively on sales. Gilde, as general manager, contributes to both camps.

“The workload at Delray became more demanding because we have been growing so much that Cheri’s role with sales and marketing really needed to spearhead sales,” DiSciascio says. “Marketing was kind of being put to the backburner, but the company understood that marketing is just as important.”

Delray’s customers, Walmart and Home Depot, expect their vendors to build programs that draw the customer’s attention. At the same time, Delray and other growers are expected to offer added value through packaging, price or another factor. Many of these responsibilities are new for growers who are used to focusing strictly on growing.

“We have to reinvest in ourselves constantly,” Velez says. “We have to find ways to take the products we have and make them a new product. I agree companies like Home Depot and Walmart expect us to do more, but it’s really in our best interest to do more. We have to do more to maintain our customer base.”

Direct Consumer Contact

For Delray, maintaining its customer base means interacting directly with consumers. Today, Delray positions most of its plants on the garden center floor itself – as do many Top 100 Growers. Delray takes an active role in weekend events at stores, and it uses social media regularly.

“Social media has been groundbreaking for us,” Velez says. “Our new line of YouTube videos is something we’re putting a lot of effort into. A consumer who may not have known how to grow a croton or what this plant is used for now gets the message we want to deliver to them. Social media has allowed us to form a real partnership with the retailer.”

Video in particular has been a huge project for Delray. DiScascio produces video in both English and Spanish. She and her staff handle on-camera speaking roles, and the company’s IT department edits the videos.

Video can be an overwhelming project from planning to shooting and editing, but it’s a great way to connect with the next generation of gardeners with whom growers struggle to reach.

“Everything is iPhone and Android with this younger generation,” DiScascio says. “We try to include a video on each of our programs for YouTube, whether we’re featuring a product or someone talking in the greenhouse about a trend.”

Producing video and connecting directly with consumers may not be your number one priority. But the way DiScascio sees it, no one knows your product better than you. So it makes sense growers should be the ones on camera and the handlers of such projects.

“The goal is to reach the end consumer and help them reach a point where they aren’t intimidated about your product,” she says. “In the end, we’re really teaching the end consumer more about plants. There’s no downside to it.”

Quantifying Your Investment

Well, one potential downside from a business standpoint of producing video, managing Facebook and taking on responsibilities that some argue should be the retailer’s is that it’s difficult to quantify a marketing investment. As Gilde says, he can send a team to IPM Essen or HortiFair for new ideas that will help Delray develop programs and products for its customers – but he only knows his costs in such a case and not the return on his investment.
“When you buy a potting machine, you know exactly what it has to do to pay for itself,” he says. “That’s part of the problem with marketing today. But sometimes you just have to do those things.”

Velez agrees. “I think more than anything our long-term goal is to make sure consumers understand our plants and how to use them,” she says. “We have to put a lot of effort into that end experience for the consumer. Yes, this is a challenge. But we look at every challenge as an opportunity. “We’re having a lot of fun trying to figure out what the new frontier of our industry is.”

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “Delray Plants Says Marketing Is Now A Must

  1. […] “Years ago you didn’t have to do the marketing,”  “Many of the big boxes, independent garden centers and grocery store chains did a lot of the marketing for you. Today, growers have to do it. You either do it or you have to get a new career.”  says Randy Gilde of Delray Growers.  An interesting and informative article on the changing times with marketing and advertising your company’s capabilities and products.  It’s a MUST for today’s entrepreneurs.   http://www.greenhousegrower.com/top-100/delray-plants-says-marketing-is-now-a-must/ […]

More From Reports...

March 4, 2015

Nexus Corporation’s Cheryl Longtin Encourages Women To Seek Volunteer Leadership Opportunities

When Cheryl Longtin came to the horticulture business in 1994, she applied her experience in the automotive industry to promote the adoption of more technology in greenhouse production. Longtin says horticulture, with its rich family tradition, has long promoted women in the industry compared to other industries, but women in horticulture must continue to seek out opportunities to provide volunteer leadership in organizations that shape the future of the business.

Read More

March 4, 2015

Second Annual GreenhouseConnect Will Bring Growers and Suppliers Together in San Diego This October

Following a successful inaugural event in Tampa last fall, Greenhouse Grower has announced the dates of its second annual GreenhouseConnect: October 26-29, 2015. Representatives of an expected two dozen leading greenhouse operations from across the U.S. will join senior-level suppliers at Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego for several days of one-on-one strategic meetings, a growers-only roundtable, informational sessions and a variety of networking events.

Read More
cultivate'15 logo

March 4, 2015

Cultivate’15: AmericanHort Announces What’s New

In an industry that has seen major changes occurring at a fast pace, many industry professionals leave Cultivate with their heads spinning and no clear idea of how to regroup and strategize. Cultivate’15 is “Changing the Game.” As this year’s focus, Changing the Game will call your attention to the ways in which our industry has changed and your opportunities to compete successfully.

Read More
Latest Stories
Top 100

September 18, 2014

The Top 100 Growers On Merchandising

See what Greenhouse Grower's Top 100 Growers have to say about merchandising changes over the last 10 years in our 2014 Top Grower Survey

Read More

September 18, 2014

The Top 100 Growers Talk Pollinator Health

The panel of experts at Greenhouse Grower’s 2014 Top 100 Growers Breakfast offered insight on how the industry is addressing the public scrutiny on neonicotinoids, research that still needs to be done and what growers can do to promote their operations’ responsible practices.

Read More
Top 100

May 14, 2014

2014 Top 100 Growers [Whitepaper]

Get the full set of data from our 2014 survey, including how the Top 100 Growers have changed their crop mix over the last 10 years.

Read More

May 13, 2014

The Top 100 Growers Find Diversity Provides More Securi…

Growers continue to broaden their crop offerings, provide more retail merchandising and market their own crops through social media, in an effort to increase sales.

Read More
Top 100

May 6, 2013

Top 100 Growers 2013: The State Of Production

  As part of Greenhouse Grower’s 30th Anniversary, we reviewed the state of production among the nation’s largest operations. Our 2013 Top 100 Growers Survey, sponsored by Becker Underwood, asked three big questions to get a feel for where they see the biggest developments in greenhouse production. Innovations First, we asked them to identify the most important innovation in the greenhouse industry in the last 30 years. We got a variety of opinions, including integrated pest management, bottom heat and heat curtains, open roof greenhouses, plugs and other growing techniques and computer-based environmental controls. Most commonly cited were breeding improvements, hydroponic production and the big winner, automation and transplanters. “It’s not even close,” one respondent said. “Transplanters are the best innovation we’ve seen. To plant at the speed we do now, we would have to put 30 people on each production line.” Improvements Next, we asked them to tell us […]

Read More
Top 100

May 6, 2013

Top 100 Growers Whitepaper [Download]

The 2013 Top 100 Growers report focuses on production. How do the largest greenhouse operations in the country handle fertilization, irrigation and propagation? Take a look at the full results of our survey in our Top 100 Growers whitepaper. Download the Top 100 Growers whitepaper by clicking here.

Read More

May 4, 2012

Delray Plants Says Marketing Is Now A Must

The Top 100 Growers were production-driven businesses just a few years ago. Many grew seemingly endless products and had the good fortune of finding buyers even in a pinch. Discounting was an option to keep product moving, and margins were favorable. Fast forward to today’s Top 100, and it’s a sales-driven group that talks largely about tighter margins and the need to have the right product on the right shelves at the right time. The truth is today’s industry is vastly different than the one many of the Top 100 originally experienced. And the strongest growers are the ones adapting their operations and tailoring products to the retailer’s needs. “You just can’t overproduce something today,” says Randy Gilde, an owner at Delray Plants. “You can move some of it, but generally if your product isn’t positioned at the right time and place for the store and its customers, you can’t […]

Read More

June 12, 2008

Top 100 Growers

Growers are taking charge with production, transportation and vendor management, meaning they look after their crops from cradle to grave, in many instances. This year, we take a look at changes in this market segment, including how these growers deal with challenges, including tight margins and rising fuel and energy costs, all while keeping retail customers and their customer’s customers–consumers–happy. Read on for details on how the largest growers in the country are dealing with transportation, brand demands including the sustainability movement, and the labor drain. Bigger, Faster, More The growers on our list are controlling more square footage than ever before. These operations are now looking after 2.5 million more square feet of environmentally controlled greenhouse area compared to last year (see The Big Get Bigger). A few new growers jumped up on our radar screens and a few list veterans made some major moves to change square footage in […]

Read More