Are eCommerce And Non-Traditional Retail Outlets Right For Your Operation? [Opinion]

lauranewcolumnI don’t like to shop. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and less patient, or maybe it’s a function of busy-ness, as a working mom of two active, young kids — or both. Either way, it’s increasingly causing me to seek out and buy products online, especially during the holidays.

And while I am a person who values the buy-local movement and collects antiques and unique products, pretty much any retail store in December horrifies me. So I’ve given in to the convenience and allure of online shopping and I’ll admit that my family easily buys 80 percent of our holiday gifts online.

At, I can find many unique, artisan products in one spot that I might never find elsewhere. With a Prime subscription at, we get free shipping. It’s way easier and less frustrating than lining up a babysitter so I can fight the crowds and traffic, and spend the time searching for gifts in person. Instead, I can click “search” and “purchase” from the comfort of my home or on my lunch break at the office or from my smartphone while I’m just about anywhere.

That convenience is a growing revolution that the younger generations of consumers are driving, and not only during the holidays. They are highly educated and want to know what they’re buying, so they use the internet to research products before they head to the store. And they might not even get there, considering in-store product availability is a fraction of what they can order online — and they can save time by having it shipped to their doors.

This applies directly to plants, too. Susie Raker of C. Raker & Sons in Litchfield, Mich., experimented with selling poinsettias and herb collections at a consumer site in late 2013, at premium prices. She got them, with 50 percent margins. When I said I was surprised consumers would buy poinsettias online, because they seem to be everywhere during the holiday season, her reply explained it all:

“They don’t have leave their house to get them.” is banking on this with its relaunch this year (see our cover story). is another venture that not only sells plants online, it also offers design and maintenance services, and delivery to its local customers in Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn. It just launched its #pimpmypot service: “We pick up. We re-plant. We deliver.” Consumers can sign up for this service for $25 to $65, depending on the size of the pot, delivery included.

Convenience, availability, time savings and customization — that’s what consumers want and the key to successful sales, both offline and online. Not every grower will be able to fulfill this sales venue, nor should they. The point is, there are other opportunities available to growers. You don’t have to live with the status quo to make your profits. With changing consumer needs, it’s time to look for new ways to sell and deliver plants.

Take a look at your own capabilities. Evaluate your production and shipping lines. Have your marketing department run some demographics. Look for opportunities in your own community. How can you branch out to new markets, whether it be online sales, selling plants to farm markets or another venture? How can you make your products more relevant to next generation consumers and grow your profits?

“People ask me how I can do this and I tell them, ‘Part of doing business is taking risks,’” Raker says. “Without risk, there is no reward.”

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

More From Editorial...
Colorado State University 2015 Container Field Trials

November 29, 2015

2015 Colorado State University (Fort Collins, Colo.) Field Trials Results

See the 2015 field trials results (includes photo gallery) for Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo.

Read More
Coleus 'Colorblaze Velveteen' (2015 University of Tennessee Field Trials)

November 28, 2015

2015 University of Tennessee Gardens (Knoxville and Jackson, Tenn.) Field Trials Results

See the 2015 field trials results (includes photo gallery) for University of Tennessee Gardens in Knoxville and Jackson, Tenn.

Read More
Feature Image Cob 700 (NewLux)

November 28, 2015

16 LED Lighting Solutions For Your Greenhouse

Narrowing in on the right LED lighting product often comes down to considering your specific crop needs and growing requirements to see what works best for your application. Here are 15 LED products to take into account when choosing the right fit for your greenhouse.

Read More
Latest Stories

October 23, 2015

Consider Your Options With Greenhouse Cannabis Producti…

I’ve been thinking a lot about Cannabis. But wait, there’s more! All jokes aside, Cannabis is certainly a crop that comes fraught with controversy. Over the past few months, while we have been learning and reporting about the federal legality issues, financial risks and considerations and even the work and expense that goes into the application process to obtain a license to produce this crop, we have tried to remain as objective as possible. We’re not advocating that you produce Cannabis, nor are we opposing your choice to consider this crop as a future direction for your operation. Our goal in publishing eNewsletters and the print report found in the pages of the October issue of Greenhouse Grower, is simply to inform you of what production of this crop would include, from the challenges and risks to the opportunities. And no matter how you feel about the issue, as a business […]

Read More
Laura Drotleff

September 14, 2015

Develop New Growers In Your Own Backyard [Opinion]

One of the greatest parts of my job is having the opportunity to honor ingenuity in breeding, marketing and innovative growing in this industry at Greenhouse Grower’s Evening Of Excellence, a premier event held during Cultivate in July. The work leading up to the event is just as rewarding, from attending California Spring Trials to see all of the beautiful new varieties released to the marketplace to inspire consumers and solve problems for growers, to selecting the best of the best varieties for Medal Of Excellence In Breeding Awards. I humbly learn about and choose the Marketing and Industry Achievement Awards through industry nominations, and serve as a member of the selection panel for the Grower Of The Year Awards, on which we review nominations from people across the industry about creative, hardworking, dedicated operations and individuals who not only love their work but also live it. The Evening Of […]

Read More

July 30, 2015

Spread Your Risk Beyond Spring Sales [Opinion]

Growers who participated in Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Spring Crops Recap Survey said they have had enough of the uncertainty that the weather brings. They said it’s time to build up sales in other seasons like fall so we’re not so dependent on spring. As a couple of wholesale growers, both from the Southeast, very eloquently stated, our industry has mastered squeezing everything we can out of the spring season. And while this year happened to be a very successful one, thanks to the improving economy and elevated consumer confidence, they said, “now is no time to celebrate.” “Spring is still Christmas in the horticulture industry, but we have done such a good job focusing on spring that we have neglected other seasons,” one grower said. “Having so many eggs in the spring basket is dangerous. Fall will never be what spring is, but having a solid second season is in […]

Read More
Laura Drotleff

July 11, 2015

Get Creative With Grower Recruitment

There’s a shortage of grower talent in our industry — that’s no secret. But a recent employment outlook led by Purdue University’s Agriculture Department, with support from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), reported 57,900 ag-related jobs are slated to open annually across the U.S. over the next five years. With an average of 35,400 new U.S. graduates with a bachelor’s degree or higher in agriculture-related fields, that makes us 22,500 people short of the jobs available. So not only do we have to compete with industries outside of agriculture for highly skilled job candidates, but our fellow farmers are also hurting for qualified people to fill their empty positions. It’s time to get creative with grower recruitment, and that means opening up the realm of possibilities beyond the traditional channels of four-year, land grant universities. It doesn’t help matters when institutions like Cal-Poly, long heralded as a […]

Read More
Laura Drotleff

May 27, 2015

Growers Working Hard To Protect Pollinators — And Their…

Editor’s Note: This editorial was written and published just prior to the news coming out about Lowe’s phasing out neonicotinoids by 2019. However, that news doesn’t change the fact that growers have a long history as good stewards of their land and of the environment. As evidenced by the 2015 Top 100 Growers Report, the nation’s largest growers continue to adapt their production practices to be cognizant of environmental factors, worker safety, retailer preferences and consumer concerns. In light of Lowe’s announcement, growers who produce for the retailer are certainly working toward that mandate; but they’re also hopeful that the research currently underway will provide scientific reason for decisions made on production going forward. When the news broke last year that growers would be required to label plants treated with neonicotinoids at The Home Depot, and that other retailers were mandating growers to produce crops without neonics, I sucked in air and […]

Read More
Laura Drotleff

April 10, 2015

STEM Curriculum Ideal For Teaching Horticulture [Opinio…

STEM curriculum in the schools offers the perfect opportunity to intertwine horticulture with learning.

Read More
Laura Drotleff

March 4, 2015

Celebrate Women In Horticulture

Women have always played a crucial role in the horticulture industry, not only from a consumer point-of-view, where traditionally our biggest customers have been women, but also as prominent business leaders and owners, growers, breeders, marketers, researchers and matriarchs of industry family empires.

Read More
Janeen Wright

March 2, 2015

Deliver Plant Quality That Trumps Price [Opinion]

The industry's goal is to have loyal customers who return to the same plants time and time again, not because of price, but owing to a plant brand that shouts top-notch garden performance and is synonymous with excellence, which gives them the secure knowledge that their investment will be worth every hard-earned cent.

Read More
Laura Drotleff

February 10, 2015

Biocontrols Aren’t Scary [Opinion]

Crafting a softer pest management program is likely in everyone’s future — if it’s not here already, especially due to increasing regulation and growing consumer concern over pesticide use. Learn more about biocontrols to determine how they could fit in with your goals and production practices.

Read More
Laura Drotleff

January 5, 2015

“Growers Are Artisans” [Opinion]

We need to elevate the craft of growing to attract young talent to our industry.

Read More

December 1, 2014

Consumers, Retailers Only Hearing Voices Of Protest

Speak up about your operation's responsible practices.

Read More
Laura Drotleff

November 12, 2014

5 Ways Growers Can Be More Sustainable [Opinion]

While you're still preparing your operation for spring and investing in new ideas, consider employing some of these improvements to save money and resources.

Read More

October 1, 2014

Greenhouse Grower Issues A New Challenge To The Industr…

Let's rally behind the healthy pollinators initiative. How will you step up to the challenge?

Read More

September 15, 2014

What Does Precision Horticulture Mean To You?

Precision horticulture is what you do every day — growing with precision for efficiency and profitability.

Read More

July 28, 2014

How Gen X & Y Horticulturists Will Change The Indus…

Seek out young professionals in the industry and in your operation to develop new ways to do business, improve communication and address consumers. How have you cultivated ideas from younger generations?

Read More
Laura Drotleff

July 8, 2014

Consider Hiring Non-Traditional Growers To Secure Our I…

Your operation can benefit from hiring returning veterans, professionals changing careers and non-traditional students, in addition to horticulture graduates. Where have you had luck recruiting?

Read More
Carol Miller

June 3, 2014

Consumer Success Is Key To Industry Success [Opinion]

Many breeders are aware of the problem and are striving to ensure that plants in a customer’s home garden will live up to the visual appeal the plant has on a store display bench. A lot of the resulting plants were on display in California.

Read More

June 3, 2014

Active Grower Voices Are Invaluable To Retailers, Consu…

Creating our own advocacy is an important tool in areas like presenting science-based knowledge about pollinator health, and informing the public about how growers already preserve natural resources through responsible practices like integrated pest management (IPM), water reclamation and recycling, plastic recycling and sustainability initiatives.

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