Last week, Bower & Branch announced that well-known green industry consultant Sid Raisch is its new CEO and president. Until now, green industry e-commerce companies have flown under the radar. Several are making it work, but it’s a format that has seemed too difficult to many grower retailers. But now a high profile name is heading up one of these firms.
So Greenhouse Grower RETAILING reached out to Raisch to ask how this new position would impact his current role as industry consultant, and what his thoughts were on the next steps for e-commerce in garden retail.
Q. How will this new role impact Advantage Development [Raisch’s consultant firm]?
A. Minimal for my ongoing clients.
Owen [Raisch, Sid’s son] will be managing and facilitating the process. He grew up with this business and in this industry, so he has the sensitivities and command of the business aspects. I will continue in the client relationships, and contribute my encouragement to him and the clients from the passenger seat. His passion to for economic development is broader than mine and will expand to bring independent business alliances into the program as all types of small businesses have similar concerns and opportunities that this suite of programs will help.
Q. How much of your time will be devoted to Bower & Branch?
A. I can’t answer this in those terms. There is a lot of overlap in that Bower & Branch is a sponsor of The Garden Center Group’s Fall Event and many clients are also members of Bower & Branch.
Q. Ecommerce has had some fits and starts for the green industry. What barriers do you think still need to be overcome?
A. This is true in all segments of e-commerce. The major barrier of the past is that there was such a small percent of the market interested, and most of them weren’t on the internet. Back then it was great to sell computer gadgetry to the geeks and nerds who were using the internet and inventing reasons for the rest of us to eventually join them. Then came others like eBay to help is broaden market areas to sell specific things to a searching consumer who wanted the lowest price. Today, the internet is everybody’s marketplace with all demographic and psychographic segments participating. There are still laggards. They are not the market, anyway, and never will be. The internet is now the mass market. Give it just one more year, and everyone except those laggards will expect to find and buy almost everything on our smart phones. I know there are a lot of doubters, yet most are using the internet more than they even realize already.
Q. What about perceived barriers?
A. What barriers? Most of those we hear as objections stated as questions about Bower & Branch. Those who don’t ask will believe it can’t be done until we can get the word out to them about what is already happening. Once that happens, their worldview will be changed. Our FAQ page addresses the perceived barriers very well. Some people still believe plants cannot be sold on the Internet because people can’t see them. We’ve proven this is simply not true. High quality landscape size trees are sold at premium perceived value every day sight unseen.
Q. What has changed that makes a company like Bower & Branch viable today, as compared to three or four years ago?
A. This was possible then, except that Bower & Branch wasn’t there then. The market is already there. We are chasing an existing market that isn’t being served. We get to overcome a lot of the baggage problems with garden centers since we get to set consumer expectations without competition. And we’re doing it right to the best of our ability.
Q. The perception is that B&B is primarily for trees and shrubs. Is that accurate? How so?
A. We are currently selling trees and topiary. This is a platform that can sell anything we put on it to anyone we choose to attract as a consumer. No promises beyond that. We have developed a great brand position. This will be further refined and anything we sell will be compatible with the brand. Stay tuned.
Q. How will the product mix change in the future?
A. We’re looking forward to this but are focusing on developing our infrastructure before getting excited with the possibilities. This year is about filling in the 23-state region while expanding to new regions. The Midwest and Mid-Atlantic are a stretch already and those are our priority for aligning with other grower/distributors. Nothing specific is in the works yet.