Commerce Corp. Update: Former Employees React; Rivals See New Opportunities

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As Today’s Garden Center reported on Dec. 31, 2012, there are conflicting stories regarding Commerce Corporation’s potential closing. While some say the garden supply distributor has begun massive layoffs to keep the company afloat, others insist Commerce is closing its doors. Green industry companies like BFG Supply and Ceramo Company are taking advantage of Commerce Corporation’s uncertain future.

Rivals Snap Up Employees, Customers

BFG Supply announced it has hired a former Commerce sales manager and nine sales reps. In a press release, Rob Glockner, president and CEO, explained the company may also continue to hire additional employees who have been laid off by Commerce.

“We really believe in hiring good people who will always put the customer first. These 10 individuals not only came highly recommended from Commerce’s senior management but are respected by their customers for the service they’ve provided over the years,” Glockner says.

“We took a significant step in expanding our footprint in the lawn and garden space when we acquired Wetsel 18 months ago, so being able to bring on even more high-character and knowledgeable people as a result of Commerce closing its doors will help us expand our position within the market even further,” he says. “We were successful in hiring these 10 new employees, but we’re still having active conversations with several other Commerce sales reps; this is an exciting time for BFG Supply.”

Meanwhile, A.M. Leonard has created a page on its webiste appealing directly to former Commerce customers. Touting its established relationships with industry suppliers, the distributor posts:

“In response to the recent news regarding the Commerce Corporation closing, we would like to offer our help to all our customers who might have placed orders with Commerce. AML offers many of the same products carried by Commerce. If we don’t have those products, many times, we can offer similar products.”

Border Concepts May Acquire Contract For Good Tidings And Michael Carr Designs

Border Concepts has submitted a letter of intent to acquire the contract for Good Tidings, which supplies holiday goods, and Michael Carr Designs, known for its pottery, says an anonymous source associated with Border Concepts. Commerce Corp. has had an exclusive with the two companies until now. Border Concepts is awaiting approval from the bank. “It’s not a done deal yet,” the source says, “but we expect to have everything in place soon.”

Commerce Customers Receive Buying Offers

Ceramo Company is offering to help former Commerce customers fill their orders by offering special buying deals. In a press release, the company announced it would extend its early buying program to “any retailers who are facing uncertainty about the status of their pottery orders resulting from the closing of Commerce Corporation.” The program also offers a variety of discounts, freight deals and extended dating for qualified orders.

“We understand the critical importance to the retailer of having pots on the shelves to sell as the season opens,” says Ceramo President Vernon Kasten. “And we’ve got a huge inventory on-hand and ready to ship to garden centers that may be concerned about receiving their pottery in time for early-spring business.”

Employees, Industry React To Alleged Commerce Closing

Following Today’s Garden Center’s story, many people commented on the state of Commerce Corp. Some of the comments came anonymously from people claiming to be former Commerce employees and vendors. Read on to see what they had to say.

“I was a direct shipper for Commerce and saw something like this coming when I got word of that West Coast shutdown. They wanted us to continue to ship product, have us collect payments from the retailers and still give them their cut. Not happening… As a side note, I have worked with several of the former Commerce reps, and they definitely did not deserve the treatment they got. If you are a Commerce rep and looking for a new gig, several of the major distributors will be happy to chat with you. I know Wetsel/BFG have picked up about 10 Commerce road warriors. We work with those guys too, and they are solid.”–John Doe Vendor

“I am one of many employees who was laid off on Friday. Baltimore team members were called into an office one by one while Grand Rapids team members were called in to a conference call and told, ‘If you are listening to this call you are laid off effective immediately.’ Our health insurance ran out on Dec. 31. That was nice for those who have their families on their insurance policies. The lack of communication from Richard and the executives was a low blow to the people who have worked hard for this company!” – Jane Doe

“Again, I am a former employee that was let go Friday without any type of respect. Thanks for speaking out to all. Commerce has done the former employees, vendors and customers wrong. It is a sad, sad, sad business.” – Jane Doe 2

“Sadly, I also am a former team member of Commerce. Richard laid all of us off except a very few whom he felt he could still ‘use’ to help reduce the inventory. We were all kept in the dark about everything going on and were told, ‘Commerce was going to get a great Christmas present by the Friday before Christmas,’ even though all the rumors sounded bad.” – John Doe

“There is no way retailers are going to have an confidence in placing any orders with Commerce. They are already contacting other distributors to get early orders placed. Distributors are going after Commerce retailers with force…” – A

“I received an eMail from my sales rep. on Dec. 22 with all my spring orders attached saying as of Dec. 28, Commerce Corp. was shutting their doors. The attachment was to help me try to place my orders elsewhere.” – Andi

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