Creating Market Equalizers

Hort Couture founder and grower-retailer Jim Monroe is absolutely right to be concerned about the independent garden center channel getting left behind when it comes to new product development in plants and packaging.

It used to be the hot trends and cutting-edge varieties began with the independents and were later copied by large chains. More recently, box store buyers have been working with the entire supply chain on new product development. This has helped them bust out of the commodity trap, differentiate and even capture premiums.

A month before Spring Trials, breeders had a separate event just for box store buyers to choose their exclusives before the market had a chance to see them. This is why Monroe started Hort Couture just for the independents. “Breeders and suppliers are jumping the independent and that’s not a good dynamic,” he says. “It’s a numbers game. We have to be less independent and come together to provide enough business for them to pay attention to us.”

Several leading brands are available to both channels – Wave petunias, Burpee Home Gardens and Proven Winners. All three offer resources independents can take advantage of to tap into a national brand. While some retailers distance themselves from anything that will appear at a box store, I’d argue no one can do these brands justice and create a real destination the way an independent can.

I was at Green Circle Growers a week before Mother’s Day and was floored by all the fantastic stuff that was ready to be shipped to Walmart and Home Depot. The diversity in types, styles, shapes, colors and textures in plastic patio containers was just astounding. It dawned on me that I wouldn’t see anything like this at my local independent garden centers. To get a similar look, the combinations would have been in much pricier and heavier containers. I hope buying groups who serve the independents are looking at these new plastic styles, because without buying power, they won’t be offered to independents.

So here we have the great divide: The box store channel is becoming more fresh and innovative, but for the most part, we’re just seeing more of the same at the independents. Large retailers are embracing “masstige” – classy looking offerings at a lower price point. Regardless of whether it’s handbags or patio pots, most of us are “masstige” customers. Hort Couture is delivering just that with its fashion-forward but affordable brand. Monroe is a market equalizer.

He also was one of the first to jump on the 2D tag/QR code craze with MasterTag last year, which brings me to my next market equalizer – tag companies developing high-quality, universal engaging content to support plants being sold. While MasterTag has partnered with Learn2Grow.com, The John Henry Co. has developed BloomIQ.com.

John Henry created the website last summer after its promotion for veggies with AllRecipes.com was such a big hit at the 2010 Spring Trials. Growers said they wanted something like this to help consumers with flowers. There’s only so much you can put on the tag itself, but the QR code links consumers to information related to plants they purchased and a whole new world of inspiring projects and more plants to add to shopping lists. Collections are especially popular – deer tolerant, drought tolerant, sun, shade, etc.

The next step is to capture market intelligence on the site users via surveys and tracking where they go online. Proven Winners has found this type of information to be highly valuable with the audience it has grown. Consumers are often sounding boards before marketing decisions are made.

Because Bloom IQ is not tied to specific varieties or products, it could be our industry’s Got Milk campaign, John Henry’s Brenda Vaughn says. I hadn’t thought about it that way, but she’s right. It’s just up to us to drive the traffic and engage more consumers collectively.

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “Creating Market Equalizers

  1. “A month before Spring Trials, breeders had a separate event just for box store buyers to choose their exclusives before the market had a chance to see them.”
    So ultimately, IGC owners will simply stop going to spring trials.

    “Several leading brands are available to both channels – Wave petunias, Burpee Home Gardens and Proven Winners.”
    Except that IGC’s consider those big box brands now.

    “I hope buying groups who serve the independents are looking at these new plastic styles, because without buying power, they won’t be offered to independents.”
    We don’t want them. That isn’t how we sell things.

    “…. for the most part, we’re just seeing more of the same at the independents.”
    No, we are seeking out small growers who have unique stuff that will never be seen at big box stores. As I tell my customers now: if you see it advertised nationally, you’re less likely to find it at an IGC. Every big grower that develops a heavily-marketed line eventually ends up going the big-box route. So we aren’t interested. If my wholesaler has PW plants, I might buy them, or not. I certainly won’t be seeking them out.

    Kudos to Jim Monroe for recognizing the schism that has developed in our industry, and for doing something about it.

  2. The quandary is how does the IGC stay pertinent in this fast paced, ever-changing economy. Box stores spend incredible amounts of money and time to study their customers and what drives their willingness to purchase. Difficult to compete as an IGC but not impossible. In recent discussion it was noted that rather then Box store vs IGC, it really is a question of different channels for plant material to be sold. Every retail store must figure out what makes it unique and worthy of a customers attention and time to visit. The IGC must continue to differentiate with product, friendly and knowledgeable service, availability of product, and above all quality material at a fair price. Just as the grocery store has learned with selling food, it is not all about just selling the components to make a good meal. Many people do not have the time or talent to cook, so they choose to spend a little more and get a prepared meal at the Deli or from a frozen or refrigerated prepared meal. Notice how the grocers and suppliers have adapted to meet the consumer demands. We must do the same to keep our customers satisfied. We must figure out ways to package our products, inform our customers of the benefits, and help them overcome time constraints and lack of plant knowledge. They want to know that we are most interested in them having a succesful experience with our products not just in making the sale.

Latest Stories
Dr Allan Armitage

June 25, 2016

Three Types Of Plant Consumers To Watch

There are three emerging groups of plant consumers that you should be targeting for plant sales in the future, according to Allan Armitage.

Read More
North Creek Nurseries lower trials

June 24, 2016

North Creek Nurseries Is A Finalist For 2016 Operation …

North Creek Nurseries in Landenberg, PA, is one of three finalists for Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Operation Of The Year award and winner of the Excellence In Sustainable Production award for 2016.

Read More
Cal Poly Logo

June 24, 2016

Cal Poly Ag College Hosting Alumni Reception At Cultiva…

Alumni and friends of The Cal Poly College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences are invited to a reception that will be held Sunday, July 10.

Read More
Stocking spring plants at Petitti Garden Center FEATURE

June 23, 2016

How Growers Can Help Retailers Sell More In Spring

Fresh from a busy spring season, retailers share their wish list of things growers can do to make spring generate even more sales.

Read More
Houwelings Tomatoes

June 23, 2016

Houweling’s Tomatoes Has A New Corporate Head Grower

Arie van der Giessen, who has led the horticultural operations for many successful regional and national greenhouse operators in North America, will start his new role in September.

Read More
Vic Frey, Kurt Weiss Greenhouses Feature

June 23, 2016

Vic Frey Named A Finalist For 2016 Head Grower Of The Y…

Vic Frey, a finalist for the 2016 Head Grower of the Year and recipient of the 2016 Excellence In Production award, was always willing to trial and experiment with the latest technology. He loved the constant change in this industry, and turned every opportunity into a teaching moment.

Read More

June 21, 2016

Sign Up For The First-Ever Flower Run At Cultivate’16

When you pack your bags for Cultivate’16 in Columbus, OH, July 9-12, don’t forget your running shoes! There are still three weeks left to train for the first annual Luxflora Flower Run, which will kick off the start of Cultivate’16 on Sunday morning, July 10. The Flower Run celebrates Luxflora‘s mission to develop a visionary, influential floriculture network in which women leaders can create, inspire, and flourish. The 5k event is an opportunity for all floriculture professionals to come together to network, build relationships, and to have some healthy fun. Running is not required – this event is walker-friendly, as well. If you opt to be an observer rather than run/walk, then join your friends at the finish line to help shower the participants with flowers. Register yourself or your company’s team today, to join in on the fun. Free Flower Run tshirts will be available to participants, while supplies […]

Read More
BASF Orkestra Intrinsic

June 21, 2016

New Mode Of Action From BASF Offers Deeper Disease Cont…

When it comes to disease control, you need all the help you can get. BASF recently hosted growers, Extension personnel, and trade media to present its newest fungicide with two active ingredients, offering dual modes of action.

Read More

June 20, 2016

7 Garden Retailers Announced Closings This Month

Several established garden stores announced they were closing at the end of the 2016 season. Most of these retailers are decades old, including one that is closing after 133 years in business.

Read More

June 20, 2016

Industry’s First Plant Pricing Survey Is Open

The green industry has almost no research on plant pricing. With an industry that struggles to survive on slim margins, that's a problem. This survey is designed to help address the need, and we invite everyone to participate.

Read More
IGC 2016 Valley Forge Casino Resort

June 20, 2016

Stuff You’ll Want To Check Out At EIGC

Planning on attending the Easter Show For IGCs? Here's a list of new and interesting things you'll want to do while at the Philadelphia show.

Read More
FleuroStar Award Ceremony

June 20, 2016

Begonia Hybrid ‘Miss Malibu’ Takes Home FleuroStar Awar…

The award from Fleuroselect was announced at the Green Inspiration Event in Amsterdam.

Read More
Caryopteris 'Beyond Midnight Bluebeard'

June 20, 2016

Keep The Sales Coming With 16 New Blooming Varieties Fo…

Plants that put on a show from first frost long into fall and offer the color options consumers want for their gardens go a long way toward extending sales further into the season and can help maintain your sales momentum going strong. Check out these 16 new blooming varieties, both traditional favorites and new alternatives, for your fall crop selection.

Read More
Albert Grimm, Jefferys Greenhouses

June 19, 2016

Albert Grimm Named A Finalist For 2016 Head Grower Of T…

Grimm, winner of Greenhouse Grower's Excellence in Outreach and Leadership award, is always willing to listen, continuously learn, and improve. He is a role model and empowers his employees to strive for excellence.

Read More
'Osaka' Flowering Cabbage (Sakata Ornamentals)

June 18, 2016

Mark Your Calendar For Sakata Seed Trials In August

Sakata has set two dates for its California-based trials: Aug. 15-17 in Salinas, and Aug. 17-19 in Woodland.

Read More
Practical Software Grower Vertical

June 18, 2016

Practical Software Solutions Increases Accessibility, E…

Practical Software will demonstrate Grower Vertical, its customizable and scalable enterprise management system for the horticulture industry, at Cultivate’16 in July.

Read More
Ornamental kale field at Sunlet Nursery

June 17, 2016

Sunlet Nursery Named As Finalist For 2016 Operation Of …

Sunlet Nursery in Fallbrook, CA, is one of three finalists for Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Operation Of The Year award and winner of the Excellence In Community Leadership award for 2016.

Read More
Priva Tomato Deleafing Robot

June 16, 2016

Priva’s Tomato Deleafing Robot Nabs Innovation Award At…

GreenTech, the Netherlands-based horticulture technology trade show, opened with an award presentation for Priva’s deleafing robot, which accurately removes leaves from tomato plants without spreading viruses.

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