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
Valoya Lights

September 18, 2017

3 Steps to Improving the Efficiency of Your LED Systems

Achieving the largest possible optimal light intensity area with the lowest possible number of lights is essential to making an investment in LEDs pay off.

Read More
Suntory Grandessa argyranthemum - feature

September 18, 2017

Breeders Open Availability for Unrooted Cuttings; Here&…

With new avenues for buying young plants for vegetative production, growers should have an easier time finding availability and receiving shipments of unrooted cuttings for the coming seasons.

Read More
Hurricane Irma Damage

September 18, 2017

Southern Greenhouse Growers Continue Hurricane Recovery…

Harvey and Irma wreaked havoc on the floriculture and nursery industries in Texas, Florida, and elsewhere. Here are the latest updates.

Read More
Micandy Gardens Team

September 17, 2017

4 Ways Micandy Gardens Greenhouses Reaches Out to Mill…

Micandy leverages social media to get the word out about its products and spread the word about how flowers can make a difference in people’s lives.

Read More
MANTS

September 16, 2017

Registration for MANTS 2018 Now Open

MANTS, which takes place Jan. 10-12, 2018, in Baltimore, MD, brings together green industry professionals from around the world.

Read More
Proven Winners Potting Soil and Plant Food

September 15, 2017

Sun Gro Forms New Distribution Agreement with Proven Wi…

Sun Gro will distribute Proven Winners-branded potting soils and plant foods to independent garden centers.

Read More
Common Greenhouse Maintenance Problems GVZ Glasshouses

September 14, 2017

How to Deal With Common Greenhouse Maintenance Issues

The most common problems often come from a lack of cleanliness and faulty equipment. Here are a number of tips you can follow in each of these areas.

Read More
Ball, Tagawa Succulents Partnership

September 14, 2017

Ball Seed to Partner With Tagawa Greenhouses on New Suc…

The new program includes in-demand retail products that are popular with younger shoppers, allowing growers to easily build a comprehensive succulent program and stay on-trend in the marketplace.

Read More
GGS Cannabis Production

September 14, 2017

Griffin Workshop to Provide Education to New Cannabis P…

Griffin will be hosting a half-day educational workshop in Lancaster, PA, on Sept. 26, that will focus on crop protection and nutrition, as well as sanitation.

Read More
Tom Ferndandez RFID

September 14, 2017

Production Technology Conference Focused on Education

From tour stops to educational sessions, here are some of the details you need to know about AmericanHort’s Production Technology Conference in Dallas in October.

Read More
Hydroponics Michigan State Web

September 14, 2017

Hydroponic and Aquaponics Growers Face Possible Loss of…

The National Organic Standards Board is considering recommending that USDA revoke the ability for hydroponic, aquaponic, aeroponic, and other container-based growing methods to be certified organic, according to an update from growers at Upstart University.

Read More
AmericanHort Women in Horticulture Panel

September 13, 2017

Women Making Strides in Horticulture, But More Progress…

Greenhouse Grower Editor Laura Drotleff helped moderate a "Women in Horticulture" panel discussion at Cultivate'17, in which plant scientists, growers, marketers, and company presidents talked about how they were called to horticulture and the evolution of their careers since.

Read More
Trends Slide - No Logo

September 12, 2017

Garden Media Group’s 2018 Trends Report Highlights Natu…

This year’s Garden Trends report offers seven trends that you can use to inspire mental wellness. Take a look to see how many trends you’re already using to connect with your customers.

Read More
Costa Farms Exotic Angel Idea Book

September 12, 2017

Costa Farms’ New Lookbook Offers Consumers Ideas on Bes…

The new “Bring Your Home to Life” lookbook is a curated collection of more than 300 unique plant varieties best suited to grow in homes and offices.

Read More
Worker taking cuttings at Vivero Internacional.

September 11, 2017

Vivero Internacional Elevates Clean Cuttings to New Hei…

One of the last independent cutting operations, this fast-growing company raises the standard for delivering clean, high-quality unrooted cuttings.

Read More

September 10, 2017

Supplemental Greenhouse Lighting to Produce Seedlings: …

Researchers at Michigan State University see if the results from producing high-quality seedlings with LEDs justify the high capital outlay for installation.

Read More
Strait-Laced Elderberry

September 10, 2017

Check Out the Top Varieties On Display at Farwest 2017

A panel of plant experts, along with show attendees, selected their favorite offerings during the Farwest 2017 New Varieties Showcase.

Read More
Powdery mildew on rosemary. Photo credit: SHS Griffin

September 9, 2017

Howler Biological Fungicide from AgBiome Gains EPA Appr…

Howler provides preventive, long-lasting activity on a broad spectrum of soilborne and foliar diseases, with no special handling or storage required.

Read More