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
Florikan Space Technology Hall of Fame

April 25, 2017

Out-Of-This-World Plant Nutrition: Fertilizer Company I…

NASA scientists are growing vegetables on the International Space Station using Florikan’s controlled release fertilizer.

Read More

April 25, 2017

41 New Vegetative Petunias From California Spring Trial…

With the abundance of new introductions for the 2018 retail season, we’ve made it easier for you to sift through them by separating out the vegetative petunias from the Northern sites, which includes selections from Westhoff, Sakata Ornamentals, Danziger, Proven Winners, and Syngenta flowers.

Read More
Lighting Book Light Management in Controlled Environments

April 24, 2017

“Light Management in Controlled Environments̶…

An expanded update to “Lighting Up Profits,” this new lighting book unlocks the secrets of managing light to enhance greenhouse crop production.

Read More

April 24, 2017

Ian Baldwin Offers Examples From Grower-Retailers on Pr…

In March, Baldwin wrote a blog advising grower-retailers to consider raising their prices this spring. The post inspired a number of creative suggestions.

Read More
OHP PGR App

April 23, 2017

OHP Redesigns Its PGR Calculator App

The new version contains many of the same features as the previous version but now runs faster and works on all iOS device environments.

Read More
Kaylee South

April 22, 2017

American Floral Endowment Announces Winners of 2017 Pau…

Four students pursuing careers in horticulture now have scholarships to help them along the way, thanks to the American Floral Endowment.

Read More
Jim Zampini

April 21, 2017

Nursery Industry Leader Jim Zampini Dies at 85

Jim Zampini, a nationally recognized nurseryman and one of the leading figures in the thriving Lake County, OH, nursery industry for more than six decades, passed away on April 15 at the age of 85.

Read More
Begonia Spectre Silver Terra Nova Nurseries

April 20, 2017

Terra Nova Nurseries Releases Two New, Attractive Begon…

Stardust is the latest addition to Terra Nova Nurseries’ existing T Rex Begonia series, and Silver is the first introduction to the company’s new Spectre Begonia series.

Read More
GGS Cannabis Production

April 19, 2017

Suppliers Can Offer Technical Solutions for New Cannabi…

Here’s a look at how a few manufacturers have partnered with growers to make their transition into cannabis a smooth one, whether it’s through hands-on guidance or partnering with other industry leaders.

Read More

April 18, 2017

Cool Combos From CAST 2017 – Editor’s Choic…

With container gardening becoming more of a lifestyle among consumers than a trend, and breeders continuing to put more effort in container mixes and components, I feel I would be remiss if I didn't share some of the special combinations that not only caught my eye at California Spring Trials, but absolutely took my breath away and made me want to immediately get started gardening.

Read More
LumiGrow Growers Council

April 17, 2017

LumiGrow’s Latest Lighting Research Highlighted in Grow…

Industry leaders representing a broad range of vegetable, floriculture, and cannabis producers gathered to learn how to implement modern lighting strategies for their own production.

Read More
Danziger New Hires

April 16, 2017

Danziger Invests in Continued North American Business G…

As part of a new business structure for its North American market, Mike Fernandez has been appointed Market Manager North America for Bedding Plants and Perennials, and Kate Zvara was named as Key Account Manager and Retail Specialist.

Read More
Oregon Lean Nursery Consortium

April 15, 2017

How Oregon Growers Are Making Lean Improvements With He…

The Oregon Nursery Lean Consortium recently helped two Pacific Northwest growers realize significant productivity gains and labor savings.

Read More
Kemin Horticulture Trial

April 14, 2017

How to Trial a New Product Before You Use It in Your Gr…

Before you apply a new product on a plant, you want to make sure it is safe and effective. Technical experts from Kemin have compiled a five-step guide designed to help you measure the benefits of a new product you want to incorporate into your operation.

Read More
Venlo Greenhouse (Westbrook Greenhouse Systems Ltd.)

April 13, 2017

AmericanHort’s Production Technology Conference To Debu…

The AmericanHort Production Technology Conference is designed to give nursery and greenhouse growers a chance to get hands-on with the latest advancements in production technology and explore the return on investment potential of equipment purchases and upgrades.

Read More
Hydroponics Michigan State Web

April 13, 2017

Research Team Seeking Feedback From Hydroponic Growers

Are you a hydroponic grower of food crops? If so, Michigan State University and Iowa State University researchers are looking for your input.

Read More
Florida Flower Trials

April 12, 2017

Looking for Info on New Varieties for Hot Climates? Che…

The Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association’s Florida Flower Trials, which are focused on new and improved varieties able to thrive in the extremes of Florida’s climate, are a great opportunity to connect with national breeders.

Read More
Lupinus Staircase Series (Green Fuse Botanicals)

April 11, 2017

Begonias, Celosias Among Dr. Allan Armitage’s Favorites…

Check out some of Allan’s top picks from his final day at CAST 2017, which included visits to Green Fuse Botanicals and Floranova.

Read More