Monrovia And Lowe’s: The Industry Reacts

After the news broke that Monrovia would begin selling their branded plants in Lowe’s in 2013, the industry reacted immediately. Below are a sampling of your comments from GreenhouseGrower.com, our sister magazine’s website, TodaysGardenCenter.com, and both Facebook pages, which range from angry to philosophical. Also included are responses from Monrovia representatives, James Szadek and Tim Barthel.

“I dont see Monrovia making any profit in a retail situation. They have great products, but they are very expensive. Homeowners are pinching pennys these days, and I do not think they will be able to pay a premium price for anything.”

— Anton Fearn

“A business just has to do what it has to do to stay alive. It sounds like a good venture between the two companies. I wonder if Lowe’s has talked Monrovia into scan and pay. I have also heard and seen where some of the bedding plant growers put their own people in at the retail locations to water and care for plants, as well as wait on customers. What’s wrong with this picture?”

— Ron Edwards

“For many years, we carried Monrovia product in our Texas store. Then, a few years ago, it became very difficult for us to do business with Monrovia — no service from any sales reps, huge freight costs and such high minimum orders that we finally gave up on carrying the brand. We are a very large independent with a very long history with Monrovia. I’m not surprised that they could not reach their sales goal to independents with the type of service we received in the past few years.”

— Katherine Smith

“It does worry me quite a bit that the box stores are getting the same product we have at independents. But on the independent garden center end, we need to make sure we can differentiate ourselves with better service, product and shopability. Recently I went to a few other independents and some box stores. The box stores were organized a lot better, product looked nicer, and the staff was much friendlier. If I was a plant grower, I would want my plants where they are going to be showcased the best and I will sell more. Our challenge as independents is to go into these box stores and honestly compare ourselves to them. Then go out and beat the pants off of them in service and quality!”

— Justin Schuiteman

“Monrovia has decided to partner with the box stores at the expense of the independent garden center customers who built them. As they find that more independent garden centers drop them, they will be more and more tied to the big box pricing structure. Eventually quality will suffer and Monrovia having placed too many eggs in the Big Box basket will die off with a whimper. RIP Monrovia.”

— Kevin Wilson

“Kevin, For 16 years we have had all of our eggs in the independent garden center basket and were hoping for many more years in the future. The eggs are getting less and less, we all need to diversify or die. Most consumers do not walk into a store asking for a brand, they purchase it when they see the brand on the shelf and relate it towards a good thing. Monrovia has been a strong partner for our industry for 87 years to show consumers that plants are special and different. Many garden centers still carry Scotts, Proven Winners and Endless Summer because these brands sell and at the end of the day we all want empty shelves!”

— Tim Barthel

“The question here is whether Monrovia agreed to pay-by-scan. If so, then that will be my terms as well.”

— David Jackson

“Thanks David. … And to answer your question, the Lowe’s agreement is not pay-by-scan.”

— James Szadek

“Unless Monrovia has some hands-on control of how their product is taken care of, this will tarnish their reputation with the consumer and cheapen their brand to the independent garden center.”

— Jim Schroer

“I went to the Apple store to buy my iPad for the experience at their great retail store. I still love Apple, even though I could have bought the iPad at Best Buy or Walmart. Endless Summer Hydrangea is everywhere; people buy it from the places they like the most.”

— Tim Barthel

“Hang in there, indies. Give Monrovia plants at Lowe’s two weeks and see if they survive. Impulse shoppers will only buy if the price is right. Monrovia is kidding themselves if they think this relationship will not discount the life out of them.”

— Susan White

“Independents are being pushed out of business by the big box stores. Seeing Knock Out roses and Endless Summer hydrangeas in Lowe’s, Walmart and Sam’s Club this spring really broke my heart. We gave these businesses their start and they are undercutting us. What will be the prices of the plants being sold to Lowe’s? And will those prices be available for the independents? Independents that have been very loyal to Monrovia for years!”

— Laura Sherman

“I don’t have customers asking for Monrovia-specific product that often, but I always knew they would only find it in independents, not the big boxes. This will surely change my purchase plans with Monrovia from now on!”

— Kyle Aurit

“Once a brand hits the chain stores, it’s the beginning of the decline of the brand. Look at Martha Stewart, Proven Winners, etc. Independent garden centers have to work harder at creating their own branding in the future.”

— Jack Crawford

“For all the independent garden centers, it’s gonna be all downhill from now on. Do you honestly think that the best of the best won’t eventually wind up in the discounters? Maybe 10 years ago, Monrovia always wanted a major commitment from us. I was told we wouldn’t be buying enough to have Monrovia products in our store. My, how times have changed.”

— Tim Lamprey

“I guess they had no choice. Very disappointed and we won’t be carrying them at our independent garden center anymore. Our whole image is built around being smaller, local and having better quality plants than what you can get at Lowe’s and Home Depot.”

— Melissa Kidd Langley

“Proven Winners, Knockout roses, Endless Summer hydrangeas, Wave petunias, the list goes on, are everywhere. We have bigger things like drought and watering bans to worry about.”

— Dottie Warner

“As a supplier, if you add value to your product/program you will be successful no matter where it’s sold.”

— Jay Kelly

“Bottom line, though, is that the Monrovia name will be in the discounters, thus diminishing the uniqueness of the independent garden center.”

— Curtis Jones

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13 comments on “Monrovia And Lowe’s: The Industry Reacts

  1. T. P.

    Apparently not enough independent Garden Centers who were asked to "back" Monrovia last year with purchases were able to follow through? I think the future of the Monrovia brand as well as any Independant Garden Center is only a few years away from being a memory, what a shame! And so goes the free markets.

  2. Tom Manes

    I will welcome the chance to buy Monrovia plants at the Lowe's only a few miles away. Up to now, the only way I could get particular Monrovia plants, other than just by chance, was to special order through a retail nursery, and that has typically only been possible 1 or 2 times per year. I think for independent nurseries to survive, a range of services and products not possible at a big box store will have to be offered – something more than just a particular brand of plant. I only hope I can special order from Monrovia through Lowe's if there's something particular I'm looking for, just like I can with a bathroom fixture, pre-formed pond, etc.

  3. T.R.

    Every (well run)company has the responsibility and obligation to develop a strategy that includes multiple differentiators that are unique and difficult to copy. If you are a company that used Monrovia products as a key differentiator, simply adjust your strategy. If you don't have other competitive advantages, shame on you.

  4. Stefan Przystanski

    Don't kidd yourself's. All the branders don't care about independent garden center owners. Take Proven Winners, Monrovia and many others, in the beginning they will promise you all and build their business on you back and once they accomplish their goals (fatten their bank accounts) they will throw you overboard!

  5. David

    You can't fault Monrovia for doing what they need to do to stay in business. The problem is their strategy has gone off the tracks, it will completely change our IGC purchasing from them. Tired of hearing – only in independents, then only in black pots, then only on West Coast… They might want to change all the ads they're currently running "All to reinforce the message that the best quality plants, the most interesting varieties and superior service are found only at IGC's" – only adds insult to injury.

  6. Jay Davis

    If it is pay by scan as someone mentioned it will be a faster route to the grave for them. We tried pay by scan with The Home Depot and lost our shirts. All the risk on the grower and no risk for the big box retailer. As soon as their supplier goes under they move to the next vendor and put them under. RIP Monrovia.

  7. Al K

    Laura, if you had seen the dried up Endless Summer hydrangeas and stressed KO roses at a local Sams Club this spring it would have broken anyone's heart. Plants were allowed to dry out to the point where they were mostly dead. As long as Independents promote service before and after the sale, they can survive. If boxes become too much competition then you just have to move on and think 'outside the box' ( no pun intended)to compete. In a free market economy we all have to deal with some form of competition.

  8. Anne Larson

    I'll be surprised if Lowe's can manage the unique care required by Monrovia plant material–e.g. very little room for water retention do to aggressive root growth so can't be managed just like everything else.

  9. Marci Huston

    To use an analogy from a different industry. At any point in time you can buy the exact same item at a Nordstrom Rack as you can at a Nordstrom store, or Macy's and Ross. Different people shop at different places for different reasons. If your customers were buying Monrovia product from you at your garden center, because it was awesome and they loved shopping there, they are not just going to dump you and buy Monrovia or any other product at a Big Box. I say, just have the most awesome product and offer the best shopping experience. Then your customers won't even know that Lowes has Monrovia product, because they won't shop there. You can't fault any company to do what they need to do to stay in business, because we all would do the same. There is nothing illegal, unethical, immoral about selling your product to a box store. What would be a shame, is to see an industry icon of a brand go down the drain because they did not try! Times are changing, we all need to adjust.

  10. Roger Hays

    Monrovia will be selling to Lowe's at a discounted rate compared to the independents. If not this year, wait. We have seen our branded animal feeds going to the box stores. Box stores now sell Nutrena, Purina and other major brands that used to be exclusively for dealers at prices less than we can purchase them for. It will be the same with Monrovia. Lowes is not exclusively a garden center. Customers will be happy to pay considerably less for the same branded product, even if it is, and it will be, a cheaper version.

  11. Charles E. Buschbom

    Has anyone ever heard of Iseli Nursery in Oregon? They produce and sell as good if not better quality than Monrovia. My understanding their customer base is the indepedent garden centers/nurseries. I won't buy any woody ornamental unless it has the Iseli label.

  12. Joel Pesapane, CLM

    I have given a speech at several venues called "We're Not Walmart." It is based ona client offering to buy 400 Poinsettias from us for 25 cents more than they were at Walmart.She was incredulous when we refused the sale. Pricing is one way you position your company. The difference in price betweeb a Chevy and a Cadillac is mostly buyer perception of value. If you discount your product or place it in a discount environment you have just established a lower perceptionof value.