Mixed Reactions Regarding Monrovia

The Jan. 31 deadline finally came early last week and it went without Monrovia reaching its target of $20 million in incremental sales from independent garden center (IGC) retailers.

Monrovia did secure $12 million in additional sales, but because it fell 40 percent short of a bank-mandated goal, the company was forced to look for alternative ways to move inventory. Monrovia found a solution with Home Depot, which will carry unbranded plants from Monrovia in the Western United States this spring.

Not surprisingly, a number of GreenhouseGrower.com readers have reacted strongly over the last week to the news, forming two distinct camps of readers. One camp is rather understanding of Monrovia’s predicament, taking the stance that the company has the right to take whatever action necessary to ensure it stays in business. The other camp is far less sympathetic, contending Monrovia, like many companies before it, will jump at big box business when the opportunity presents itself.

GreenhouseGrower.com polled its readers last week, asking them whether they were surprised Monrovia is doing business at the box store level now that it did not meet its $20 million target. Of the 125-plus growers who responded, nearly 90 percent indicate they are not surprised. About 4 percent say they are surprised Monrovia is now working with the box stores while the other 6 percent is indifferent.

What’s your take on the development? Let us know in the comments section below. Here’s how a few other GreenhouseGrower.com readers have reacted:

–”Monrovia has a right like everyone else to do what they need to do to remain in business. They went above and beyond what any other company would do by letting us all know what was going on with them financially and how everyone can help. They are continuing to protect their IGC interests by offering non-branded product without the box store discounted rates. Find another company that is that concerned about their credibility and reputation. There isn’t one. They deserve to stay in business and they deserve to have the industry support to do so.”

–”People are correct when they say Monrovia can sell to whomever they want to, but when your claim to fame is that you only sell to IGCs and then turn around and sell to the box stores, your credibility and your business go down [the tube].”

–”I need my job. I appreciate what Monrovia is doing because it keeps me employed. That’s part of the bigger picture people don’t think about. It would be easy to not sell to the box stores because of history and relationships but it could also mean hundreds, if not thousands, of people becoming unemployed. They are still trying to protect the IGCs, but also doing what they can to stay in business. Wouldn’t you do the same for your own company, or would you liquidate it if faced with this difficult decision?”

–”It’s amazing that a company with virtually no real competition for the last few years still ended up in this mess. They asked the IGCs for a bailout, pure and simple. They fell short, and now on to the boxes. Arrogance got them here and it will probably end up doing them in.”

for more reader reaction and scroll to the end of the story for the start of the comments section.

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15 comments on “Mixed Reactions Regarding Monrovia

  1. I’m not surprised about the decision. I guess as a competitor, I’d rather their product end up there than taking from our sales to the IGC’s. I just wish they would have gone straight to the boxes (face it, we knew that’s where they were headed) and leave the % of sales they did get from the IGC’s to the rest of us that only sell to them.

  2. Every company has an obligation to do what it must in order to adapt to changing situations, times and markets. Failure to adapt results in extinction…surely there are no nursery owners out there who are unaware of this inviolable law of business and nature?

    So the sanctimonious whining about how Monrovia has betrayed the IGC market astonishes me. Sure, the distribution model they followed for decades was a great one. Now, rather than outsiders deciding on who is to blame for the situation they are in, let’s simply acknowledge a change needs to be made.

    The integrity of a company like Monrovia does not depend on holding on to one distribution model till it sinks beneath the waves. Rather, it is depends on the manner in which it handles the transition.

    Their approach of separating the two channels through different brands, pots and even unmarked delivery trucks is exactly what I would expect from a company with integrity. If they do eventually succumb to the siren song of introducing their brands to the mass market, then they will face certain backlash from the IGC market.

    Either way, these are choices that are theirs to make, and they will inherit the consequences of their actions. In the meantime, enough qvetching from the peanut gallery already.

  3. I would like to increase my sales by 20 million, heck 12 million will do. Will you all increase your purchases with me.

    Thanks for your support.

  4. I’m having a hard time understanding what is the issue of selling to big box stores? Are the IGCs just jealous they don’t have the capabilities of mass producing quality items? It’s frustrating to watch IGC talk so badly about big box growers. They are just as if not more hard working folks with the same passion. They knock on quality, obviously they do it ignorantly because they have no idea what it takes to even grow for big box chains. Once they get into the chain it’s up to the personnel in the store to take care of it, not the grower! Don’t fault the grower because the stores doesn’t hire enough waterers! They employ more people in the local area and stimulate the economy by mass producing for an overall lower cost.

    Sounds like jealousy to me!

  5. This comment is for the last “anonymous” comment. It’s not jealousy (apparently you are not in the business) It’s the basic fact that you sweat pray to the weather gods over your crops and only get paid what a box store wants to pay you not what the product is worth. Instead of getting a nickle for every pot you sell you are only getting a penny or less. you need a lot more pennies to stimulate the economy than you do nickles. how many jobs are not out there because a business owner had to cut costs somewhere to move his/her product? That is the issue with the box stores also the “pay by scan” the grower sends in perfectly good material and the box store proceeds to kill it because of lack of care. Those are the real issues. The boxes and minor chains move alot of product, that is true, but at what cost to the end consumer? If the end consumer is not happy or not successful will they buy again? This holds true for the IGC’s as well. We are all in business to make money! I much rather have nickles in my pocket than pennies.

  6. I will state up front that I am a consumer. But this discussion affects me because I am the one who ultimately buys your products.

    Yes, I shop at the Big Box stores, but not all the time. Certainly most of the folks who buy plants end up killing them because they simply do not know what they are doing, but that is not the big Box stores’ fault. It’s nauseating to see what rolls out in the carts – one of each plant in a jumble of unrelated colors with a wide mix of cultural requirements.

    IDCs must differentiate themselves from the Big Box stores by offering distinctly different plants and services or you have nothing to offer. A friend of mine (who recently went out of business) had a nursery that carried everything Home Depot did but at 25% more. Only about 5 to 10% of his stock was different from Home Depot. Why would anyone shop at his nursery? Find something you love then specialize, specialize, specialize!

    How about “Aroma Therapy Gardens” with the plants and a planting plan? In southern CA our water departments are specifying only drought tolerant plants for new landscaping. Their websites show the plants but no one carries them! Edible landscapes are becoming popular as people try to get their propery to do double-duty. How about specializing in only highly fragrant roses? Forget about Queen Elizabeth and Iceberg. They are well-known roses but you will never be able to compete on price with the Big Box stores.

    I WANT IDCs to be successful but you won’t do it by directly competing with the Big Box stores.

  7. As an IGC owner who had purchased from Monrovia in the past I felt that the plants themselves were not the top quality product that one would expect for our harsh Midwest climate. Monrovia’s stock is grown to a science to produce a lush, beautiful plant at the time of delivery. But from there their stock can easily go downhill. The Monrovia plants were by far some of the biggest water and fertilizer junkies I have ever seen, and they are simply not acclimated to our Midwest winters. We often had to water twice a day and fertilize twice a week or they would completely languish, and the following season after planting their stock either failed or struggled to come back and would take a couple seasons in the garden to harden off enough to actually thrive. That sort of care simply cannot be expected from a home gardener or a box store, nor should it.

    Other wholesale growers deliver me a product that can fend for itself, often in less than ideal conditions, meaning a longer shelf life in the nursery with normal care and a MUCH better chance of success once it is installed in the customer’s garden. Get a product that will succeed in the home garden and customers will come back to shop with you again and again. Monrovia simply can’t deliver that type of product, so that’s why I quit buying.

    I see this time and time again, where businesses go to their customers for bailouts, when they really need to step back and find out why their sales are dwindling in the first place. For me I felt that their products were overprices, overrated, and not worth the time, money, or effort.

  8. I’m not surprised about the decision. I guess as a competitor, I’d rather their product end up there than taking from our sales to the IGC’s. I just wish they would have gone straight to the boxes (face it, we knew that’s where they were headed) and leave the % of sales they did get from the IGC’s to the rest of us that only sell to them.

  9. Every company has an obligation to do what it must in order to adapt to changing situations, times and markets. Failure to adapt results in extinction…surely there are no nursery owners out there who are unaware of this inviolable law of business and nature?

    So the sanctimonious whining about how Monrovia has betrayed the IGC market astonishes me. Sure, the distribution model they followed for decades was a great one. Now, rather than outsiders deciding on who is to blame for the situation they are in, let’s simply acknowledge a change needs to be made.

    The integrity of a company like Monrovia does not depend on holding on to one distribution model till it sinks beneath the waves. Rather, it is depends on the manner in which it handles the transition.

    Their approach of separating the two channels through different brands, pots and even unmarked delivery trucks is exactly what I would expect from a company with integrity. If they do eventually succumb to the siren song of introducing their brands to the mass market, then they will face certain backlash from the IGC market.

    Either way, these are choices that are theirs to make, and they will inherit the consequences of their actions. In the meantime, enough qvetching from the peanut gallery already.

  10. I would like to increase my sales by 20 million, heck 12 million will do. Will you all increase your purchases with me.

    Thanks for your support.

  11. I’m having a hard time understanding what is the issue of selling to big box stores? Are the IGCs just jealous they don’t have the capabilities of mass producing quality items? It’s frustrating to watch IGC talk so badly about big box growers. They are just as if not more hard working folks with the same passion. They knock on quality, obviously they do it ignorantly because they have no idea what it takes to even grow for big box chains. Once they get into the chain it’s up to the personnel in the store to take care of it, not the grower! Don’t fault the grower because the stores doesn’t hire enough waterers! They employ more people in the local area and stimulate the economy by mass producing for an overall lower cost.

    Sounds like jealousy to me!

  12. This comment is for the last “anonymous” comment. It’s not jealousy (apparently you are not in the business) It’s the basic fact that you sweat pray to the weather gods over your crops and only get paid what a box store wants to pay you not what the product is worth. Instead of getting a nickle for every pot you sell you are only getting a penny or less. you need a lot more pennies to stimulate the economy than you do nickles. how many jobs are not out there because a business owner had to cut costs somewhere to move his/her product? That is the issue with the box stores also the “pay by scan” the grower sends in perfectly good material and the box store proceeds to kill it because of lack of care. Those are the real issues. The boxes and minor chains move alot of product, that is true, but at what cost to the end consumer? If the end consumer is not happy or not successful will they buy again? This holds true for the IGC’s as well. We are all in business to make money! I much rather have nickles in my pocket than pennies.

  13. I will state up front that I am a consumer. But this discussion affects me because I am the one who ultimately buys your products.

    Yes, I shop at the Big Box stores, but not all the time. Certainly most of the folks who buy plants end up killing them because they simply do not know what they are doing, but that is not the big Box stores’ fault. It’s nauseating to see what rolls out in the carts – one of each plant in a jumble of unrelated colors with a wide mix of cultural requirements.

    IDCs must differentiate themselves from the Big Box stores by offering distinctly different plants and services or you have nothing to offer. A friend of mine (who recently went out of business) had a nursery that carried everything Home Depot did but at 25% more. Only about 5 to 10% of his stock was different from Home Depot. Why would anyone shop at his nursery? Find something you love then specialize, specialize, specialize!

    How about “Aroma Therapy Gardens” with the plants and a planting plan? In southern CA our water departments are specifying only drought tolerant plants for new landscaping. Their websites show the plants but no one carries them! Edible landscapes are becoming popular as people try to get their propery to do double-duty. How about specializing in only highly fragrant roses? Forget about Queen Elizabeth and Iceberg. They are well-known roses but you will never be able to compete on price with the Big Box stores.

    I WANT IDCs to be successful but you won’t do it by directly competing with the Big Box stores.

  14. As an IGC owner who had purchased from Monrovia in the past I felt that the plants themselves were not the top quality product that one would expect for our harsh Midwest climate. Monrovia’s stock is grown to a science to produce a lush, beautiful plant at the time of delivery. But from there their stock can easily go downhill. The Monrovia plants were by far some of the biggest water and fertilizer junkies I have ever seen, and they are simply not acclimated to our Midwest winters. We often had to water twice a day and fertilize twice a week or they would completely languish, and the following season after planting their stock either failed or struggled to come back and would take a couple seasons in the garden to harden off enough to actually thrive. That sort of care simply cannot be expected from a home gardener or a box store, nor should it.

    Other wholesale growers deliver me a product that can fend for itself, often in less than ideal conditions, meaning a longer shelf life in the nursery with normal care and a MUCH better chance of success once it is installed in the customer’s garden. Get a product that will succeed in the home garden and customers will come back to shop with you again and again. Monrovia simply can’t deliver that type of product, so that’s why I quit buying.

    I see this time and time again, where businesses go to their customers for bailouts, when they really need to step back and find out why their sales are dwindling in the first place. For me I felt that their products were overprices, overrated, and not worth the time, money, or effort.

  15. While I understand Monrovias' need to survive, they will most likely have to sell their product at a lower price to Home Depot. This deal may seem appealing however this may be too little margin to improve their bottom line which will still lead to problems with their bank.

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