While Hort Couture is heading into its fourth year with plans for Spring 2011, in many ways this year marks the rebirth and relaunch of the brand. Developed by Jim and Jennifer Monroe of Greenbriar Nurseries in West Virginia, the fashion-forward brand is designed for independent garden centers and grower-retailers like themselves. The idea was to give plants and gardening a more hip or chic image. The focus is more on container plantings than landscaping.
Through a joint venture with Gerry and Patty Raker of C. Raker & Sons in Michigan, the Monroes and the Rakers have created a comprehensive supply chain alliance with key breeders, young plant producers, brokers and retailers. “This is big-picture stuff,” Gerry Raker says. “We’re trying to create a strategic alliance with suppliers, vendors and sales reps. Our focus is the independent garden centers and innovative small businesses, to work with each other and become as strong as larger companies. We want this to be win-win both ways, a two-way street, with each partner. We ask each other, what irritates you? What would you like to see? What do you need? I’m trying to take what I learned building teams at Raker and spreading that across companies.”
Reflecting on branding initiatives that have not succeeded with other companies, Raker says the limitation was the perspective being too narrow, with just one entity running the show versus a true collaborative partnership.
These are small businesses that are thinking big. One progressive innovation that is being tested at Greenbriar Nurseries and Calloway garden centers in Texas this spring are smart tags activated by smart phones and opening consumers to a world of support and information driven by digital content. It could be as simple as receiving a printable coupon at the store with your phone or receiving a recipe for the herb or vegetable you are buying. Or bookmark the plant and go home and watch a video with planting and care instructions. Hort Couture is on the cutting edge of a new frontier in marketing.