Suntory Flowers has added Vaughn Fletcher to its sales and marketing team in North America. Fletcher, who recently retired from his sales and management roles at McHutchison Horticultural Distributors, will be working as a consultant supporting Suntory’s sales and marketing strategies.
Fletcher’s career began in growing, retailing, and landscaping businesses. For the last 30 years, he has served the floriculture industry as a broker sales representative, most of that time with McHutchison. He has built a reputation for his plant expertise, sharing his knowledge and mentoring others.
“We’re very excited to have Vaughn on our team,” says Delilah Onofrey, License Manager, Suntory Flowers. “The insight and credibility he brings along with personal relationships are valuable. He has so much energy, you’d never know he just retired. We look forward to building business together.”
“I have promoted and sold Suntory genetics for many years,” Fletcher says. “The breeding and plant performance is second to none, and I look forward to doing my part to support the organization.”
Greenhouse Grower recently caught up with Fletcher and asked him about what he’s seeing in the market currently, and how he’ll use this new role to help growers move their businesses forward.
Greenhouse Grower (GG): How did your previous experience prepare you for this new role?
Vaughn Fletcher: I have been a horticultural sales rep and regional sales manager for 30 years and have represented and promoted many breeder varieties, including Suntory. I have traveled with sales representatives from Texas to Minnesota to discuss programs and genetics that have applications in their respective territories.
In addition, I have traveled to summer trial sites for many years to evaluate new varieties and present this information to our sales staff and customers. There is an incredible number of varieties on the market, and more selections are introduced each spring. The objective information I present adds creditability and value to the selling process.
GG: What are the some of the biggest issues or concerns you’ve heard from the growers you work with, and how do you plan to help them deal with these issues?
Fletcher: I can only answer this from the genetics side of the business. All growers are asking about specific varieties that will work for their programs, whether it be wholesale or retail production. Every customer has different needs and their market is different based on location and demographics. My goal is to promote the varieties that will perform in production and ultimately provide summer performance for the consumer.
GG: What are the biggest challenges this industry is currently facing? Conversely, what are some of the biggest opportunities on the horizon?
• Independent retailers: There is competition from the box stores. Consumers have a limited amount of discretionary income and there are many options for spending their time and money. This competitive environment requires exceptional vision, production efficiencies, great customer service, a well thought-out marketing program, and last but not least, plant quality that is unmatched in their respective markets.
• Education: There must be continual promotion of the many benefits and values of plants in people’s daily environment.
• Labor: There is a shortage of dedicated and responsible individuals to perform the many physical jobs required in our industry. To address this problem, all growers are implementing many forms of labor-saving technology to increase productivity with fewer people.
As I stated above, we are competing with so many recreational activities for our time and money. Discretionary income is limited so we must continue to highlight the beauty and emotional benefits of the plant world.
We will continue to sell plants. People want to be connected to the natural world, but the question is, who will fill this need? That is best answered by the topics I mentioned earlier.
GG: Looking ahead, what role can you play in moving this industry forward?
Fletcher: My role is to evaluate, select, and promote the best plants that benefit and perform for consumers in their respective regions. We want our customers to be successful every year so they have a positive experience which translates into increased sales.
GG: If you weren’t in this profession, what would you be doing?
Fletcher: Tour guide for Outside Magazine!