Will Monrovia Stay Or Go?

Now that Monrovia has hired Mike Trebing, the former Hines Nurseries senior vice president for sales and marketing, growers and retailers are concluding that Monrovia will ultimately wind up working with box stores.

We’ve taken a few of the most insightful comments on GreenhouseGrower.com and our sister magazine’s website, TodaysGardenCenter.com, and repositioned them here. Some of the content has been edited for clarity and the majority of the comments have been made anonymously. Here’s what growers and retailers are saying about Monrovia now:

Top Comments

“Monrovia is a great nursery. There are many other great nurseries. Many already sell to the box stores. While I see the symbolism that this change might bring, I have to ask: Is Monrovia really that important to us? Every other major brand, from Blooms of Bressingham to Proven Winners to Smith and Hawken have built their brand on the backs of independents and then given the benefits to the boxes. That is likely how it will always be. Everybody starts small and hopes to make the big time someday. All the more reason to build your own brand around your own garden center and carry the best, cheapest plants you can find regardless of where they come from.”–RGC, TodaysGardenCenter.com

“I believe it is rather disingenuous for [Monrovia CEO Miles] Rosedale to say that Mr. Trebing was hired ‘to explore the box store channel.’ I think it is highly unlikely the box stores are going to wait until the end of January to see if the independent garden centers (IGCs) rally around Monrovia before placing orders. I believe it likely they have very elaborate marketing plans that are well underway, including Monrovia product. It is also my belief that once Monrovia heads down this path they won’t be able to turn back. The box stores will become an ever-increasing percentage of business for Monrovia. They (Monrovia) will never be able to walk away from them.”–Anonymous, TodaysGardenCenter.com

“One thing I can see as a small garden center: There is a change coming. Small garden centers have got to find products and companies that do not sell to box stores. The writing is on the wall with Monrovia. We have carried them for years. I guess that will end now because Home Depot and the like will have them. I know that when I attend trade shows I ask the vendors if they deal with the box stores. If they do, I move on.”–Anonymous, GreenhouseGrower.com

“Given the current conditions of the economy and a long slog for the next three years or so, I believe Monrovia will have no alternative but to move into the box stores. The other choice would be to scale down radically, give up their dominance, be a new smaller company and stay with the independents. I just don’t see that happening. The creditors will not be satisfied that this one time bailout with sustain the company through this awful building recession. They simple have no choice.”–Nick Hudson, TodaysGardenCenter.com

Want More?

More growers and retailers are sharing their two cents on Monrovia’s decision to hire Trebing. Check out what they’re saying at GreenhouseGrower.com and TodaysGardenCenter.com, and let us know what you think.

Leave a Reply

18 comments on “Will Monrovia Stay Or Go?

  1. Several years ago we presented to Monrovia proven greenhouse experience that our microbial products would reduce their inputs costs ( less fertilizers, chemicals and irrigation ) while producing superior plants in shorter growing time. Their refusal to accept new technology is bearing consequences. We refuse to sell to the big box stores because they have sales personnel to understand the science of the soil food web.

  2. I confirm my comments regarding Monrovia Except last sentence sgould read. We refuse to sell to the big box stores because they do noy have sales personnel who understand the science of the soil food web. douglas speed

  3. If Monrovia was desperate to move the huge inventory ($93mil???) and preserve and help the IGC why did they not offer it to the IGC as pay on scan which is what they will have to do as a box store vendor? It would have helped everyone in the food chain from supplier to retailer to consumer. They made a calculated decision to handle this differently and ask the IGC for a bale out while they had already hired a sales manager to set up their box store business. IGC’s really need to look at this dynamic closely. After watching this now for a couple of weeks I find it troubling and more difficult to defend the motives of Monrovia. IGC’s need to bond together to support the companies that are helping them.

  4. After they fired their best rep, Luwanna from my state I didn’t place any order with them. All my orders for Spring went to other companies. I really don’t understand what all the fuss is about. My customers don’t know what a Monrovia plant is from any other and could care less. It’s what the plant looks like, the care it has received since landing at my nursery and the knowledge of the personnel to sell it to the customer. They shot themselves in the foot with me.

  5. This is all quite ridiculous. Business is business, and it all comes down to making money at the end of the day. Unfortunately for some it’s survive or go bankrupt. But it’s still business. Our industry should have no moral obligations to suppliers or buyers more than any other industry. Relationships may be important, but it’s about moving product for dollars and nothing else. If an IGC wants to put themselves on a pedestal and think they’re entitled to an exclusive contract forever, then maybe they forgot what year it is. Every company has their own business model which has to change with the market to remain profitable, including box stores and IGCs. Box stores and IGCs have two distinctly different customer bases. It has nothing to do with quality, variety, price, or branding. Maybe it has more to do with customer service? Box stores rarely have variety or customer service. It’s 2011, small growers must find their niche, big growers must exploit every sales avenue possible. That’s how business works. In one man’s opinion, with a nut point of view, I think the more we can saturate the market with plants of all brands, quality levels, and price points, the better off we are as an industry securing our long-term survival. The more we flood the market, the more we convince the consumer that our product is a “necessity” (on all quality levels). We’re still a very small industry compared to… let’s say toothpaste. We should all be grateful for everything Monrovia has done for independents over the years, and we should applaud them for wanting to put a high-quality product into the box stores, to peak the interest of a whole new generation of consumers in tough economic times… supporting our industry as a whole. Sorry, but I’m not buying the “Box-store vs. IGC for market share” argument, and I probably never will.

  6. Not sure Monrovia should be betting too much on a sales strategy from the now twice defunct Hines sales manager. Boxes will pay less by a lot, and the brand image will quickly reflect that. Somebody already stated the obvious. The plant is what sells. The danger of a new market channel is that the current channel ends it’s support of higher priced product in a pot with somebody’s name on it.
    The boxes will use any west coast shrubs if priced right. I have heard that the Hines guy has already agreed to full scanned based payment for TWo boxes. Watch Costco and Home Depot with no risks. Heard BJs to but only rumered. Start the clock.

  7. It will be interesting to see what happens to the top name brands that sell to the boxes…Proven Winners were seen in Home Depot this past June marked down by half and the worst quality plant imaginable…what are we teaching the new generation of buyer…is this to be the new quality standard? I think it’s smart on Monrovia’s part not to put their branding on the pots at the boxes…this way they can still have the IGC’s promoting the quality of Monrovia while getting the mass sales of the boxes without damaging their name in public.

  8. I would never be so bold as to tell another man/woman how they should run their business. We all know there are enough people out there willing to do that. If by chance the decision makers at Monrovia read this, I hope they can benefit, as I have, from the wisdom of these four quotes.

    1. “When all think alike, then no one is thinking.” Walter Lippman
    2. “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but never fear to negotiate.” John F. Kennedy
    3. “Live together like brothers and do business like strangers.” Unknown
    (And recently added and new favorite)
    4. “I don’t want to be a chicken farmer working for you!” A quote from a very wise women attending an industry meeting on the issue of branding. I wish I new her name.

  9. Several years ago we presented to Monrovia proven greenhouse experience that our microbial products would reduce their inputs costs ( less fertilizers, chemicals and irrigation ) while producing superior plants in shorter growing time. Their refusal to accept new technology is bearing consequences. We refuse to sell to the big box stores because they have sales personnel to understand the science of the soil food web.

  10. I confirm my comments regarding Monrovia Except last sentence sgould read. We refuse to sell to the big box stores because they do noy have sales personnel who understand the science of the soil food web. douglas speed

  11. If Monrovia was desperate to move the huge inventory ($93mil???) and preserve and help the IGC why did they not offer it to the IGC as pay on scan which is what they will have to do as a box store vendor? It would have helped everyone in the food chain from supplier to retailer to consumer. They made a calculated decision to handle this differently and ask the IGC for a bale out while they had already hired a sales manager to set up their box store business. IGC’s really need to look at this dynamic closely. After watching this now for a couple of weeks I find it troubling and more difficult to defend the motives of Monrovia. IGC’s need to bond together to support the companies that are helping them.

  12. After they fired their best rep, Luwanna from my state I didn’t place any order with them. All my orders for Spring went to other companies. I really don’t understand what all the fuss is about. My customers don’t know what a Monrovia plant is from any other and could care less. It’s what the plant looks like, the care it has received since landing at my nursery and the knowledge of the personnel to sell it to the customer. They shot themselves in the foot with me.

  13. This is all quite ridiculous. Business is business, and it all comes down to making money at the end of the day. Unfortunately for some it’s survive or go bankrupt. But it’s still business. Our industry should have no moral obligations to suppliers or buyers more than any other industry. Relationships may be important, but it’s about moving product for dollars and nothing else. If an IGC wants to put themselves on a pedestal and think they’re entitled to an exclusive contract forever, then maybe they forgot what year it is. Every company has their own business model which has to change with the market to remain profitable, including box stores and IGCs. Box stores and IGCs have two distinctly different customer bases. It has nothing to do with quality, variety, price, or branding. Maybe it has more to do with customer service? Box stores rarely have variety or customer service. It’s 2011, small growers must find their niche, big growers must exploit every sales avenue possible. That’s how business works. In one man’s opinion, with a nut point of view, I think the more we can saturate the market with plants of all brands, quality levels, and price points, the better off we are as an industry securing our long-term survival. The more we flood the market, the more we convince the consumer that our product is a “necessity” (on all quality levels). We’re still a very small industry compared to… let’s say toothpaste. We should all be grateful for everything Monrovia has done for independents over the years, and we should applaud them for wanting to put a high-quality product into the box stores, to peak the interest of a whole new generation of consumers in tough economic times… supporting our industry as a whole. Sorry, but I’m not buying the “Box-store vs. IGC for market share” argument, and I probably never will.

  14. Not sure Monrovia should be betting too much on a sales strategy from the now twice defunct Hines sales manager. Boxes will pay less by a lot, and the brand image will quickly reflect that. Somebody already stated the obvious. The plant is what sells. The danger of a new market channel is that the current channel ends it’s support of higher priced product in a pot with somebody’s name on it.
    The boxes will use any west coast shrubs if priced right. I have heard that the Hines guy has already agreed to full scanned based payment for TWo boxes. Watch Costco and Home Depot with no risks. Heard BJs to but only rumered. Start the clock.

  15. It will be interesting to see what happens to the top name brands that sell to the boxes…Proven Winners were seen in Home Depot this past June marked down by half and the worst quality plant imaginable…what are we teaching the new generation of buyer…is this to be the new quality standard? I think it’s smart on Monrovia’s part not to put their branding on the pots at the boxes…this way they can still have the IGC’s promoting the quality of Monrovia while getting the mass sales of the boxes without damaging their name in public.

  16. I would never be so bold as to tell another man/woman how they should run their business. We all know there are enough people out there willing to do that. If by chance the decision makers at Monrovia read this, I hope they can benefit, as I have, from the wisdom of these four quotes.

    1. “When all think alike, then no one is thinking.” Walter Lippman
    2. “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but never fear to negotiate.” John F. Kennedy
    3. “Live together like brothers and do business like strangers.” Unknown
    (And recently added and new favorite)
    4. “I don’t want to be a chicken farmer working for you!” A quote from a very wise women attending an industry meeting on the issue of branding. I wish I new her name.

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