Bower & Branch, a group of independent growers and garden retailers throughout the northeast and Midwest, has had a very active spring. It all started in late April, when long-time industry consultant Clint Albin joined the organization as its Chief Communications Officer (CCO).
Albin came to Bower & Branch after decades in the horticulture industry, as National Director of Garden Centers of America (GCA), Public Relations Director of the Independent Garden Center Show (IGC), Strategic Development Director with Garden Media Group, and Founder and President of his namesake green industry consulting business.
“Clint is an icon in our industry,” says Sid Raisch, President and CEO of Bower and Branch. “He has keen insights into the green industry and consumer retail, and was the perfect person to help us develop and expand in creative and meaningful ways.”
Albin is focusing his efforts on engaging nursery and greenhouse growers, product and service suppliers, and major retailers from around the country, introducing them to the unique opportunities and consumer exposure that come with the Bower & Branch consumer brand.
“I believe the future is very bright for horticulture, but it looks very different,” Albin says. “What was relevant to the plant sales process five years ago has changed, and we can’t measure new opportunities against past performance. Instead, we need to identify and embrace new, more intuitive approaches using predictive customer service selling.”
For the industry to sell more plants, it must create a more holistic shopping experience and engage Americans of all ages, Albin says.
“We must provide a development space for the next generation of products, employees, and consumer gardeners. There is so much more growing people want to do,” Albin says.
Bower & Branch Members Can Network at Cultivate
This July, Bower & Branch will locate its annual membership meeting at the Greater Columbus Convention Center prior to Cultivate’18, and will do so through 2020, according to Raisch.
“We are excited to make this commitment to hold our annual meeting at Cultivate for the next three years,” Raisch says. “There is no better place to connect the dots of our industry than the one place where all segments of the industry and our expanding national network already convene.”
“We are pleased to see the value Bower & Branch places on having its members congregate at Cultivate this year and in the future,” says Ken Fisher, President and CEO of AmericanHort. “Cultivate is the premier all-industry event where so many important connections are made.”
Bower & Branch’s annual meeting is a chance for members to celebrate together around its innovative business model called “The Bower & Branch Way.”
“We will be presenting our flavor of R.E.D (Radical, Extraordinary, and Dynamic) including our new Go-To-Market Ecommerce strategies, programs, and products, as well as awards in recognition of milestones and achievements by our members,” Raisch says. “With more than 70 retailers and four growers enrolled in the network now, the annual meeting is a benefit to everyone.”
Bower & Branch will also be exhibiting in Booth# 0248 at Cultivate’18 to provide membership information to interested retailers, growers, and landscape contractors.
Woodburn Nursery Joins Bower & Branch
In early May, Woodburn Nursery in Woodburn, OR, joined the Bower & Branch network. Woodburn Nursery, number 16 on Greenhouse Grower’s 2018 Top 100 Growers list with 3.2 million square feet of environmentally controlled production, becomes the group’s first West Coast member, as well as a significant investor in the business. Tom Fessler, Woodburn President, will serve on the Bower & Branch Board of Directors.
“Tom has insight and wisdom that will benefit our future development,” Raisch says. “Woodburn Nursery is synonymous with consistent quality, and integrity. We are proud to add it to our network of family growers.”
Fessler says he sees the potential for everyone involved.
“I have seen a lot of changes in the nursery industry since we started in 1968,” Fessler says. “Marketplace shifts happen once in a decade, and they force growers to change their practices. In the past, growers increased production by containerizing plants and using the pot-in-pot method to give them the ability to ship to other markets. But the business model was the same — cash and carry to consumers through the lens of a retail buyer. This is vastly different from the consumer-driven approach of Bower & Branch.”
Fessler says he knew it was time to take a step in the right direction.
“My brother and I are in our mid-50s, and our main concern is the third generation, our sons and nephews, who will face a far different future in horticulture,” Fessler says. “They need to understand plant-handling automation, the impact of changing weather, how to create an alternative to commoditization, pricing pressure, a go-to market strategy, labor shortages, and the expense of connecting with an ever-changing home consumer.”
Bower & Branch Acquires Mobile Commerce Company Plantfast
One more item of note is Bower & Branch’s recent acquisition of the mobile commerce company Plantfast. Plantfast founder Jon Ewing will join the Bower & Branch advisory board.
“This acquisition accelerates our development of a complete end-to-end solution for consumer horticulture sales and services,” Raisch says. “Mobile commerce is important today, but is on a trajectory to become vital in the future. Our existing website is mobile responsive and provides an important web-sales functionality. The goal is to create a virtual retail location where new and existing customers can shop on their terms and their schedules wherever they may be, while still interfacing with our retail members’ physical locations.”
Plantfast founder Jon Ewing is known throughout all segments of the industry for his keen ability to move his company forward in ever-changing markets. His landscape firm, Landtrends, Inc. was an industry leader in innovation. Along with his brother Tom Ewing, the duo co-founded Miramar Wholesale Nurseries, Inc. Through multiple acquisitions, they grew the company with an emphasis on plant quality, providing supply chain stability and increasing corporate value to become a signature asset of LandCare USA. Later, they acquired Butler’s Mill and co-founded the Sports Turf products company, TurfFirst, which was sold to John Deere Landscapes.
“Plantfast shares the same business values and innovation instincts as Bower & Branch,” Raisch says. “For the industry to gain new customers, expand sales, and attract new employees in an increasingly competitive market, it must keep pace with other industries. We’re intent on creating a company whose 21st century vision of how to sell plants will leapfrog the horticulture industry forward into the high-end consumer space.”