interesting development in hort. retail sales

davidrt28 (zone 7)November 18, 2013

Not a plug as I have nothing to do w/them, but an interesting development in horticulture: Monrovia will be selling direct to consumers next spring. You can see this on their website. They will ship the plant to your nearest Monrovia nursery; presumably piggybacking onto that nursery's regular truckload or LTL order.

Frankly I think it's about time that wholesalers reach out more directly to their customers/"end users". Sorry, nursery industry professionals, the whole way the industry works is terribly antiquated. I can understand a nursery that only supplies big box stores with generic junk like red maples and gerberas wanting to be wholesale only. But if a wholesaler _wants_ to wholesale rare or special items, why not reach out directly to the consumers? I can go buy the latest microchips from mouser or digikey, right alongside customers like HP or JPL or whoever, who are buying a million of them. They don't care. No minimum order. Granted, we don't robotically harvest or pick nursery plants yet, but that day is probably coming. I guess once upon a time, Joe Public wandered into an upscale nursery during his/her weekend so-called free time and said "hey, show me some plants to buy"...allowing Joe or Jane Public to be directed to a 18" Trochodendron for $120. (a sarcastic reference to my recent trip to an upscale DC area nursery) Well, those genteel days are gone folks. The Public family is too busy on their smartphones for leisurely trips to upscale nurseries. If Joe or Jane Public wants a rare plant, it's probably going to be because they see a friend's post on facebook about it, and they are going to want to browse somewhere and buy it immediately. Since local nurseries can't possibly hope to offer a service like that, the wholesaler is the only way to fill that gap. Besides, many nurseries probably don't want to bother staffing with people who really know plants. When Styers was taken over by Urban Outfitters, the prior staff who seemed to really have an enthusiasm for horticulture was quickly replaced with the typical mix of "cheerful teenagers with a summer job" you see at most nurseries. Or maybe not the only way, but the best way. If they allow their nursery customers to order onesies anyhow, why not just let the public buy one too, without trying to find someone at a nursery for a special order. Been there, done that, it's a hassle. (And also, point being, someone like Briggs who makes you order 25 of a single variety of rhodie at a time would find this less appealing, but I think they are the exception among upscale wholesalers. For anything other than liners, most let landscapers, for example, buy plants one at a time. Again it's about not being antiquated: with modern inventory control, it makes less sense for specimen plants to be sold in quantities > 1. Buying plants at a truly organized place like Colesville nursery - which mostly functions as a wholesaler - is 10X more efficient than the typical semi-rural upscale nursery where stuff is scattered around willy-nilly and only the owner knows how the find the rarest stuff you're looking for.)

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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Or they're trying to cope with the fact that trees and shrubs are stiffing at garden centers these days, with the big interest being in annual and vegetable starts.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2013 at 9:32PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

This says annual bedding plant sales went flat in 2012, with edibles still being the thing. Here I've noticed that at plant foundation sales and other group events where multiple different vendors show up with all manner of enticements the people that have shoppers all over them are the ones that have tomato starts.

Here is a link that might be useful: What's The Situation?

This post was edited by bboy on Tue, Nov 19, 13 at 13:30

    Bookmark   November 18, 2013 at 10:41PM
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Here in Madison there are a lot of plants being sold in front of hardware stores and other retail stores including grocery stores. Typically there will be a tent or some sort of temporary enclosure out in the parking lot. We still have several lawn and garden centers, but it is a tough and competitive business to be in. We lost Johannsens a few months ago-the land was sold to become a used car lot. If wholesale plant nurseries want to sell directly to the customer, that might generate some new sales, but it will always be more expensive to do business that way. With plants, shipping costs are significant.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 9:48AM
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As far as I know, Monrovia Nursery is still operating under Chapter 7 (?) bankruptcy. The decision to go into a form of retail sales may well be a part of the bankruptcy court's directives.

An interesting development in shipping costs is the fact that some nurseries are beginning to use USPS. The postal service is offering much better tracking service than in the past and impressively fast service. I've received plants from the West Coast, 3000+ miles, in 8 days via ordinary parcel post. Priority Mail would have been even quicker. The Postal Service's rates are far less expensive than UPS or Fedex.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 6:04AM
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wannabegardnr(7 Maryland)

That's good news, to be able to buy direct. If piggybacking means minimal shipping cost, then they will probably see a lot of sales.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 1:41PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

What is the relationship between the lower USPS rates and it continuing to operate with annual losses in the billions of dollars?

    Bookmark   November 20, 2013 at 2:04PM
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bboy: The deficits of the USPS have several causes, among which are the funding requirements for present and future retirees imposed by Congress, an excess number of post offices, the steep decline in volume of first class mail, and 6 day per week delivery. Addressing any of these issues is very difficult. For example, the outcry when there's the slightest hint of a local post office being closed quickly makes its way to Washington where the closure is vetoed.

My understanding is that the USPS sees the profitable package delivery business as an important part of its future. The recent deal with Amazon is an example. For many years UPS and Fedex have enjoyed a virtual monopoly in this area. Now the USPS feels it can successfully compete with them by offering cheaper and better service. One West Coast nursery owner told me that they have experienced far fewer problems with damaged and delayed shipments since they switched to the USPS.

Many, many parts of the country have seen most of their local independent nurseries fail in the last several years. What's left is the big box stores with their narrow selections of indifferently cared for plants. At the same time mail order nurseries have seen ever escalating shipping costs from UPS and Fedex. A less expensive alternative for shipping could well be a savior for a lot of independent growers.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2013 at 6:42AM
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Would you rather pick out a shrub when you can see it or get whatever they ship?

    Bookmark   December 9, 2013 at 4:56PM
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