Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Breakfast Of Champions

Greenhouse Grower hosted its first Top 100 Growers Roundtable Breakfast on Monday at Short Course. We had an engaging discussion recapping the spring season, how we couldn't stand the weather and on execution at retail. The event was sponsored by Goldsmith Seeds, Summit Plastic and Valent. Pictured are Alex Diaz and Mike Marida of Costa Farms, who attended with Mike Rimland.

GG Editor Delilah Onofrey facilitated the discussion with GG columnist Vinny Naab, who is a consultant specializing in helping growers serve big-box retailers. For about 15 years, he was the Northeast buyer for Home Depot.

During the discussions, it was interesting to hear growers who serve Home Depot say that rival Lowe's is doing a more consistent job of merchandising garden plants. The difference? Sticking to a plan-o-gram which specifies where all the categories of live goods and hard goods should be displayed in each type of Lowe's store. With Home Depot, however, it's not unusual for there to be 30 different types of stores in a region, making it difficult to implement universal plan-o-grams. Layout is left to each store manager and stores vary widely in their presentation.

By far, the most limiting factor of this past spring season was the weather. Most of the growers had lackluster sales in May because there were too many cool, rainy weekends. Saturdays that are 72 degrees and sunny are ideal. When we asked Maryland grower Gary Mangum of Bell Nursery if broadening the geographic footprint his company serves to Virginia and Ohio helped, he said it didn't this year, because both Ohio and Maryland were rainy and North Carolina was in a drought and had watering bans. Normally, having a broader footprint is one way growers can weather regional problems and maximize sales in the sunnier areas.

We were able to get a good cross section of our Top 100 Growers to attend the breakfast, representing bedding plant, blooming potted and foliage growers, who serve home improvement stores, mass market retailers, supermarkets, independent garden centers, other growers, and even direct online to consumers. Key regions also were represented. We look forward to next year's discussions and hope this valuable forum can become an annual event.

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