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brian_zn_5_ks

Why are your plants so expensive?

19 years ago

So, the young couple approached me in the nursery and asked why my plants were so expensive. "This same plant at Home Depot is only $10, and you have it priced at $25!"

So, I responded with my usual comeback, said in a humorous tone, "Well, if you go talk to the nursery manager at Home Depot in mid-summer, you'll probably find him working in the tire department. We are a full service garden center, we're here every month of the year to help you. I have 30 years experience in the business, so when you buy one of my plants, you get a little bit of me with each one."

So, they said, "But how can you justify your higher prices?"

So, I thought about explaining how retail prices work, and how we're doing pretty good to get 7 cents profit from each dollar of sales (altho sometimes it is only 3 or 5 cents), and I could have shown them the half dozen letters on my desk from various growers regretfully informing me of additional fuel surcharges on deliveries, and boy, would their eyes bug out if they saw our gas and water bills! And I thought about the really gorgeous annual and perennial crops we have grown this year, really superior plants, and the lovely Korean hornbeam I have in the nursery, next to the cute little three-flower maple, just waiting for that special customer to find and cherish and take home...I can think about a lot of things in a very short space of time!

But, I just said, "If price is your only consideration, I encourage you to shop at Home Depot..." And I walked away...

Mostly, tho, it has been a really wonderful year in the nursery, with the most wonderful happy customers imaginable. I hope all you folks in the trade have had a good year as well...

Brian

Comments (125)

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Steph, I truly appreciate your comments, and apologize if I have upset you. I must say, I do believe my offhand comment may indeed be somewhat out of line, and certainly unfair to any and all capable, hardworking, knowledgable horticulturists working for any of the box stores. Mea culpa. My original post was made after a long hot day in August - sometimes I speak before I think things through....

    Perusing this thread, and others that have developed into "us independents" vs. "soul-less big box". I see the unfairness of all generalizations. There are box stores that do indeed water their plants - there are independents that don't. There can be knowledgeable people working in either situation.

    In the future, I will respond to such questions in a more appropriate fashion, stressing our service, quality, selection, and more service. Then I will go into my office and scream a lot...(just joking...a little...)

    This thread should die pretty quickly as it is approaching 100 posts. Probably best to put a "Spike" in it...

    Brian

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Most of us try to block advertisements on our computers and find them obtrusive. However, the whole time I shop at the Home Depot garden center, I am subjected to perpetual audio broadcasts about how much Home depot cares and how low their prices are. At my better nurseries, I get an occassional garden relevant comment, specific advice about a plant or insight into when the next shipment of plants will arrive. I can get attentive assistance if I need it, but mostly I get what I need- time to peacefully reflect on the merchandise- a true garden environment. Not a brainwashing. That's worth something.

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I have yet to encounter one of these quality big box plant departments that is described peridically on this site, on threads like this one. Where are they? Is it a regional thing, with some areas having a local overseer who makes sure they do a better job?

    That the big boxes could even begin to kill off the independent garden centers must be a sad testimonial to the mindset and habits of the buying public. There is absolutely no comparison between the big box plant departments and those of the fully developed independent nurseries here.

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Home Depot, Lowes, John Deere (Landscaping centers), even Walmart. There are other "big boxes" but those are the predominant ones in most US regions.

    The inventory varies with the store, and especially with the state of part of the US. And, local units might make deals with local/state/area growers to supply less mainstream varieties of plants. Last year, I found hardy kiwi and a bunch of different ferns at the Home Depot in my town. Someone in California said that their Home Depot had bamboo and other less common items - from Monrovia. The prices are competitive with those of retail garden centers. In some cases, big box prices are way lower because they buy in such volume and have exclusive deals with growers.

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Cady, I think you misunderstood Ron's question. We have the same big box stores here (with the possible exception of the John Deere outfits) but without fail they do not measure up to any independent garden center/nursery in both plant quality and selection. And I won't even address knowledgeable sales staff.

    I do believe it must be a regional thing. Perhaps because there is a plethora of really excellent retail garden centers and specialty nurseries in this area, not to mention hundreds of wholesale growers that refuse to deal with the mass merchandizers, the box store garden departments around here tend to offer only the most common and basic plants, focusing most heavily on traditional annuals and seasonal stuff. Even the ones I've visited in California offer only the standards - nothing fancy, nothing choice. As Ron said, they offer no serious competition to independent nurseries at all.

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    You're right, I misunderstood Ron's post. It's true that the majority of the big boxes are woefully inadequate in their maintenance of plants. However, individual big box stores do exist that appoint more knoweldgeable staff to the garden section, and are more vigilent in watering and maintaining plants. The local Home Depot here has some retirees who are gardeners and working part time as "advisors" in the garden dept. There may also be a department manager or supervisor who knows enough about the industry to negotiate with area growers for unusual plants. It depends on who is managing the particular store.

    Overall, though, there's no way that these big, generalized chains can match the service and quality of an independently-owned garden center. The problem is that the "average homeowner" often substitutes price and convenience for knowledge and expertise. Pansies are pansies no matter where you get them, but they're cheaper at the big box. And if you go the day or week the shipment arrives, they will be fresh and healthy.

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Recently, I overheard the guy watering plants at my Home Depot telling someone how Walmart and Lowes take care of their own plants. Later, he commented to me about some plant and then said "I'm from XYZ growers. That's why I know." XYZ was the name from the tags on the majority of the perennials being sold. Their quality IS probably a little better than the local Lowes or Walmart, however, they still don't have nearly enough of a selection to make me look that closely. I did pick up a gallon astilbe that jumped off the shelf due to its having some variegation in it. When I got to the counter, it was $7. Perhaps the extra care is built into the price because I didn't expect to pay that much at the big box and think I could have done just about as well at the pricier independants without being limited to just one or two not-so-choice varieties.

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Well, let's try this again without getting knocked off line.

    I can understand getting a little jaded by experiences with local stores. I also understand that sometimes, it is up to the individual employees to take care of the plants instead of waiting around for some manager to tell them what to do.

    If I tell you where the store was I think that is considered advertising but it was in Orlando, FL. The Plant capital of the world, or at least used to be. Now they import most of their junk.

    But, yes, I do believe it has more to do with the employees than with the stores themselves. Anybody that has worked with retail can understand that it is hard to get employees today that have integrity and a good work ethic. Also, as absurd as it sounds, try getting employees that can really read and write!

    Steph

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Employees? Everywhere it is (micro)-management that decides how things are done. The Home Depot I mentioned on a previous thread where I saw the prominently displayed, long-dead, specimen-sized weeping sequoias was also where I saw an non-uniformed, apparently casual employee being leaned over by a uniformed supervisory type and being told to keep the watering wand moving. He already was watering so fast it could hardly have been having much of an effect.

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Good managers are even rarer than good employees.

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    And occassionally you find some real gems.

    Last week while at the San Rafael California Home Cheapo I was standing in line with about 30 other people waiting patiently for my turn to check out.

    The line wrapped all the way around the back of the store so if you didn't know what was going on , you might just walk up to the cash register and plop your stuff down oblivious to the line that trailed back a 1/8 of a mile.

    A well coiffed woman in high heels carrying a couple plant trollies ( keeps pots elevated off of a deck + is on wheels ) cut infront of the line.

    Both cashiers told her that this was not the front of the line and that she had to hike her high heeled butt back to the end of the line.

    She balked and said she only had 2 or 3 items and that she should be able to slip infront of everybody.

    The short petite Afro-American cashier told her once more to hike her 'butt back to the end of the line'.

    The self important woman whined once again, simply astounded that she wasn't getting her way.

    Then the cashier raised her voice, placed one hand on her hip and wagged her other hand and head infront of Ms. All Important and sternly said :
    " Don't you make me take off my apron ! "

    I died laughing ! The crowd clapped and Ms. All Important had a hissy fit and threw down her trollies and walked out.

    I thought to myself..... now those were words that one will never hear at the local high end nursery that caters to such Ms. All Importants.

    I could have kissed the cashier, but she didn't look like the kissy kissy type.

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Priceless (with or without a MasterCard). Now THAT's the kind of staff every retail business needs for good customer relations.

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    It's been very interesting reading everyone's experiences and opinions and that is what makes us all different in the gardening world:) As a first timer to this forum, I will enjoy reading everyone's advice and constructive criticism.

    My experience is this...in the small town I live we have 3 small greenhouses. Yes, in comparison to the Walmart and Cnd Tire and Superstore they are overpriced. I try to support our local greenhouses with the exception of one, as well as drive an hour to the city to take advantage of the cheap prices, along with other shopping and relatives to visit. This is my method:

    Greenhouse "A" -- offers a full refund after the first year on shrubs and trees - they have great assortments and better quality trees and shrubs than Greenhouse "B" or "C". Yet their annuals are overgrown and past their prime. I shop there for the trees and shrubs.

    Greenhouse "B" -- The woman who owns it is a ***** so I wouldn't give her a penny of my money even if she were the only standing greenhouse on the planet. That takes care of that option.

    Greenhouse "C" -- offers exceptional items that the other 2 do not carry like annual grasses for planters, while everyoone is planting dracena in the centres of their bit pots I'm planting wonderful fountain grasses that are oohed and awwed by neighbors and such. Yet, they don't want to pay the difference, their loss. They also carry a variety of fruit trees and shrubs that neither greenhouse carries, yet only offer 1/2 price return after the first full year. It's a toss up between these guys and Greenhouse "A" - depends on availability and who has the nicer stock, prices are about the same between the 2.

    I go to the city to buy all my basket stuffers, petunias, snaps, etc (all the annual stuff) - I usually end up purchasing at Walmart b/c I seem to hit the timing (every year) of the truck having just been unloaded and I get the freshest and nicest stuff ever seen:)

    While in the city, I go to a private owned greenhouse to buy my mature geraniums that are already in bloom, no where else do I find such gorgeous, good quality plants, pricey, yes, but quality, outstanding. They are the show for my front planters with the fountain grass I purchased locally and it makes all heads turn while driving past my house. As other's are struggling with .69 geraniums they bought in Feb. mine are in full bloom and do not get any setback once they are set out. They are a treat to myself.

    As for perennials, I shop around and am willing to pay a few extra bucks for a better quality plant and return policy.

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    The only stores I ever casually shop in are garden related. I'll pull into a Walmart or Superstore just to browse around the plants and 'accoutrements'. Our vehicle automatically turns into garden centers. We'll buy something here, there and everywhere.

    I don't think I'm much different from any other keen gardener or professional gardener. I bump into the same friends and fellow professionals at Home Depot and at the native plant greenhouse in town.

    The bottom line is I don't try to compete with the box stores. That's a recipe for failure. Bad mouthing them may make you feel better but doesn't increase sales. I grow a lot of unique plants and they fly out of our greenhouse and every year I wish I had grown more. Sure, I'll sell the common stock but I often pick them up at the box stores and just jack the prices up. That way the box stores can carry be my inventory. They'll have a special on petunias at .49 (CDN) and I'll sell it for . 99. They'll have a special on columbines for .99 and I'll resale them for 1.89. Meanwhile folks are coming to our greenhouse and pick up $200 of our own plants....and the sale of locally made hypertufa troughs, garden crafts, etc.

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Recognizing a situation isn't necessarily "bad mouthing", anymore than your plants being "overpriced".

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    That's a good point. I 'recognize' the box stores are here to stay and we've adapted quite well to their presence. I use them to my advantage.

    We also get referrals from the staff of our local Home Depot and Superstore. People in the hort business should get to know the staff at the box stores. The more they know about your business the more they'll direct customers your way. It costs nothing to drop in and thank them every so often.

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I am not a professional, in fact I am a newbie gardener, but I just wanted to put in my 2 cents. There are 3 big box stores with garden centers within a 5 min drive from my house. I frequently cruise around them looking at their plants to see what I might want. But when the time comes to buy my plants, I drive to an organic nursery about 30 mins away (and I hate driving). Why? Because even to my inexperienced eye, the plants at the box stores do not look very well cared for and some of them look horrible. And I dont care if I can return a dead plant no questions asked. I want a plant that looks healthy and reasonably certain to live. And where the staff know and care about the plants. There are some things I will buy from the box stores (like pots and things like that) but I dont think I will ever buy plants from them. There will always be people who just want cheap. But there will also always be those of us who are willing to pay more for quality and service. Keep up the good work y'all!

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Two more cents from another newbie in a new zone. Coming to 5b from zone 9 is hard enough. Wandering morosely through the box stores is enough to send anyone around the bend. (I mean, does anyone really need privet?) Dried out, nasty things in pots. Hardly a 'deal'. Seeing roses on pallets on shelves in SHADE? Then see those same things a month later, in blazing sun on 'sale for 2 bucks. I mean, some of those puppies were black and SLIMEY. Who cares about a return policy at that point.If a plant is dead, who is going to take it home? (Wait, don't answer that...)

    Back 'home', I mostly frequented my local nurseries. I preferred it. Yes, sometimes I had to walk out because I literally couldn't afford the price...but I always appreciated the plant!

    So a month or two ago, I went from nursery to nursery, looking for roses other than Knockout and Carpet Magic. (I mean, really) Finally, I spoke to one owner and asked why she didn't have anything else. She said "because no one wants to mess with spraying so I'm not selling them".

    And looking for companion plants, same sort of thing. Couple of tiny pots and not much else. But if you want Stella d'oro daylillies, you can find what you need there.

    And they had a few more roses, but not much. I ended up taking my wads o'cash and doing mail order from several places, one as far away as Canada. No joke. All of that cash could have gone to local business folks...

    So in a weird way, my local nurseries are like the big box stores in the sense that their selection is the same as each other.

    And I look around town and see landscapers planting trees all over the place. Same damn trees, too close together...and oftentimes in little lines like soliders and I feel like I've fallen down a rabbit hole.

    I told my DH tonight in fact, that if we can get the money together to do what we want to in our yards, I'm going to have to shop like a dog for someone that has some...sense. He looked at me and said dryly "You're going to have to import someone".

    So yeah, it's regional. I love having a local person that I can shmooze wtih about plants. Someone that can suggest something for a trouble spot. Fancy granola amendments for my rose babies. Heck yah...and do ya got something better than phlox? You DO! Wowza, sign me up! You've got fabulous compost? I'm there! Do you think that I really want to go to HD to buy Miracle Grow soil? Bag after bag after bag. I literally spoke aloud and said DO YOU FOLKS SELL REAL DIRT? They didn't get it. I didn't press the issue.

    Give me a fabulous nursery and honey I want your blueberry granola. I want to talk plants. I'll take any suggestion that you have and will remember you as someone that is kind and willing to answer a newbie's question.

    I know of a lot of loyal folks like me who feel the same way. Sure, if I need a six pack of something simple and it's fresh, I'll buy it at HD. But only if I'm already there buying something else.

    Make a special trip? I'm going to the local nursery person. Need grass seed? Nursery person. Need something like a young tree? I'm not buying that at the HD. God forbid. Nursery person and I'll pay extra if you plant that baby for me.

    My learning curve is steep, but as someone already said, a healthy plant is obvious. A beautiful plant can stop me in my tracks. If it smells good, omg...

    Be friendly. Give decent customer service. You don't have to fawn, don't waste your time. If I'm in your store, I want to be there. "Nice" is enough. Informative? I'm all ears. Matter of fact, being clear about what I don't know, it's encouraging to be taught by someone who does. And if you tell me something that could keep me from killing that new baby, I'm downright grateful. Even if I walk out of your store without anything that day, I'll remember that you saved me from myself. You can't get that from a box store.

    Sure, there are some in my neighborhood that are snotty and won't come back. Guess what? I may not look toity, but I love my yards and in the long run, my 30 dollar trips to your store will add up MORE than what that snot was going to drop in one visit.

    I won't just buy for myself, I'll buy plant gifts from you. I'll get ideas about what else that I want to do, even if I wasn't planning on it. I'll spend more than I should.

    Why? I'm not just an addict. A newbie wants a plant that is actually going to continue growing. One of two things happen to us. We either buy cheap, they die and we quit. Or we learn to discern what is a good product and what is not. If we can get a 'deal', of course we'll take it. But if spending a few more pennies means that we'll be successful, we'll do it.

  • 19 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    >We either buy cheap, they die and we quit.That's what I've been wondering lately, how many people who are lured in by the promise of plants being cheap and gardening being simple are soon disappointed and lose interest. Maybe how it works (for the seller) is that they still get alot more sales than if these one- or few-time purchasers didn't come in at all.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    okay to be honest with you.. im new at gardening therefore, i can't tell u much about that ..

    however i prefer my tiny little a&c suparmarket for groceries over large superstore like meijer or dominicks. because the prices are lot lower even meijers generic brand costs more than the supermarkets name brands item (i've been there). yes, the small stores have limited varity but if you make a request they usually get the product for you. also another way to save money is try out the ethnic stores. some are really cheap however you've probably guessed they usually carry ethnic stuff only.

    now back to nurseries.. i've seen some nursery offering discounts too. for example if u buy a rose plant from jackson and perkins usually it takes about 15 dollars for that but if you get the same plant from your local nursery usually it's cheaper (i've been to franks and their jackson and perkins collection was cheaper like 8 dollars regular and on sale it was 50% off). then again im new in this..

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Returning to the selling plants war stories, yesterday I heard another volunteer at a benefit sale relate how after a tree priced at 22 dollars (half (or less) the price originally marked on it by the donating nursery) suddenly became 11 dollars (when it was announced that everything at the sale was now half price) the party he had been trying to talk into buying it snorted in disgust that they were "looking for deals".

    I'm told that's one of the typical aspects of rummage/garage sales: there are two discernible groups who appear, the 'collectors' who show up early and gladly pay the original price, and the vultures who come later, looking for bargains. For this latter group no price is low enough.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    If they are asking why plants are so expensive as opposed to going to Home Depot they're probably customers not worth having, unless your hard up. Most people know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Those with discriminating taste and an appreciation for locally produced plants sold by knowledgable staff will continue to pay top dollar for top quality, no questions asked.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    >Most people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.Ha!

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    What a great thread - Brian are you still reading?!

    I think we all have to accept that different kinds of places are going to serve different kinds of gardeners. Just because somebody doesn't want to spend their waking free minutes reading about garden subjects doesn't decrease their worth as a human - well much anyway. So the big box stores are good enough for some people. I would never in a million years buy a perennial there when I've got Bluestone an hour away - it would be silly. I can buy excellent plants for a few dollars each and I love picking through the stuff thats not on their website.

    But I bought - nay, I snapped up a new shipment of 3 gallon beautiful, full, large Buxus Green Mountain and Blue Princess hollies for $13 each at Costco. For crying out loud, they were beautiful plants, I'm hardly out much if they were to die, but we're talking boxwood and holly here - not so likely to die. They have thrived and done great along my driveway. I feel good about getting such nice shrubs for such a great price. On the other hand I went and paid $75 for a hamamelis cultivar I wanted, and $250 for nice well grown River birches with a guarantee. But thats not often because its not in my budget to do that.

    Well the debate rages on....

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I read the other day on a website that they don't answer questions about what they don't sell. If you didn't buy from them, they don't offer free expertise. They say, (paraphrased) 'Go back to where you bought it from and ask them. If they can't/won't answer your questions, then you shouldn't have spent your money there.' The big box stores are making a mint by selling plants through untrained individuals, and then relying on the goodwill of surrounding nurseries to carry the education load. I agree 100%.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    This thread is put to bed.

    Good night,
    jb

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I'm not dead yet.

    jb

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    No really, I'm not dead.

    hmmmm. Thought threads were only supposed to go to 100, sometimes 101. Spooky. This thread won't die.

    jb

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    It may be that iVillage has removed the 100 post limit. Now a thread can be immortal, for good or bad.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    It took me about 6 months as a serious gardener to realize that my favorite local nursery is WORTH twice the price for most things. They keep the plants healthy, nicely shaped, right sized pot, etc. If you need advice, they have it or will get it. Plants are ALL tagged with growing information (unlike big box which has the ubiquitous "Assorted Perennial" tag. Ugh!) They have seminars monthly, every organic amendment/treatment you could wish for, they help you load your car, they have unique things that thrill me... Man, I'll pay extra just about every time. They hardly even carry the cheap flats of annuals. Why? They know everyone goes to Lowe's or HD for those, so why bother the upkeep on them?
    You probably have to work harder as a small nursery owner to maintain the kind of quality that brings people back and merits the higher prices, but believe me, there are LOTS of us out there who appreciate this.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I go to wholesale nurserys to buy for my costomers. At a minute notice I might have to fly over to home depot for a plant and pay whatever price. Many nurserys do charge to much because of their time involved with the plants. Mom and pops don't sell the quantity that HD does so have to get more. HD does buy from very credible mass growers that sell a quality product (or HD will buy from someone else) I worked at Disney for many years and we all do the same thing to save money. Plants not healthy will look not healthy. lack of watering will make plants look unhealthy and I do buy cheeper that way from HD. I'm ending this with, small retail places need to not charge so much and find a way to cut cost to do so. You have to be competitive in this world now if you want to stay in the business.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Chains lead in volume nationwide because they are chains, individual chain store nursery departments here I don't think sell at that much volume relative to large, long-established independents like this one.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Something funny that happened to me. I had this older lady come in and tell me "Why are your hanging baskets so high?--I can get one for $7 at Walmart". I told her that I have expenses and I'm very comfortable that the price I'm charging for my baskets is a fair one, and if she wanted the one at Walmart, it's a 1/4 mile down the road.
    She laughed, said "I appreciate your honesty", and she's been back twice....Go figure!

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    When this thread began I worked part time for a large nursery. Now I work weekends for myself selling plants and garden decor at the local (and large) flea market. The benefit to this arrangement is that I now can say to the customer whatever I feel like saying. My new and improved attitude in this situation is that when a person is standing at my display and complaining about the quality or the price - there is a customer standing behind them ready to hand me money without complaints. My job is to get customer "A" out of my way so that I can sell to customer "B". Sometimes my responses seem rude or harsh but I don't want customer "A" to come back anyway. I want to focus my time on lots and lots of customer "B's". I have the directions to the nearest Big Box retailers memorized in detail and I freely give them out to difficult customers - anything to get them as far away from me as possible. I don't need the aggravation. On the flip side I bend over backwards for honest to goodness real gardeners and I can see the effects at the cash register.

  • 18 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Bboy,
    Molbak's is my favorite large, mom-and-pop nursery/garden center. And I live in New England! On several trips to the Seattle area (for other purposes), I made a point to go to Molbak's. I've brought plants and items home on the plane - the plants survive the carry-on x-ray fine, without visible mutation. ;)

    Molbak's is a super example of a non-chain that has a formula that works. Also, they are a mature business, and have grown over the years through a combination of wise foresight, careful planning, and attention to market trends.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    places like Walmart and in the UK, Tesco, are aggressive market capitalists - their aim is to annihilate all competition and they practice some horrible strategies. For example, if a store opens near a local bakers, the supermarket will deliberately sell bread at a ridiculous price until the smaller business inevitably folds - at which point, bread will stop being discounted. This is not a rare attitude but is the dominant from of big retail. Competition is a good thing for customers and retailers but the hideous tactics practiced by the likes of Tesco are deeply wrong. There are serious implications for farmers who sell to these outlets and ultimately we, the consumers, get the short straw. I see it as a moral responsibility to support independent stores, especially if their employment practices are more enlightened than the anti-union, minimum wage slave system of super retailers. As for diversity, there are also implications for us since we do not get offered the much advertised 'choice' but only the limited selection of poorly maintained goods. If we, the buying public, continue to put price cuts above all else, then we will get the retailers we deserve.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Yep. An independent bakery here tried to get local supermarkets interested in their home-quality goods. All the store representatives that were approached wanted to know was how much they were asking.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Just posting to reiterate that campanula's concise, well-written post of Mar. 17 is

    RIGHT ON TARGET.

    No pun intended (I've been to a Target store, seen what they have).

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Small growers can't compete with big box stores on price.

    So don't. You have to offer what they don't offer.

    Examples:

    If you sell bedding plants, sell unusual cultivars.

    If you sell tomatoes, find the ones that ripen in YOUR climate (a problem for us northern gardeners with summer temps in the low 70's)

    If you sell trees, offer them in sizes that the BBSs don't offer. (Right now about half my annual sales are to reclamation contractors. 1 liter 2 foot dogwood, and green alder, and willow; 2 gallon x 30" white spruce. Silver buffaloberry.)

    Or offer things that they can't get elsewhere.

    Look for a niche -- one I target is the DIY acreage owner. OMG I've got 3 acres of grass. I sell trees big enough to miss with the mower, small enough to not get on your chiropractors permanent Christmas card list.

    Target very short term markets. E.g. I have to bring in liners for my own production anyway. This year I brought in 5000 1 year old liners -- and sold 2800 of them immediately, along with instructions on their care. The sales not only paid for all of my own liners, but netted a reasonable return on my time.

  • 12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    LYNNWOOD -- A bad economy, a poor summer growing season and changing gardening habits -- all contributed to the closing of Emery's Garden.

    'It's just the perfect storm,' said Amy Tullis, garden center director for Emery's.

    The Lynnwood nursery and retail store will close by mid-December at the latest. But, with a clearance sale under way, Emery's could close within a month, Tullis said.

    'We've had good years and bad years,' she said.

    But tough economic times have meant that more and more people are turning to big box stores for their gardening supplies. Gardeners shop at Costco, Lowe's or Fred Meyer for plants but then come to Emery's for advice on how to tend to the flowers, shrubs and vegetable starts they've bought elsewhere, Tullis said.

    'Everyone wants something on sale,' she said.

    The lack of warm summer weather this year didn't help matters. For nurseries, 'if you don't make all your money in the summer, you're in trouble,' Tullis said.

    The store opened as Emery's Garden in 1997 after owner, Emery Rhodes, bought the nursery from the Uyeda family. The Uyedas, who had immigrated from Japan, started their garden shop, located at 2829 164th St. SW, in 1963 when 164th Street was still a gravel road.

    Tullis doubts the location will remain a nursery when it's sold. She wouldn't be surprised if the land, which sits on a busy intersection across from Fred Meyer, will be turned into a strip mall or condos.

    'It's just sad,' Tullis said. 'We felt we were good for the community.'

    Barbara Chase of Edmonds, agreed that Emery's had been good for local gardeners, noting that she had taught classes there as a master gardener. On Wednesday, Chase had just returned from a master gardener meeting during which the closing of Emery's was lamented. 'People liked the nursery,' she said. 'We'll miss them.'

    Fellow gardener Walter Thompson noted the personal attention that people would get while shopping at Emery's as compared to big box stores.

    'They had stuff that you wouldn't find elsewhere,' he said.

    When Chase landscaped her home 10 years ago, she followed Emery's hedge recommendations, which differed from other stores. She liked the results.

    However, Emery's Tullis said that fewer and fewer people own property large enough that allows them to support landscaping and gardens. Tree sales at Emery's have been declining for years, she said.

    And, while Thompson appreciated the variety of plants he found at Emery's, Tullis said that fewer people have been interested in harder-to-find plants. Instead, the most common question Tullis hears: 'what's on sale?'

    About 12 full-time employees will lose their jobs with the closing of Emery's. During the spring and summer, Emery's also would hire another 12 to 15 seasonal employees.

    'It's kind of upsetting to think that kind of store, that kind of local facility, is going to disappear,' Thompson said.

    I am very sorry to read about this, Gardengal, and to see so many people lost their jobs. I've never bought any trees etc at HD and never will.

  • 12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Well, eight years later and I'm still selling "expensive" plants. Not so many, of course, but no one is right now.

    I suppose the reason we're still open is because we did some things right - went aggressively after niche marketing, like 85 selections of tomatoes and 60 of peppers; specimen conifers; pretty but pricey Japanese maples, etc. etc. Oh, and no one has had a raise for several years - but we still have jobs, so I guess that evens out...

    This was a real interesting thread, I know I've learned a lot from it. For those of us still in the industry, I wish you the best for the upcoming spring.

  • 12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    $30,000 remodel, $150 budgeted for plants.

    From Lowe's.

  • 12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Actual example.

  • 12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    It's not just plants that people buy as cheap as possible and then demand help from the specialist. I sell koi and goldfish. People buy low quality fish from the cheapest place possible, the fish are sick, they want me to spend hours on the phone telling them how to cure them, then its my fault that I couldn't cure their fish. sigh.........

  • 12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    The other day I was at Home Despot buying potting soil for a friend who has no vehicle and saw an ad for a supposedly superior brand being on special there. The woman checking out ahead of me complained to the cashier that a nearby independent wanted

    TWO DOLLARS

    for pansies.

    And there you have it. I was there because somebody thought they could get a quality product at a discount and somebody else thought two dollars for a flowering sized pansy was outrageous.

    And they had them for less than two dollars. It's a wonder the grower was making a profit.

    Maybe they weren't!

  • 12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    My rambling...

    I first tried gardening (on a very narrow balcony) a few years ago and was delighted to find that I lived dangerously close to the city's oldest nursery. It was great--a huge place with a good variety of well-tended plants, their own branded fertilizers, and so on. Well, about a year later, they closed, and I'm still mourning it, especially as I've recently been working on my balcony again (after I left it largely ungardened during that time). I can still picture that store...sigh.

    So I've been stuck with the big boxes, our garden-only equivalent of a big box (even bigger than the independent that closed but a chain), and a small independent that had very little but at least had the plants I wanted (but wasn't otherwise overwhelming, even though the owner was friendly)...I'm not sure what else is good yet.

    My trouble is that I want certain specific plants, and the big boxes are hopeless for things like that (well, unless I actually want what they sell). I don't want to drive all over. I definitely think it's good if independents specialize, so if I want a [genus] [species], I know I can go to the store that sells all of that genus. I will absolutely pay the price for that, too. I mean, of course, I'm not going to blow $100 on something I may very well kill, but I'm not a "$2/4-pack or GTFO" sort of person, either.

    One of my big boxes (I forget which is which, as they're basically the same store in most respects) has a knowledgeable employee. I've not spoken to her myself, but I've overheard her answering people's questions, and I think when people overhear her, they come over to ask her things themselves. They both seem to use consignments, too--one of the representatives was actually greeting customers the other day when he passed them--and while they occasionally have iffy plants, most of the stock is fine. It's just that again, when you're wanting [genus] [species], unless it's a common petunia or what-have-you, no dice.

    The big boxes aren't always cheap, by the way. That big chain center has no-name plumerias for a show-stopping $90. Admittedly, they're about 6 feet and pink, where a no-name potted plumeria will often be 3 or 4 feet and white or yellow, but still...$90?

  • 12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I am a consumer and I would like to say that if a customer is asking you why your plants are more expensive; then it is likely that price is NOT their only consideration. If it was, then that customer would just leave. A customer asks you 'why are your prices higher'...you should interpret that as 'please educate me on what I am not understanding here....all I see is the final price...I don't really understand what else I should be considering when I decide where to purchase.'

    If a customer already knew this information, they wouldn't ask you about your prices. And if all they cared about was price, then they wouldn't bother asking you to educate them.

    I asked the same question of a farmer selling organic meat. His meat was $6 and walmart's is $2 a pound. He explained to me about raising cattle and such. I didn't buy meat from him that day, but I went home and researched what he said. I now only buy organic beef and whenever I go to that market, I always buy meat from him just bc he took the time to explain it to me.

    I wasn't trying to be cheap when I asked him...I just wanted to know what made his meat worth more than Walmarts....now, I know! If you can't explain it, then your plants probably aren't worth more.

  • 12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    That depends on them knowing what plants the other place being compared to has. They could be a different grade, or from a different supplier, or the same exact item from the same supplier - who gave the chain a lower per unit price than the independent.

  • PRO
    4 years ago

    Actually it is a 15 year old thread. I've reported his comment as abusive. I recommend others do the same.

  • 4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    And apparently has been attended to as the comment is now gone.

    And so I will delete my previous comment as well :-)

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