Thursday, December 9, 2010

Wholesale, retail, semi wholesale nurseries.

A word about nurseries

Coming from the perspective of a landscape designer who has been in the business for a few years who has worked in commercial, educational and retail nurseries as well as being on the purchasing end.

I patronize both retail, wholesale and semi-wholesale nurseries.
Each has their strengths and weaknesses.

I receive copious advertisements from my favorite garden nursery retailers.
I appreciate their cheerful colorful and very descriptive marketing blurbs.
These ads come in the form of email announcements, snail mail post cards/ newsletters and if I have linked to them via a social media site I also receive their advertisements on Facebook.
It’s nice to know when they are having a sale or just received a new shipment of whatever.
This marketing info comes to me on a weekly or monthly basis.
This marketing blast is reaching out to my 'retail buying' self. Not my wholesale buying self.

On an annual , quarterly and in some cases on a monthly basis I receive marketing information from my wholesale nurseries and or my plant brokers.
Their marketing material is usually in the form of their current availability list .
Most of the time there are few if any lovely photographs but plenty of hard core horticultural info.

Bottom line, a retail nursery markets different than a wholesale nursery because they have completely different customers.

For those who are not familiar with doing business with a large scale professional wholesale nursery the experience is quite different from retail shopping.

Photos : Strictly wholesale Nursery SweetLane Nursery in Santa Rosa CA :
From Untitled Album

First of all you have to be qualified to purchase from a wholesaler. This means having a resale license, a C-27 license , your landscape architectural license or have an established design and or design and build firm.
Bottom line, most wholesale nurseries do not want unqualified unlicensed gardeners in their nursery.

Most times you drive your truck down the lanes to pull your plants. Some smaller wholesale nurseries will have automatic electric carts for you to drive and a few of the smaller nurseries have nursery carts.
Usually I drive my truck or take the electric cart along with a clip board to list the plants that I want loaded and delivered to the job site.
Only occasionally do I Ioad my truck with plants. My Toyota pick up can hold only 80 one gallon plants and that is a pretty small amount of plants to buy when doing a garden installation.

Photo: Sweetlane Wholesale - rows upon rows of mugo pines.
From Untitled Album

Then there are the retail / semi- wholesale nurseries. These are usually small to moderately sized growers that have a retail store and a separate window for semi-wholesale customers. These nurseries offer a volume discount to those who are regular customers who may or may not have their licenses. They generally offer 25 to 50 percent off the retail price.
That can be a great deal of savings, especially to those who do not have the ability to purchase directly from a wholesaler.
This type of nursery often uses the same type of retail advertising that a retail nursery uses because they are sharing and targeting to the same type of patron.

A wholesale nursery does not want a retail customer to come to their wholesale nursery.
They sell their plants to an Independent Garden Center ( IGC) and often the marketing of the plants is left up to the IGC.

The IGC and the Wholesale nursery have to walk a fine line because often times the IGC does not want the public to know who they are buying their plants from and or the Wholesale nursery does not want to get calls from Jane Gardener looking for one or two plants.

That is why a wholesale nursery and a retail nursery market their wares differently.
They have different markets.

This leaves the wholesale marketing up to the retail nursery. In some cases some wholesale nurseries are ‘branding’ themselves, such as Monrovia and Proven Winners.
This is a smart idea but once again, they are walking a fine line because they do not want to have Jane and Joe Home Gardener calling their wholesale facilities looking for one or two plants but they want Joe and Jane to buy their brand plant from the retailer.

This puts advertising and marketing for the wholesale nursery in a unique spot.
They need to get their brand name out there but they have to rely on the retail nursery
to do the actual selling of their product.

It’s not as simple as selling Coca Cola or Colgate toothpaste. Each company makes their own specific brand.
But with nursery stock, if a plant is no longer under patent registration, anyone can sell an agapanthus or agave and to most consumers it doesn’t matter what ‘brand’ or company is hosting that plant, the only thing that matters is the low price.

Comparing a retail nursery business to a wholesale nursery business is like comparing apples to elephants.


danger garden said...

So I am curious what inspired this post? If you feel like sharing your thoughts that is...

Deviant Deziner, aka Michelle said...

The inspiration came from a post at Garden Rant by Amy Stewart in specific regards to Monrovia wholesale nursery.

From what I can deduct, Amy doesn't understand the operational and marketing differences that exists between a wholesale, retail and semi-retail nursery.

A wholesale only nursery operates completely different from a retail nursery. The clientele is completely different and so it the way they market.

Using social media such as twitter and facebook may help with marketing , but the average garden consumer isn't usually going into a retail nursery for a Monrovia grown agave attenuatta , they just want the agave attenuatta.

Check out the rant on the garden rant. Also follow up with Trey's links to the Blogging Nurseryman where he also tries to explain the difference to Amy.

Phrago said...

A little off topic, but maybe, if those topiaries are of Dinosaurs, you could suggest that wholesale nursury contact the creationist theme park being built in Kentucky. They're looking for representations of all the animals that were on the ark, including Dinosaurs...
Great post...

Laguna Dirt said...

who! who knew! thanks!

Kat said...

Although I would agree that the differences you list are the norm for most retail/wholesale nurseries, Monrovia has already tried blurring the lines and going directly to the public with their marketing. I think it was two or three years ago when they started their "lifstyle" advertising campaign featuring glossy ads in gardening/decorating magazines highlighting the uniqueness of their plants. Their website has a retail consumer friendly search engine and lots of photos. They also offer fixtures and signage to retail nurseries to create a Monrovia destination display.

Monrovia has already done a good job in getting their brand out there and I have many retail consumers who do ask for their product specifically and will pay more for it.
Proven Winners is also another example. They don't sell directly to the retail consumer but the customers do know who they are and ask for their products by name thanks to their efforts in brand awareness.

I don't think Amy was too far off in her post to suggest that Monrovia go the distance and really try and harness the power of social media. Assisting retail nurseries in their efforts to entice customers to purchase is a win-win situation for both the retailer and wholesaler.

danger garden said...

Michelle, thank you for the explanation, I've read bits of the Garden Rant posts, I haven't followed Trey's links but I will. Incidentally I've been at 2 retail nurseries this year (one in Vancouver, WA and one in Nashville, TN) that had huge Monrovia displays complete with glitzy graphic panels, wooden dividers planters and benches. They are definitely branding themselves to the consumer. I read it as a way to rationalize the higher prices in that section of the nursery. Your not shopping the Target shelves your shopping the Nordstrom shelves.

trey said...

What's fun is people are actually interested in this stuff. The news about Monrovia would have at one time been dispersed through the trade magazines, and only for view in the trades. Now the public can find out in real time. The fact that all this is being discussed on garden blogs, and not just trade media shows how far we have come.

Seems a lot of gardeners and others outside the trade do want a say with the companies that grow their plants. Huge possibilities.

ryan said...

I didn't really get the point of that gardenrant post either. I buy the best specimen of the plant I'm looking for, regardless of the grower, and I think branding with plants works a lot differently from most other products. And Monrovia has probably made the biggest effort at branding and outreach, compared to any of the other wholesalers in our area, which would seem to contradict the idea that their business is hurting because of lagging marketing efforts. I've never even been to the growing grounds of any of the wholesalers I use (except I guess Devil Mountain who is not a grower) and I'll often use the San Marcos website to look up a plant I'm buying from Suncrest.
It's a tough business to be in, and I don't envy Monrovia or any of the other growers.