Smith & Hawken, bring back the hippies!

Just read an interesting article on Smith & Hawken in the latest edition of Garden Chic Magazine. According to the article the company is “now in the midst of a major shift to return to its ‘roots’, its horticultural beginnings.” Senior Vice President Gordy Erickson joined Smith & Hawken after 10 years at Wal-Mart Stores Inc., where he was senior vice president and general merchandise manager. He said he “feels the previous management and various owners lost track of their core focus.” In the article “Gordy proudly points to the original catalogue from the early days of the company, when the hippies-turned-visionary businessmen were still at the helm.”


If you remember back when we talked about Scott’s here it was mentioned “I can’t imagine that Smith and Hawken is the same store that Paul Hawken built and then sold. You can look the same on the outside but once corporate gets a hold of it the culture changes.” I guess Gordy Erickson agrees.


What I find interesting is how Scott’s, who owns Smith & Hawken is trying to recapture something that they can’t possibly bottle. When Dave Smith and Paul Hawken (hippies) started the company it was a new idea and had the interest of the “enthusiast’s” in the garden world because it was ground breaking venture. Those enthusiasts spread the word until now, when it has become the main stream entity that it is today, predictable and boring. The enthusiasts have long since moved on.


How is Scott’s is going to “re-hippy” Smith & Hawken? According to Garden Chic they will go “green”. “The new ‘green’ S&H will get back to a much larger percentage of houseplants and flowering material. While not truly a ‘garden center,’ they will be much more green and less of a furniture store.”

As a small independent garden center owner it’s kind of fun to watch huge corporations like Scott’s try to reinvent themselves as cutting edge ‘hippies’. They may be successful in luring many new customers and regaining some momentum but they will never again have the interest on the garden enthusiasts who look for the cutting edge and are the ones who spread the word when they find a truly novel idea.


That’s why the small garden center might have a leg up on the large corporations for the garden enthusiasts and other gardeners business. More often than not these days many people make purchasing decisions based partly on a companies "authentic story". Many small garden centers have what Gordy Erickson wishes Smith & Hawken still had, an interesting and authentic story.