Hines Nurseries to sell only to box stores?

My post, Hines Nurseries De-Listed from Stock Exchange, August of 2007 is still getting comments! The latest one from Roger-Dodger claims that Hines will be soon be selling only to the box stores. No more sales to independents. That won't bother us, as we long ago decided to not do business with companies that serviced the box store. Now it's going to go the other way, with wholesale companies deciding to eschew the independent for the boxes. According to Roger it won't matter as the company will eventually be sold off. I love this quote, “We did hear that even the Box stores were looooosing $$$ now! It is about time someone did the math, you can’t sell a $4.50 plant to the box store for $3.99 and make money!”

This is part of the fragmenting of the nursery industry we talked about here. Some companies will decide to do business only with the box stores, while others will service the independents. Trying to service both is just about impossible. If you service the box stores you have to price your plants and service accordingly. What independent is going to buy plants from a company that gives a better deal to the boxes? We have a local wholesale company out of Sacramento that tries to do just that. Their plants are in the boxes and at some of my independent competition. Why my fellow independents would support a company that sells the same plants to the boxes at a bigger discount is beyond me.

The nursery businesses are facing some challenging times. The shake ups have only begun! I believe that it will become harder and harder for wholesale nurseries and suppliers to service both the boxes and independents. It's like us independents trying to offer the best service and quality at box store prices, it won't work. Sooner or later you have to decide who your market is and what they want. What the independents and boxes want from the nursery business are two different things. The boxes generally use the garden department as a loss leader, while the independents use the garden department for making a profit and staying in business. Each has it's own customer base with different needs. Wholesale nurseries that try to have it both ways will face more independents like myself who question why we should be supporting their business.

Along that line it's time for wholesale nurseries to start treating their customers (us) a little better. Tell me why I should be doing business with you? Do you offer extraordinary service? Are you sales people really finding out about the needs of their customers? Most don't! Most don't even read my blog. What an insight for them. They just call and ask if we need any plants? It's of course funny how they show up when business slows down in summer. Fair weather friends. Considering how hard we work at understanding and creating relationships with our customers, I don't have the patience for a wholesale business that cannot articulate just why I should be buying from them. They just bounce along like nothing has changed.

"We have Photinia's in one gallon sizes" So what, so does everyone else. What makes your's so special? What makes your company so special? Most don't have an answer.

These are very interesting times.