When the customer walks in Home Depot to buy flowers, they most likely feel as if they are buying "Home Depot flowers". They don't think they are buying "Color Spot Flowers". Color Spot is a major supplier of bedding plants to the boxes. Same holds for vegetables. They are buying Home Depot vegetables, not "Bonnie Plants vegetables." Now when they buy fertilizer they likely know in advance they are going to Home Depot to by "Scotts" fertilizer, or "Miracle-Gro" fertilizer. The branding Scotts has done with their fertilizer (dry goods) has caught on with the customer. The plant world, not so much. Our experience is the same. We have people who ask for a particular brand of fertilizer, and if you don't have that, they likely will leave to find it elsewhere. I have never had anyone ask for a branded plant. No one at my store asks for a Proven Winner or Monrovia plant. So it would seem that branding works well on dry goods, not so well on plants.
Monrovia's current difficulties are not a result of their excellent branding attempt. But it hasn't helped the situation either. When things we're rocking in our trade Monrovia's branding did set it off from other suppliers. These day's their branded plants represent a higher priced item. Some retail nurseries like Armstrong Nurseries here in California even had entire sections of their garden center devoted to Monrovia.Â Monrovia supplied their branded plants with the distinctive "Monrovia" printed on the side, plant stands, POP (point of purchase) signage, handouts, etc. Much like the Entenmann's bakery rack at the end of your local grocery aisle.Â It's in the store, but it's maintained by Entenmann's people. Like a mini-store in a store. Monrovia had the same idea. They wanted us to separate their plants from the other plants in the nursery. You might even have a Escallonia from one supplier in the main part of the nursery, but a Monrovia Escallonia was kept in their section. Much like Macy's, where pants are separated by brand like Ralph Lauren or Dockers. It was a new, and interesting concept for the nursery business. It seemed to make sense, as so many other reatilers like Macy's where doing it, and being succesful.
It doesn't work with plants! For whatever reason people just do not respond to wholesale nurseries attempts at branding. They will respond to the retail brand however. In our case the customer want's to by a Foxfarm, Botanicare, or Humboldt Nutrients fertilizer. They want to buy a plant from The Golden Gecko Nursery. They don't care if it's from Monrovia, Blooms, or anywhere else, as long as it's healthy and the type of plant they want. They may even like the idea that it's from the little nursery down the road. Some plant branding works, but it seems only for smaller, more niche oriented operations like Annie's annuals. They are local to nor Cal, and specialize in "rare and unusual annual & perennial plants, including cottage garden heirlooms & hard to find California native wildflowers." It's attractive to plant geeks.
We will see how this plays out in the future. Perhaps as independent retail nurseries find themselves sourcing more local, niche type plants a branding effort like Annie's might work. Still, I think it's more important to brand the retail nursery when it comes to plants. Send me my plants in a plain black container. Put a nice hang tag with a great description and picture on it, but put our name on it. My customers don't care that it came from XYZ wholesale nursery.