Who’s Driving Who By Roger C. Styer

New ideas, mass merchandisers and the upcoming fall crop.

I was talking the other day with a client in the Southeast,when the subject came up about growing pansies for a certain chain store. Thisparticular chain store wanted the grower to provide pansies starting in Julyand continuing through the fall. My client had never provided them that earlyor in that quantity before, so he was reluctant to agree. His ultimate decisionwas not to provide pansies until early September. I told him that was a wisemove, if he could get the chain store to agree to it instead of going toanother grower.

After the meeting, I found myself wondering why our growersare not working more closely with the big box stores to help them sell coloryear-round that is appropriate for the season and market. Every year, the bigboxes want color starting in July and August, well before the weather says itis fall. Growers are being forced to produce pansies during the worst possibleweather for that crop, put them in stores where they only get worse and createcustomers not yet thinking about fall. The same situation is happening withfall mums. Growers are having to black-cloth mums for sale in July and August,when customers are not even thinking of mums yet. Even if the customer does buya mum that time of year, the flowers will only last a week or so.

This situation presents a no-win scenario for growers. Onone hand, you can grow pansies and mums early for the market by jumping throughall sorts of hoops to produce a half-decent crop, ship them to the stores andwatch them sit there for a week or longer until you get asked for credit. Underthese conditions, you lose! On the other hand, if you decide not to growpansies and mums for sale until closer to September, then the chain stores maygo to another grower; again you lose.

Taking the Wheel

I don’t blame this situation on either the box storesor the growers. It just illustrates the classic supply-and-demand curve, butthe question is with which products do you satisfy the demand. The box storeswant some color in July and August to get more people into the stores. Springsales are long over, and the fall season doesn’t really start until lateSeptember. Meanwhile, the stores sit empty. So the buyers want to get a jump onfall by filling up the stores with fall color, not really realizing that theweather doesn’t allow quality plants to be produced or held, andcustomers are not really interested in fall color yet.

Growers, however, are not really working with the box storesto provide alternative crops that will tolerate the heat and humidity of thistime of year or in the larger container sizes that the stores can hold and thatthe customer can quickly utilize.

Some growers are extending the spring season with 6- and8-inch pots of annuals, some of them heat-tolerant. And many growers aresupplying the late market with combos and large hanging baskets. But theseprograms are really not marketed as heat- and humidity-tolerant to the storesor to the consumers. They just appear to be an extension of spring.

I would suggest to growers that they work with stores toinstall a separate ‘Beat The Heat’ program from mid-June to lateAugust. This program could consist of 6- and 8-inch pots, combos and otherlarge containers (no flats, please!) filled with certain plants, some of whichwere not really sold in spring. Crops could include Amaranthus, Cuphea, Coleus,Evolvulus, Gomphrena, Melampodium, pentas, lantana, purslane, salvia coccineaand verbena species, just to name a few.

I would suggest that growers in the hot parts of the UnitedStates work with their stores to save pansies and mums for sale in earlySeptember, even later if you can. Instead, promote a true summer program withdifferent colors, so the stores have something to attract customers. If you don’twant to be told to have pansies and mums ready in July, then provide a goodalternative for them. Otherwise, who’s driving the car?



Roger C. Styer

Dr. Roger C. Styer is president of Styer's Horticultural Consulting Inc., Batavia, Ill. He can be reached by phone at (630) 208-0542 or E-mail at carleton@voyager.net.



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