ANLA Retail Rising Star: A Model Of Efficiency

ANLA Retail Rising Star: A Model Of Efficiency

At 16 years old, Mark Ziemba started out at a landscape company outside of Buffalo, N.Y., with the goal of buying a house. That’s no joke, and it tells you everything you need to know about Mark Ziemba – once he sets his sights on a goal, it is all but certain he will attain it.

At 26 years old, Ziemba is now the retail/operations manager at Russell’s Tree & Shrub Farm in East Amherst, N.Y., located in a small-but-affluent town just outside of Buffalo (and a homeowner).

It’s for his accomplishments during that time between 16 and 26 that he was named the American Nursery & Landscape Association’s Retail Rising Star during the annual Management Clinic event in Louisville this February.

Ziemba’s laser-like focus and desire to grow the business are exactly what define a Retail Rising Star. He gained a bachelor’s degree in business administration specializing in marketing and finance, and is in pursuit of another degree in economics – all at the University of Buffalo – while working at the nursery. He also found time to get some horticultural training under his belt at Niagara Community College.

When he moved from part-time sales associate to a full-time sales supervisor, he realized his original goal of going into banking – a large and still profitable industry in Buffalo – might not be in the cards. “I always had a lot of suggestions at the nursery,” he says. “I always thought there were ways to improve what we were doing.”

Aside from that, he adds, he fell in love with gardening and the garden retail industry. His suggestions for the business became invaluable to the nursery’s operations, and when Ziemba started to think bigger picture, owner Russell Gullo made sure the young go-getter had the opportunity to stay. “It was rewarding, the idea that he thought there was that much value to what I was doing,” Ziemba says.

By The Book

Ziemba’s contributions to the operation have been many, including researching a point-of-sale system and bringing it into the mix to increase efficiency. Prior to the implementation of CounterPoint SQL point-of-sale (POS), each sales person would work with a customer, bring them to the front counter at the retail shop and ring them out. In fact, when Ziemba started, he says there was one computer with a dial-up Internet connection used to check the weather. Now, with the POS system, salespeople can stay out in the nursery and on the retail sales floor while someone else checks them out.

Retail Rising Star

The American Nursery & Landscape Association gave the first Retail Rising Star award at the 2004 Management Clinic. The goal behind the program is to recognize the up and comers of the industry who are making a difference at their businesses, as well as in the industry as a whole.

Mark Ziemba of Russell’s Tree & Shrub Farm in East Amherst, N.Y., is a shining example of both. He is not only instrumental in the operations at Russell’s, but he also is a participating member of the West New York Landscape and Nursery Association. He sits on the “Plantasia” planning committee, a community outreach program sponsored by the association to support local nursery landscape businesses. To add to his leadership qualities, he is a reserve in the U.S. Army and served in Iraq in 2004 for six months.

To recognize all of his accomplishments, Today’s Garden Center and Espoma Co. have partnered to provide a scholarship for ANLA events to Ziemba. The scholarship allows him to participate in the ANLA Legislative Conference, this summer’s Retail Roadshow and next year’s Management Clinic.

“Espoma is proud to sponsor the Retail Rising Star Award,” says vice president of sales Jim Kaminskas, who describes Ziemba as professional, bright and progressive. “As a fourth-generation, family-owned business ourselves, we recognize the future of our industry rests with the next generation of garden center owners and managers, and what better way to recognize them than with this award?”

It’s also greatly improved accuracy when it comes to pricing and checkout areas. Before the POS, the business lost $15,000 in one week due to pricing errors. Ziemba says he’s found it’s human nature for cashiers to price down instead of up if they are unsure about the size and price of a product. By barcoding every product, it takes that psychological component out of it and becomes much easier for cashiers and more efficient to process customers.

The POS also has allowed the retailer to go completely electronic when it comes to invoices, cutting the $12,000 spent on paper invoices.

“We’ve become very efficient and run a high volume through a small garden center,” Ziemba says.
To add to the efficiency, this year Russell’s is adding a 3,000 square foot Cravo retractable-roof glass greenhouse to improve shopability and expand the color offerings, which Ziemba is predicting to boom this spring.

“That greenhouse is really to complete the image change of the nursery,” Ziemba adds. Since 2001, the retailer has changed the look of all the marketing and promotional materials, right down to the slogan.  The chemicals that tend to cause an odor in the retail store will move out to the greenhouse to make way for an expanded gift selection, as well.

On the operations side, Ziemba has renegotiated every contract the retailer has, opting for Voice Over Internet Protocol technology (VoIP) over typical phone lines. He’s restructured all the cell phone contracts and other utilities for a 15 to 20 percent savings this year.

A Positive Outlook

Ziemba says his goal for 2009 is 10 percent growth, which he admits sounds crazy to some. “I’m very confident and excited for increased market share – I think we can market ourselves better.”

Russell’s does that through a number of initiatives started by Ziemba and supported by the team at the nursery. One is the increased presence with the We Plan, You Plant program through Sunrise Marketing and TGC columnist Kurt Fromherz.

Ziemba and others at Russell’s are seeing the need for the program in light of the current economy, which could dictate smaller landscape projects becoming do-it-yourself projects.

The newest addition to the program is conducting the whole We Plan, You Plant process online so customers can submit photos and information to the garden center via eMail, creating a zero carbon-footprint for the program. Customers pay a $50 deposit to participate, and get a credit for $60 back in plants if they buy them from the nursery.

Russell’s is also implementing a new program this year, called No Gardener Left Behind. It’s an educational initiative to offer free garden reference materials at the garden center that customers can check out and peruse at their leisure and bring back. It’s yet another way the retailer hopes to differentiate itself from the competition.

Plans For The Future

Ziemba’s plans don’t stop at this spring. He has goals for the future that include creating a world-class seminar series to bridge the generation gap in gardening knowledge and bring in new customers. He’s also working on improvements to the website over the next couple of years to include research and search tools, continuing to bring information to younger customers.

Another goal is to implement handheld technology to improve efficiencies in the tree and shrub yards, as well as in the retail greenhouse, so sales associates can check customers out without entering the retail store.
Overall, the goal is to maintain the quality customers have come to expect from the nursery.

“When someone walks in, everything is always fresh,” he says. “There is never a piece of what I would consider B-material on the garden center sales floor.”

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “ANLA Retail Rising Star: A Model Of Efficiency

More From state of the industry...
Dee-Lish Rose

September 3, 2015

American Garden Rose Selections Announces Regional And Fragrance Winners For 2016

The winners, which come from 12 test gardens located throughout the U.S., will be widely available next year.

Read More
Garden Center Symposium 2012 Scholarship Winner

September 2, 2015

Garden Center Symposium Seeking Scholarship Applicants

Eligible applicants should be majoring or minoring in horticulture or a related field, with preference given to those with an interest in a career in the garden center industry.

Read More
Weigela ‘Crimson Kisses’ (Monrovia) Feature Image

September 2, 2015

9 Trees, Shrubs And Roses That Can Withstand The Elements [Slideshow]

Breeders have been working hard for many years on developing, trees, shrubs and roses that can hold up during cold weather conditions. Here's a look at some of their latest offerings.

Read More
Latest Stories
Dee-Lish Rose

September 3, 2015

American Garden Rose Selections Announces Regional And …

The winners, which come from 12 test gardens located throughout the U.S., will be widely available next year.

Read More
Garden Center Symposium 2012 Scholarship Winner

September 2, 2015

Garden Center Symposium Seeking Scholarship Applicants

Eligible applicants should be majoring or minoring in horticulture or a related field, with preference given to those with an interest in a career in the garden center industry.

Read More
Weigela ‘Crimson Kisses’ (Monrovia) Feature Image

September 2, 2015

9 Trees, Shrubs And Roses That Can Withstand The Elemen…

Breeders have been working hard for many years on developing, trees, shrubs and roses that can hold up during cold weather conditions. Here's a look at some of their latest offerings.

Read More
GCA Bathroom Awards 2015 Altums

September 1, 2015

Garden Centers Of America Best Bathroom Awards Announce…

During IGC Chicago, Garden Centers of America (GCA) recognized a group of independent garden centers for their store restroom designs with the 2015 GCA Best Garden Center Bathroom Awards.

Read More
Growing Solutions Farm Native Plant

August 31, 2015

Growing Solutions Farm Gains New Native Plant Garden

The National Garden Bureau, American Beauties and Midwest Groundcovers have teamed up to provide more than 200 pollinator-friendly native plants to the Chicago-based vocational therapeutic garden for young adults with autism.

Read More
Danish Garden Center

August 31, 2015

How Danish Garden Centers Are Revamping Their Plant Dep…

Danish retailers are improving nursery stock and houseplants by altering their growth habits to provide products with unusual or manicured shapes to pique the interest of consumers.

Read More
Garden Design Magazine

August 28, 2015

Garden Design Magazine Now Available For Sale At Indepe…

The upscale magazine, which was previously available only through the publisher’s website, focuses on high-end outdoor design and lifestyle trends.

Read More
Steve Bailey

August 27, 2015

How To Set An Attained Margin Percentage Goal At Your S…

One retailer asked this question: Is there an attained margin percentage that is considered a good goal for garden centers and their various product lines? Check out financial consultant Steve Bailey's advice.

Read More
Viola ‘Sorbet XP Coconut Swirl’ (PanAmerican Seed)

August 26, 2015

19 Versatile Cool-Weather Annuals For Beds, Borders And…

Annuals can be versatile not just in their suitability for cool conditions, but in their adaptable use in beds, borders and containers. Here are breeders' recommendations on their top new selections.

Read More
Holly Wilson Wilson’s Garden Center

August 25, 2015

How To Make Your Newsletter More Interesting [Solve My …

A retailer recently asked how to come up with fresh ideas for your store’s eNewsletter, so that it does not become redundant. Here's some great advice the retailer received.

Read More
Farwest Nursery Tour

August 25, 2015

Farwest Show Will Include A Retail-Focused Idea Sharing…

The 2015 Farwest Show, taking place this week in Portland, Ore., will include an Idea Center For Retailers, a comprehensive learning experience focused on garden retail. Located on the main show floor, garden center owners and employees can participate in many sessions as industry experts share advice and how-to information.

Read More

August 24, 2015

Let Us Know About Your Greatest New Idea!

October is "Steal This Idea" month at Today's Garden Center. We're looking for the latest, greatest and most successful new ideas that you've incorporated at your store and are willing to share with your industry peers.

Read More

August 24, 2015

PANTS Show In Philadelphia Canceled For 2015

The Pennsylvania Landscape & Nursery Association (PNLA) was informed by the PANTS Show producer that this year’s show, planned for early November, has been canceled. PNLA is reviewing its options for the future.

Read More

August 24, 2015

Mark Your Calendar For These Gift Shows

Want to enhance your gift department? Here's a look at some of the major gift shows taking place later this year and early next year.

Read More
Ingenico EMV

August 24, 2015

Small Retailers May Face Big Challenges In Complying Wi…

The National Retail Federation’s J. Craig Shearman says it may take a couple years for credit cards with EMV chips to become the norm, but retailers should still begin preparing, or face increased liability.

Read More
Helleborus ‘Winter Jewels Painted Doubles’ (Terra Nova Nurseries) FEATURED IMAGE

August 21, 2015

12 Cold-Hardy Perennials For 2016 [Slideshow]

Your customers are likely looking for plants that can withstand cold temperatures. Here's a look at breeders' suggestions for some of their favorite cool-weather perennials.

Read More
USA flowers

August 18, 2015

Gift Shows Are Focusing On Local Products

Hoping to change the buying experience for attendees, gift show organizers are adapting through technology and a focus on locally produced items.

Read More

August 18, 2015

6 Super Ideas From Product Express

Take a look at some innovative new products that will add a spark to your business!

Read More