Monrovia and Lowe’s: The Industry Reacts

After the news broke that Monrovia would begin selling their branded plants in Lowe’s in 2013, the industry reacted immediately. Below are a sampling of your comments from TodaysGardenCenter.com andour Facebook page, which range from angry to philosophical. Also included are responses from Monrovia representatives, James Szadek and Tim Barthel.

“It does worry me quite a bit that the box stores are getting the same product we have at independents. But on the independent garden center end, we need to make sure we can differentiate ourselves with better service, product and shopability. Recently I went to a few other independents and some box stores. The box stores were organized a lot better, product looked nicer, and the staff was much friendlier. If I was a plant grower, I would want my plants where they are going to be showcased the best and I will sell more. Our challenge as independents is to go into these box stores and honestly compare ourselves to them. Then go out and beat the pants off of them in service and quality!”

— Justin Schuiteman

“Monrovia has decided to partner with the box stores at the expense of the independent garden center customers who built them. As they find that more independent garden centers drop them, they will be more and more tied to the big box pricing structure. Eventually quality will suffer and Monrovia having placed too many eggs in the Big Box basket will die off with a whimper. RIP Monrovia.”

— Kevin Wilson

“Kevin, For 16 years we have had all of our eggs in the independent garden center basket and were hoping for many more years in the future. The eggs are getting less and less, we all need to diversify or die. Most consumers do not walk into a store asking for a brand, they purchase it when they see the brand on the shelf and relate it towards a good thing. Monrovia has been a strong partner for our industry for 87 years to show consumers that plants are special and different. Many garden centers still carry Scotts, Proven Winners and Endless Summer because these brands sell and at the end of the day we all want empty shelves!”

— Tim Barthel

“The question here is whether Monrovia agreed to pay-by-scan. If so, then that will be my terms as well.”

— David Jackson

“Thanks David. … And to answer your question, the Lowe’s agreement is not pay-by-scan.”

— James Szadek

“Unless Monrovia has some hands-on control of how their product is taken care of, this will tarnish their reputation with the consumer and cheapen their brand to the independent garden center.”

— Jim Schroer

“I went to the Apple store to buy my iPad for the experience at their great retail store. I still love Apple, even though I could have bought the iPad at Best Buy or Walmart. Endless Summer Hydrangea is everywhere; people buy it from the places they like the most.”

— Tim Barthel

“Hang in there, indies. Give Monrovia plants at Lowe’s two weeks and see if they survive. Impulse shoppers will only buy if the price is right. Monrovia is kidding themselves if they think this relationship will not discount the life out of them.”

— Susan White

“Independents are being pushed out of business by the big box stores. Seeing Knock Out roses and Endless Summer hydrangeas in Lowe’s, Walmart and Sam’s Club this spring really broke my heart. We gave these businesses their start and they are undercutting us. What will be the prices of the plants being sold to Lowe’s? And will those prices be available for the independents? Independents that have been very loyal to Monrovia for years!”

— Laura Sherman

“I don’t have customers asking for Monrovia-specific product that often, but I always knew they would only find it in independents, not the big boxes. This will surely change my purchase plans with Monrovia from now on!”

— Kyle Aurit

“Once a brand hits the chain stores, it’s the beginning of the decline of the brand. Look at Martha Stewart, Proven Winners, etc. Independent garden centers have to work harder at creating their own branding in the future.”

— Jack Crawford

“For all the independent garden centers, it’s gonna be all downhill from now on. Do you honestly think that the best of the best won’t eventually wind up in the discounters? Maybe 10 years ago, Monrovia always wanted a major commitment from us. I was told we wouldn’t be buying enough to have Monrovia products in our store. My, how times have changed.”

— Tim Lamprey

“I guess they had no choice. Very disappointed and we won’t be carrying them at our independent garden center anymore. Our whole image is built around being smaller, local and having better quality plants than what you can get at Lowe’s and Home Depot.”

— Melissa Kidd Langley

“Proven Winners, Knockout roses, Endless Summer hydrangeas, Wave petunias, the list goes on, are everywhere. We have bigger things like drought and watering bans to worry about.”

— Dottie Warner

“As a supplier, if you add value to your product/program you will be successful no matter where it’s sold.”

— Jay Kelly

“Bottom line, though, is that the Monrovia name will be in the discounters, thus diminishing the uniqueness of the independent garden center.”

— Curtis Jones

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20 comments on “Monrovia and Lowe’s: The Industry Reacts

  1. This is going to be a huge blow to the Monrovia brand in terms of how the public perceives their quality. We've been loyal to them for years, and I would have expected the same in return. — Jesslyn A. Latt

  2. Wow, this is very entertaining! As a person who has now been in the industry 32 years, Retail Buyer for a Ind Chain,sales rep for wholesalers,VP for a huge wholesaler and now back selling indies only…I have a complete understanding of the entire industry…FRANKLY YOU INDIES lay down and just make excuses over and over…You always claim better service? You always claim better quality, etc…Then you claim BOX stores get better pricing? REALLY,REALLY REALLY? Most dont give better service,most of you hang on to plants way past the point of prime, and most of you can buy the same prices as the BOX stores? You choose to gouge on your retails? You Choose not to sell the corners, the varieties? You choose not to have seminars, you choose to put your heads down when a consumer comes in? You choose what your outcome is becoming? WAKE UP….MONROVIA is not the problem…Your business passion and accrumen is the issue….Go look as AL's Garden Centers? Is he lying down? It is time for you to pull your heads out and become real merchants! I truly hope you can as my commision depends on it, hate to go back to selling BOX stores…………….

  3. I sure hope they will have different UPC's for the products they sell to Lowe's. We have a very leberal return policy and I don't want all those dead plants coming back to my store for a return without a receipt!

  4. All, I can see both sides of the fence here and the best role model for the GC channel is the Independent Hardware stores who have already gone through what the GC channel is now in the middle of. Hardware stores compete with the bigger retailers in EVERYTHING they sell, not just L&G. Yet they are doing much better in this recession than the GCs. They have the same challenges (limited capital, older locations, family management etc) yet have figured out how to live and thrive alongside the big guys. You should have been in Chicago LAST week at the ACE Show! Upwards and Onwards! - Ian Baldwin

  5. Tim Bartel, What you say is true the "eggs are getting less and less" This IS because of the chains, AND the economy. The two of those together puts all IGC's in a weaker financial position. You had other options though, in a weak economy premium pricing and high minimum orders are not the ansewer and just lower YOUR sales volume even further, Yes now that you are doing business with the Chains your sales volume will be higher, but your premium pricing will quickly fall by the wayside. You could have opted to lower your prices and your minimum order thresholds and actually been a part of the solution to help the "indies" rather than go so far as to join the other side and hasten their demise. Just remember it is easy to jump on and ride the TIGER, the problem is…the dismount involves you becoming cat food!

  6. HERE IN FLORIDA IN MY AREA AND MANY GARDEN CENTERS I HAVE VISITED, THE INDEPENDENTS SHOULD STOP WHINING AND WORK HARDER ON MAKING THEMSELVES THE BEST THEY CAN BE. THE BOX STORES GENERALY HAVE BETTER QAULITY CONSISTENTLY THAN THE INDEPENDENTS. IT VARIES FROM AREA TO AREA AND STORE TO STORE. I FIND IT DIFFICULT TO SEE CONSISTENT RELIABLE SUPPLYS AT THE INDEPENDENT GARDEN CENTER. ONE SHOULD NOT BE WORRIED ABOUT THE BIG BOX STORES BUT CONCERNED WITH THE QUESTION OF WHAT DOES THE FUTURE OF A GARDEN CENTER LOOK LIKE. THERE IS A PROVEN WAY TO BEAT THE BIG BOX YOU JUST HAVE TO KEEP EVOLVING AND WORK AT IT. IT WORKS I HAVE DONE IT!

  7. Don you are 100% dead on…I see this daily, walk into a IGC, see their clerks watering,sweeping,pricing but NOT SELLING or even attempting to engage with the Customer? Then AS I wait for my turn to talk to the buyer,I troll around and look at displays…A endcap that might hold 30 one gallon flowering perenials has 4-10 plants…Chemical walls are empty, signs are watered and not always readable, and no merchandising has even really been attempted? I could write a IGC are for dummies manual? Come on, stop whining, go into Depot,Lowes, etc..Look at what they do right and what they do wrong….Then do it better! Have a person that loves to sell? Not a plant geek that is afraid of selling? Have a creative person build your endcaps weekly, have a creative person sign the nursery, USE YOUR STORE FRONT FOR MERCHANDISING, not a overflow of pots and fertilizers.. Remember your costs are a lot better then you percieve? Depot cost have adveristising and shrink costs built in…But they work on lower margins? So get out and meet your growers? They all have deals if you visit the nursery, every grower has pockets of inventory to move and will deal….But they want it all gone? Buy it cheap and sell it cheap! MAKE FRIENDS or better yet learn how to increase your average sale with real useful tie in items that arent on sale! It goes on and on…

  8. I doubt many of us will see any difference in our sales just because Monrovia's stock is now available at Lowes. We know the brand, but most of our customers still don't know Monrovia, Proven Winners, etc unless they are avid gardeners. They buy what we suggest, or what jumps out at them as attractive. The name on the pot means nothing to most of them. Keep your plants looking good with inspirational displays, and you will move them.

  9. We have been a customer of Monrovia for over 40 years. There were two things ……actually three things that drew our 4th generation florist/greenhouse to buying from them. One was the quality of their product. Some of that has slipped lately. Second was the varieties and unique material you could get. Now there are many other growers closer to home growing similar product at a lesser cost. Third was that you could only get Monrovia product at our IGC stores. I knew this would not last as when they started selling to Franks Nursery & Crafts…….which I was informed at the time was an IGC store. Now we have to come up with a different change of attack to inform our customers of the change and to continue with our passion of the business which should not get stale in order to keep our products and customer service the reason our clients come and shop at our stores.

  10. I am a live nursery specialist for a Lowes in Missouri and would like to say out of several garden centers in town Lowes is by far the best. We work very hard to merchandise the plants and to keep them looking good. Also, we offer a great selection of plants. Our motto is take care of the customer. I am excited about Monrovia and hope my store gets their plants.

  11. This isn't about Monrovia selling to box stores, its about box stores marketing like independent garden centers. They now are looking for quality, local and top of the line to offer there customer. Maybe, Lowes will sell their plants closer to what we have to, and reduce the difference between cost. Customer service will be where we will win but don't think for a second that the box stores don't know this and will adapt. If Monrovia wins brand loyalty and big box stores carry a limited line, then we can come out ahead by showing diversity. Talking about never buying from a nursery is cutting your nose off. Their only doing what everyone else is and we need to adapt, just like them!

  12. How can people expect Monrovia to budget for decreasing sales and revenue if they had continued to only sell to declining numbers of IGC's going forward? Look closely at Lowe's plant retails; with a few exceptions on commodities, they have healthy go-in margins. Overall, Lowe's merchandisers also do a nice job at keeping plants displayed well. Independents know their local marketplace, and should still be better able to buy the right mix to deliver at the right time.

  13. For those that worry about all the unusual varieties Monrovia grows showing up at Lowe's take Comfort in the realization that so many of those items are not the fast sellers and will probably not be found on their shelves. They are a good grower that is trying to survive. Independant garden centers need to continually find new ways to keep our customers walking through our doors

  14. Just ask the Idaho potato grower's who started selling all of their potatoes to McDonald's. McDonald's basically owns them now. If McDonald's decides they need to change the type of potato or how much they will pay these farmers are now at their mercy. Unfortunately it creates hard feelings on both sides.

  15. Thank you all for such a lively conversation. I really appreciate all of the support we received from you at the IGC 2012 show in Chicago this week. it is obvious from the feedback we received there, that our IGC customers are supportive and generally optimistic about Spring 2013. Monrovia has obviously not been immune to the recession that has rocked our industry and forced many of our friends, competitors and customers to close their doors. Admittedly, we went through a couple of years of less than stellar quality plant material and have been successful in turning much of that product back into soil. Our customers have indicated they are happy with the fresh product we delivered SP2012 and as a company, we now have a renewed focus on growing the quality 'Distinctively Better' plant material that we have been known for over the years. Thanks again and see you soon. dk

  16. I've always strived to not carry what the box stores carried. In todays market we have to set ourselves apart from the boxes, not only with service and knowledge but with the products we sell. And Monrovia won't be on our shelves.

  17. I believe that branding does not work…Tim said it well…that the consumer sees the plant product on the shelf…he doesn't care wheather or not it's in a branded pot…only that the plant looks healthy and is a good value…independents as a rule carry and sell well carred for plants, at fair prices…with planting instructions..You blew it Monrovia, Proven Winners, Star roses, and walters Gardens….check your sales to the independents next year…I'd be afraid if I were you…RIP MONROVIA and the others YOUR ARROGANCE.

  18. Clearly there is concern for Independents to be individuals in their businesses. That said the individual is the most important part of each of your businesses. Petunias sell everywhere even in big boxers. Think big about yourselves and what you have is personality, knowledge and the ability to take the time to sell plant packages to your consumer. Design the most important part of your plant sales business awaits every consumer that steps through your door. You can do a physical layout to show how beautiful groups of plants look in minutes and the shopper places every plant in their cart. Think about what YOU are and how YOU and your staff can build sales and market YOUR garden center no matter what brand or product you sell.

  19. I would be interested to see how many of these people saying the negative things about Monrovia,down playing branding,saying Monrovia is unloyal, and saying RIP Monrovia actually bought anything from Monriva. Supporting Monrovia is not cherry picking Monrovia for what you can not get cheaper elsewhere.

  20. Are we talking strictly Monrovia grown plant material or also plants grown elsewhere in Monrovia branded containers. ?

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