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. Rob Woodman

    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!

  2. Mark Bickerstaff

    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.

  3. Darrell Youngquest

    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

  4. Kyle Becerra

    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.

  5. David Kirby

    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

  6. Barry Laws

    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.

  7. Bob Lewis

    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.

  8. Maria Rock

    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.

  9. Bill Gearing

    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.

  10. mona elkan

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