Your company name is an asset; a selling point. Use it correctly and you’ll develop a great way to recommend and stand behind products and services of superior quality. “Customers are looking for the confidence, so putting your name on a quality product gives them that confidence,” says Mike Kunce, CEO of Pike Nurseries. Here are a few examples of retailers doing just that:
There are two reasons why Camelot Gardens in Montrose, Colo., decided to sell its own reusable shopping bag. “We wanted to portray Camelot Gardens as being environmentally friendly,” says President Sheree Wanner. “We are a garden center. We specialize in organics. We wanted people to see we’re concerned.
“Also, it was my feeling that it was a source of advertising. If I could get a customer to carry my bag into a grocery store, they have that TOMA (top of mind awareness), they see that ‘Camelot Gardens’ all the time.”
Camelot Gardens works with Earthwise Bag Co. to produce the reusable bags. “We have had a great reception to these,” Wanner adds. “It’s a beautiful, durable bag that stands out.”
Located just north of New York City, Matterhorn Nursery offers a number of product lines under its name. “Branding is an essential part in areas where things aren’t that well known or aren’t as well made,” says owner Matt Horn. “For example, Scotts is a great fertilizer and Scotts sells itself, so there’s no need to compete with your own-name fertilizer. There’s no point in trying to reinvent the wheel.” Some popular Matterhorn-branded lines include soils, lotions, tools, grass seed and fish food.
Roughly 12 years ago, plastic fish food containers were Horn’s first venture in company branding. One day he saw a box of tetra food sitting out in the rain. It was ruined. He thought, “Why isn’t someone putting these in plastic containers?” Horn recognized the need and the rest is history. Customers who recycle the plastic containers can bring them into Matterhorn for refills and save $4.
The organic soil line, called Dirt Bags, offers customers three different options: Common Dirt Bag is top soil mixed with compost in a 40-pound bag ($9.98 a bag); Rich Dirt Bag is a 40-pound bag of pure compost ($12.98); and Lazy Dirt Bag is designed for container potting and comes in two sizes, one cubic foot ($14.98) and two cubic foot ($27.98).
“It’s not the $1.99 fill-dirt you’re going to find anywhere, this is a premium product and we sell a ton of it,” he says. The nursery has its soils mixed and bagged by Organic Mechanics in Eastern Pennsylvania.
Tools were another area of opportunity for Matterhorn. “Because you need a really good tool, and generally what’s out there doesn’t last,” Horn observes. “We have a whole branded tool line that’s being made in England by Joseph Bentley.”
“Our very first delivery truck is 15 years old now,” says Ed Blatter, co-owner of Cornell Farm in Portland, Ore. “We had our company decal on the sides of it and it’s lasted a remarkably long time. It still looks great and only faded a little.”
Putting a colorful company logo on the sides of delivery vehicle just seemed natural for Blatter. “We thought it was like a traveling billboard,” he says. “We have an attractive logo. It’s very colorful and gets a lot of attention.” Cornell recently upgraded to a larger, flat-panel truck. The new truck dons the fun logo, too.
Chalet Landscape, Nursery & Garden Center
“This is our premiere year for our Chalet branded potting soil,” says Chalet store manager Tony Fulmer. “Every time I see one of those bags go up to the register, it’s just so gratifying.” It’s easy to see that a good deal of time and effort was spent in developing Chalet’s brand.
This 2009 Revolutionary 100 Garden Center National Winner worked with Sun Gro Horticulture on their new potting mix. Fulmer says Sun Gro had 70 mixes for him to choose from. Chalet says the soil is an organic mix that contains beneficial ingredients like mycorrhizae, and is denser and cleaner than other brands. Sun Gro also has an in-house design staff to help design the potting soil bags and meet the requests of each garden center. “Sun Gro was very accomodating and we would have had them design it, but we already an outside consultant/graphic designer working with us on our brand,” says Fulmer. “We wanted a unified look.”
Chalet also brands plants, compost, fertilizers, mulch and grass seed. The Wilmette, Ill. operation gets its grass seed from a company in Wisconsin. “They reformulate the grass seed blends every year based on what four local universities have told them what have been the big disease issues for the preceding two years,” says Fulmer. “In my mind, it blows national brands out of the water, because it’s not one size fits all. It’s specific to our area.”
Working with the company Holiday Bright Lights, Chalet has successfully branded their own line of Christmas lights, too, says John Hoerst, Chalet buyer/merchandiser. Hoerst’s sales rep also works with other independent garden centers to get the best pricing available for everyone. “It’s nice because we wouldn’t be able to buy enough Christmas lights on our own to get that price.”
Chalet doesn’t offer other brand lines that would compete directly with theirs on the shelves, says Hoerst. “It’s helped to push our customers over to buy our brand.”
In regards to Chalet-branded products, Fulmer says, “There’s nothing comparable in box stores or other independent garden stores. It’s a nice leg up.”