Sophisticated Structures From Structural Plastics

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Chances are if you’ve been in the garden center business in the past 25 years, you probably have Benchmaster products in your aisles. Since 1982, Structural Plastics’ Benchmaster line has been known as the mold-, insect- and rot-resistant alternative to flat, wooden greenhouse benching systems. The product line has evolved, along with the rest of the retail garden center industry, as the potential for converting growing space to retail space became critical to competing with large discount chains.

Over time, Benchmaster products grew to become a highly versatile system of outdoor-friendly, multi-tiered retail display fixtures, and as garden center retailers became more sophisticated in sales and marketing efforts, Structural Plastics has helped make the best decisions for real estate through its innovative, free layout and design services department.

“Whether a customer is trying to maximize 100,000 square feet or 100, Structural Plastics’ team of experienced consultants is always eager to help maximize space to ensure a short-term, positive return on investment,” says Ben Donley, the company’s director of sales and marketing. “Structural Plastics combines a broad spectrum of product options with professional consulting and free layout and design assistance to add exceptional overall value for independent garden center owners.”

Tools And Trends

The company’s Web site,, recently received a “major overhaul,” with one goal in mind: educating retailers, according to Donley. The current site provides detailed descriptions and merchandising ideas that help customers imagine potential applications and understand basic display concepts before working with Structural Plastics’ team of consultants, he says.

“Because Benchmaster is comprised of modular components that work together, many customers have also learned to take advantage of the fact that displays can be easily customized,” Donley says. “Since the launch of the updated Web site, the learning curve has been cut in half. The site also serves as a great source for knowledge and idea sharing.”

According to Donley, garden center retailers have found one of the biggest advantages of Benchmaster products is their versatile nature. Structural Plastics is motivated and energized by its customers’ success in finding new and different ways to use Benchmaster components to maximize sales.

“We get just as excited as our customers when we learn about something creative that’s been done in the field, and we build on that,” Donley says.

Some of the more recent gardening trends have allowed new opportunities to work Benchmaster products in to retail displays, he adds. “A simple fact in live goods retailing is that customers buy more when they believe products are fresh and well-maintained,” Donley says. “A big part of projecting this image is environmental. Bulk-lot block-and-board plant displays are quickly being replaced by investments in ambiance. Benchmaster has seen this trend developing for years and has worked hard to remain a market leader with its patented all-plastic display system. It is the only all-plastic system that helps create a maintenance-free visual oasis that customers respond to every time.”

Cross-merchandising live goods with a unique array of products like water features, garden art and statuary will help retailers answer the emerging trends in areas such as incorporating fountains and water gardening, Donley says.

“Sometimes retailers cringe at the thought of scattering expensive ceramic products around the concrete pad in their garden centers,” he says. “Benchmaster products allow retailers to elevate these fragile products using ground-level panels to both define a selling space and protect merchandise by providing a stable surface.”

Laura Drotleff is editor of Greenhouse Grower.

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