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Should Your Suppliers Sell Direct?

(Approx. read time 3 min.)

Proven Winners is now selling online direct to consumers.

Yes, others do it but Proven Winners is the first major brand in our industry that has begun selling finished annuals, perennials, grasses and shrubs direct to consumers from the Proven Winners website.  This is called cross-channel distribution by the way.

Just when I was getting used to things as they are now my cheese has been moved again. This is not entirely a bad thing though I’m still not saying it’s entirely a good thing. Maybe it is just is what it is?Consumers are increasingly beginning or continuing their plant or other garden product buying process online. A downloadable pdf report of recent research of consumer shopping habits by ATG Commerce shows that only 22% of consumers shop exclusively in one channel. Today, most consumes learn of a product either online or by manufacturer driven marketing, and word of mouth then go online to learn more. The research shows that 48% use two channels in their purchase process, and another 24% use three channels.

At some point the consumer decides to touch and feel or even try the product. And some of those consumers for a variety of reasons do not want to buy from an online retailer and go to a retail  bricks & mortar store to make their initial purchase. If they become satisfied with the product and want to purchase again, they may cross over and buy in the opposite channel.

Does your independent garden center benefit or get harmed by this process?

When consumers learn about a product online, or through manufacturer/breeder/wholesale levels and seek information there the opportunity to gain new customers expands if you are in a position to take over the process online, and in your store. Store-finders on product websites as well as Internet search often bring the consumer to the website of their local retailer. You have to be found on the Internet at this point in the process to be found at all. If you aren’t who is? Some of the consumers who are swimming along these channels may still find your store if they are not exposed to your online presence. Should you take that chance?

I like Proven Winners pricing.

Raising the price bar to $7.45 for a 4.5″ annual presents a real opportunity and provides confidence for smart retailers to follow suit.

Is anyone really getting hurt here?

Well it depends on the situation, but sometimes yes, and sometimes no. If a consumer comes to the retail store to check out and buy a product, becomes satisfied and wants to buy again they may buy from that store online, or from another online store. I can’t quantify this opinion, but I doubt this happens as often as the opposite effect where they make an online purchase then buy in a store the next time.

Leave a comment or reply to tell what you see in your store.

Do you have customers calling or coming in to buy what they’ve seen online? Do they buy from you after they buy online? Do they buy online after they have bought from you? What do you do to improve your opportunity to make cross-channel retailing work for you?

Sorry, no graphics on this post. I didn’t want to get bit by the PW trademark police, and I didn’t have the time to ask their permission.

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14 Responses

  1. Sid, we have a web site that specifically supports and promotes our Pennsylvania Pride brand of trees. We have successfully ‘assisted’ our garden center customers with making sales on a regular basis, almost daily at this time of year. Just last week a church group seeking 24 fruit trees found our brand web site and we were able to send them directly to one of our customers and close on the sale. I see the new customers as doing their research online, making a selection and then going to the garden center.

    We will be introducing a ‘partner’ software for our garden center customers that allows for online sales and selection of our Pennsylvania Pride brand of trees and then pick up at the garden center. The idea is to reach out to new customers, expand market area and sell trees. The real value is that together we can and are redefining how Tree sales are made and reduce heavily the burden of inventory for the garden center.

    We think on-line sales that lead to the garden center is essential.

  2. Sid, what was the name of this company again…Etera? (kidding)

    This was a huge issue for us when Christopher Radko started selling direct to the collectors. But the big difference was they were selling it for the exact same price as we were selling it for.

    @ $7.45 plus another $5.50 a plant shipping, its not going to negatively impact sales. It also makes our $5.99/plant look cheap by comparison. (Perhaps I need to move our retail up to $6.99)

    Because of perishability, Plants need to be shipped fast to get to the consumer, so a shipped price will always be higher than what the retailer is selling it for.

    I would rather have a customer buy it direct online at a higher price if I didn’t have it in stock, then to go driving from garden center to garden center looking for the plant.
    -Dave

  3. Thanks for commenting Dave, and for the really good point on keeping your customer from shopping around for a specific variety. Of course sometimes you might get their customer from that too.

  4. This is a good solution Don. Let us know when you’ve got that up and running.

  5. I would suggest proven winners take a few courses in retail pricing. $7.25 is not a price point. If someone is willing to pay $7.25 for a 4.5 inch annual they certainly will pay $7.99 or $9.99. It amazes me everyday. Here we have one of the main marketers of plants and yet it appears they do not have a clue as to what it takes to run a retail store.

    OH by the way at $7.25 for a 4.5 inch annual they are certainly priced less than Logees, and Glasshouse works and even discounters like Spring Hill when it comes to mail order.

  6. Great point on the pricing Ed. I should have checked the pricing of other online PW sellers. That’s the power of the new media. The story isn’t over until the readers get involved and bring out the “rest of the story” as Paul Harvey says.

  7. I am sorry to make two posts but something occured to me later. When the money is sent to a mail order company we need to remind our customers and ourselves that this money does not stay in our area. It does absolutely nothing to create Jobs here. In fact I would suggest if it takes sales away from independently owned garden centers it takes jobs out of the local economy.

    Just keep the following in mind. Locally owned businesses have about a 30% greater effect on the economy than larger business since the money stays in the local economy and is recycled more often.

  8. Ed, I did notice the price point…was going to hold back that info. I don’t want to make possible competitors too smart…

    But what I would probably do, would be bring the retail price to 9.99 and reduce the shipping cost by $2.50 a plant to get over that shipping sticker shock of being almost the same price as the item they were buying.
    -D

  9. Sid
    For decades growers and manufacturers alike have brought us, the independent retailer, products and brands that we have built for them, only to have them use what we have essentially created as a launching pad for national marketing. It seems like the business plan is, “launch through the independent, build enough business to pay for a national marketing campaign and take the brand directly to the consumer.” Every business wants to succeed, even flourish and I have no problem with that. What I see as a problem is building everyone else’s brands for them while leaving our own without proper representation. I am not suggesting that we quit selling major brands (PW included), only that we work harder on promoting ourselves than we do promoting the brands we sell. If we do a good job promoting who we are we should not have a hard time attracting clients. Proven Winners feels they have done it and now they are trying to prove it by selling direct to the consumer. They feel they can sell their product at a premium price because they have communicated quality and performance to the consumer. Nothing says that we can’t do the same for ourselves. Locally, we can encourage our consumers to buy from us when we communicate to them that we are willing to provide them with solutions. It won’t matter if it is PW, Monrovia or Miracle-Gro, they will put their trust in US. We had just better not let them down.
    This is one reason I like Novalis so much. With Novalis it is more about their customer (me) than it is about them, the same way I try to treat my clients. It’s not about me, it’s not about my stuff, it IS about my clients. The ultimate compliment is when a client brings in a mail order catalog and asks if they can buy that product from us. They are willing to pay extra because they know that we will provide them with the information and products to make them successful and ultimately, that is what they are looking for.

  10. Very good points Tim! We have always lived with multi-channel buying as catalog shoppers bought in the garden center. The end of year arrival of catalogs encourages customers to dream and “buy in their minds”. When they are ready to buy for real many do go to the garden center. Good point that they are willing to pay extra for the extra value the garden center can provide.

  11. Sid –
    I came across this posting yesterday and appreciate having the opportunity to respond on behalf of Proven Winners. First of all, anytime you (or anyone for that matter) have any questions about Proven Winners or any of our programs, feel free to call or email me before or after you post an item and I’ll be glad to discuss anything we do with you. My phone number is (630) 323-2886 and my email is dave@provenwinners.com.

    Regarding your post about Proven Winners selling plants online, we have started offering this service because we continually receive thousands of calls and emails from consumers frustrated that they either can’t find our plants or can’t find a specific variety in the retail channel.

    This morning, I looked at the emails we have received the last two days to our website email box and found that 25% of the emails dealt with consumers looking for our plants at retail. One sample from a woman in New Jersey follows: “I’m desperate to find a few of the Proven Winners Lilac ‘Bloomerang’ but most of your retailers here are either sold out or have never heard of it. Have you any ideas of whom I could get some from?”

    Our goal is not to take business away from retailers and as such, the plants are priced at $7.45 for a 4.5-inch container plus shipping. When the shipping is added, the consumer is paying $11.00 to $12.00 per plant. As an example, last night a consumer ordered 64 plants and paid $11.12 per plant.

    One of the most visited portions of the Proven Winners website (if not the most) is the retailer locator. We constantly drive consumers to the retailers on this list. But when the consumer still has difficulty locating our plants, we see the online store as an opportunity to help them garden with the Proven Winners plants they desire.

    Regarding the price points of the companies Mr. Knapton mentioned in his post, I checked those company’s three websites and don’t see that they offer Proven Winners plants for sale so I’m unable to make a comparison.

    Additionally, we will be sharing with the industry what varieties the consumers are buying and where the consumers who have placed orders are located. We will be doing this to allow growers and retailers to use the information as they plan for the following Spring and to further capitalize on sales.

    Our goal has always been driving consumers into retail garden centers and provide them with high quality and top performing plants, the tools to have an educated staff, and a well merchandised store.

    Thank you again for the opportunity to respond to your posting.

    Dave Konsoer
    Director of Sales
    Proven Winners
    dave@provenwinners.com
    (630) 323-2886

  12. Sid –
    I’d like to clarify one thing in my recent post. The prices I listed are for Proven Winners annuals. We also offer Proven Winners Perennials, Proven Winners Graceful Grasses, and Proven Winners ColorChoice Flowering Shrubs which are all priced higher than the annuals. For more information, visit: https://shop.provenwinners.com/category.cfm?catID=35

    I’m sorry for not including this information in my original post.

    Dave Konsoer
    Director of Sales
    Proven Winners
    dave@provenwinners.com
    (630) 323-2886

  13. Thank you Dave for your comments. Please take a moment and subscribe to this blog via the link at the top of the left column. Also consider signing up for a free Google Alert at http://www.google.com/alerts to be notified when we and anyone else is tracked by Google’s search spiders.

    We appreciate and approve all comments except those that are obvious spam. These are the days of the “New Media” where topics are more exploratory than conclusive. With reader participation complete transparency can occur. I ocassionally do some minor editing of obvious misspelling, etc. Otherwise, after your first comment is approved your subsequent comments will be posted automatically and immediately. This is a good time to mention that retail sellers of Proven Winners, and many other products can often be listed for free on the retailer locator on the brand website. Sometimes these listings are there but not correct so be sure to check and ask for corrections. For example, one of my clients does all their purchasing using the name of their parent company rather than the trade name of their garden center and a consumer could easily become confused even if the address is the same. Other clients have found everything from misspellings to receiving (not store front) address, etc. Check these frequently.

    I believe Mr. Knapton’s comment was referring to the price points on the Proven Winners website that do not follow traditional specialty retail rules and have 99-cent endings.

  14. Dear Dave,

    I thank you for your comments. I am not sure how my name keeps coming up in these discussions. First of all I support Proven Winnners. We have eleven staff certified, Thank you for the tee shirts. When I mentioned Glassworks and Logees I was talking about the price they get for plants and the size they sell them in. In general I was talking about other mail order companies that sell plants direct.. Their prices are significantly higher than Proven Winners and they usually sell in a smaller size.

    Since we are looking into also selling direct via mail order to folks I would like to add this advice.

    The sad part is 30 to 50% of the comments on companies that sell via mail order are in general negative. This really does not help build a brand. I am sure the folks that put the Proven Winner program together ordered plants from other mail order companies. Checked out all the comments on the web and noticed all the bad comments. I am sure they have figured out a way to over come the problems in shipping and lack of knowledge of the consumer to be successful. I am sure they have figured out a way to take returns and give credit.

    There are qute a few garden centers that sell direct.

    How about working with them and let them take the orders and you do the shipping. It builds their brand and your brand. It is a partnership that I fell could have been worked out before you started selling plants direct. Perhaps you talked to a number of independent garden center retailers and they did not want to become involved.

    Some of the major hard good suppliers like Commerce and Aret provide the internet sales software to garden centers and ship the goods direct. I am wondering why you did not go this route.

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