Monrovia Nursery’s latest scheme


 Monrovia Nurseries has come up with yet a new scheme they hope independent garden centers (IGC’s) will jump on. According to Garden Centers Magazine,“Monrovia Nursery is launching an e-commerce website by mid-January 2014, and consumers will be able to buy plants directly from the company. But Monrovia won’t ship the purchased plants to gardeners’ homes. Instead, the California-based nursery will deliver the plants to participating independent garden centers, which will then distribute them to customers.”

The customer chooses the plants at the Monrovia website. The plants are pre-priced according to what Monrovia feels is an “appropriate retail price”. The plants are then shipped to the local IGC for pick-up by the end customer. According to David Kirby, vice president of sales at Monrovia,“The plants will be delivered directly to the stores, and the garden centers will receive the normal retail markup from the sale. Once consumers purchase the plants, they’ll receive a message indicating that Monrovia will ship them to the local IGC once they have finished growing and are in prime condition. The plants will be delivered between March and May, have a label with the gardener’s name, a thank you tag and a fresh, clean container.”

Of course Monrovia hopes IGC’s will jump on board with this. It was IGC’s who tried to help Monrovia out of a jam just a couple of years ago, but to no avail. Monrovia threatened to go out of business or into the chain and box stores if IGC’s didn’t buy more plants. Many IGC’s did buy extra plant stock, but to no avail. Turns out Monrovia had been planning on going into the chain stores all along, and used the IGC’s long standing relationship of support to sell a few more plants. Monrovia eventually headed to Home Depot. These day’s they sell their plants through Lowe’s.  Why wouldn’t Monrovia eventually just sell and ship the plants directly to the end customer, keeping all the profit?

I have followed and reported on Monrovia for years. Monrovia is doing exactly what is to be expected these days as the horticultural trade continues to fragment, and shrink. It’s the future, and it would be unwise of them not to at least look into it. However, expecting the (IGC) to help them out again? Seems a bit of a reach. How does that saying go? “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me”.

About Trey Pitsenberger

Trey is a nurseryman, author, and speaker.

04. December 2013 by Trey Pitsenberger
Categories: | Tags: , , , , | 7 comments

Comments (7)

  1. Trey, I can’t begin to know what all it’s like for IGCs so I won’t even pretend that I do. But can I respectfully ask one question? This has nothing to do with anything else except what I’m asking. You state that the retailer will receive their normal mark-up when Monrovia sells to the consumer directly. So that means not only will you be able to sell Monrovia products to the consumer at your garden center, but Monrovia will also sell them for you, online, and the customer will pick them up at your store, and you still get paid for them. I would think this would be good for an IGC. What am I missing?

    • Kylee,
      I stopped using Monrovia years ago, so for me it really doesn’t apply. My interest is based on what I hear through the grapevine so to speak.

      If I we’re doing business with Monrovia’s my concern would be the use of my reputation to build the program. Many people might choose to use the program thinking they are supporting locally owned, smaller, independent businesses. Once the program is in place Monrovia takes the program to the box or chain stores when things get tough, and the banks turn the screws. This is what has happened before when Monrovia first got into financial troubles a few years back. They sent a letter out asking IGC’s to up their purchasing of plants lest they go bankrupt, or head to the chain stores. It was a threat based in fact, except Monrovia had intended to head to the box stores all along. Many IGC’s did up their purchases, but to no avail. Monrovia had for years built it’s loyalty from IGC’s based on their promise to always keep their plants at independent garden centers, not box stores. Now the trust was broken. Monrovia’s plants headed to Home Depot, and are now sold at Lowe’s. What’s to keep them from taking this program to the higher volume box stores once it’s in place? Their word? When you answer to creditors who are keeping you afloat you have to dance to their tune.

      Some other thoughts might be, suppose their are a few Independent stores within a short distance of one another. How does Monrovia decide which to send the plants to for customer pick up? Perhaps they threaten to send the plants to your down the street competitor, if you don’t up your volume of purchases with them? What happens when the customer returns plants for one reason or another. Does the retailer get a refund from Monrovia, who already cashed the check?

      Thanks for asking.

      • Thanks for taking the time to share those details, Trey. I shop in a number of places, IGCs and big box stores included. We’re pretty starved for IGCs around here, but I know that isn’t the case everywhere. That’s why I seldom enter into a conversation where one is against the other. I see both sides of that coin. There are so many factors that go into why a business is or isn’t successful, but I know the independents have a tougher row to hoe when it competes with the big boxes – many times unfairly so.

        • Kylee,

          For the gardener it may be turn out to be a great thing. These behind the scene dramas are just a glimpse into a subject that sometimes befuddle the public, who wonders what the fuss is about.

          It can be quite a soap opera in here. Keeps things interesting to say the least. I am glad to be alive and contributing in such exciting and dynamic times.

          Best wishes.

          • No doubt! It’s kind of like when I got the behind-the scenes tour at EuroAmerican Propagators at Spring Trials last year. If only the general public knew what it takes to bring a plant all the way from its beginning, to the benches at your garden center, they would know why all plants aren’t sold for $4.99. It’s not just a matter of planting seeds. I’m willing to bet that a large number of people think all plants at a garden center were started by seed. Probably most of the general public has never even given that a thought.

  2. Trey, this has been a practice (with limited success) in the hard lines industry for several years. These distributors (or coops i.e Do It Best , True Value, Ace) don’t have the infrastructure in their distribution system to ship direct to the consumer, but often the retailer does not have a robust enough POS system to keep track of these oddball orders that are generated from the distributors website. From the consumer perspective, many would much rather have the merchandise delivered to their front porch–for many buying online means not having to get in the car and go to the store.Serious gardeners who want something will order from Plant Delights, Digging Dog, Annies, Forest Farm etc. Delivered between March and May ? By whom ? Common carrier, UPS,Fedex? How will Monrovia handle the logistics ? Will the customer have to wait a few weeks til the ICG can put together a minimum to get Monrovia truck ? This whole business model seems fraught with difficulty to me, and inconvenient for both the customer and the garden center.

  3. I get Monrovia’s Newlletter and saw this proposed there and wondered how you felt about it. Not at all surprised. Think anyone twice burned would feel about the same way.