Carol made a comment at my last post on Scott's. She said "Well, I guess Scott's must still think the independents are worth partnering with, still viable in the marketplace, still worthy of attention, so maybe that is good news?" Yes, it is good news. We have never thought that independent nurseries were going to go away. We believe that the number of independent nurseries will fall, but the remaining ones should be better able to differentiate themselves from "The Boxes", and better follow their own "independent streak".
It"s that independent streak that needs to be nourished. It's so easy to fall into the trap of trying to please all the potential customers out there. A couple of people ask about Miracle-gro or Scott's Turf Builder and most garden centers will carry them to keep those people from shopping elsewhere. Don't want to loose a sale. Scott's wants to saturate the gardening public with its products like Nike does with sports. Chains, boxes, independents, or hardware stores, they all carry the stuff. It's a smart business move, and the reason Scott's is such a powerful brand.
What we would like to see is true independence. There are plenty of products out there that do as good or better job than Scott's. Find those and give people a choice. While 70% of the gardening public will always shop the big brands the other 30% would love to try something different, for a variety of reasons. We are an independent, not a chain store. Why carry chain store products?
We don't carry much that you will find in a box store. Most of my plants, fertilizer, soil amendments, and garden accessories won't be found in box stores. My suppliers have made a conscious effort to stick by the independents and we support them. They do not try to sell to both independents and chains. It's hard to please both kinds of customers. Maybe Scott's will pull it off, but I just don't know.
Large brands like Scott's, Hines, Bayer, and others belong in large brands like Home Depot, Lowe's, K-mart, and Wall Mart. They are for the 70% of the gardening public that will not be your best independent nursery customer. Focus on the 30% that are looking for something different. Having Scott's products on your shelf won't help in branding your small nursery.
Scott's products are not bad. They are better than many others being sold, and it shows in Scott's growth. We just feel that if you're going to travel the independent garden center route you ought to quickly differentiate yourself in the marketplace, and carrying what everyone else has won't do it.