Now that you have that nursery...

I wanted to address Jodie's concerns concerning my last post, Before you start that nursery... She asks, “... what does everyone else do with the dribs and drabs of stuff that doesn’t go? That odd garden stepping stone, or a chipped statue that’s been here gathering dust for 5 years–yes, 5–or more, years.”

Why do we small garden centers allow are selves to get in the situation where we end up with these odds and ends that just sit around? I remember one winter when we had just about run out of money and as I walked around the store it became crystal clear what the term “money tied up in inventory” meant. When I would rather have had $1000 in the checking account all I could see where plants and merchandise that represented that $1000 and then some just sitting. Being winter I knew there was not much hope of releasing the money these good represented until spring. Geez, I wished we had put this stuff on sale earlier so we had some money instead of product thats just sitting around getting older.

It seems to me that we become attached to the items we have bought. We know that they should command full price and are disappointed when they don't sell. So we move them around, create new displays and wait. Meanwhile the product, weather its plants or “dry goods” gets older and less likely to sell. Let's take an example. We pot up a bunch of daffodils in fiber pots for spring sales. They start to bloom and we wait for them to sell. Now it starts raining and sales slow and you just look at the daffodils and know they will be done blooming soon. Why not put them on sale while they still look good? Half-price, our buy one, get one free. Because we hate to see quality walk out with little or no profit. Yet, if we don't sell them, even at cost, they will eventually just be planted out in the nursery, donated, or dumped. A complete loss in time and money. It would be even o.k. To GIVE them away with every purchase of $50 or more. Think of the good will that generates. They key is to bite the bullet and get rid of them while they still look good.

We came up with a great way to prevent that last plant of a group remaining while the rest we're bought. You have 11 Arctostaphlos “Emerald Carpet” and a customer wants 10. Normally we would have left it at that and that one plant would just sit there. Now we pick up that last plant and put it on the cart, free. Yup, no since in leaving that last lonely plant there while all its friends get to go off to their new home. The customer loves it since it represents an extra plant they really could use and it allows us to get a group of fresh Arctostaphylos that won't have that one “off” looking plant from the last group. Yea, we didn't make the full profit we could have but, that plant wouldn't have sold otherwise.

We brought in a bunch of Master Gardener, and Moon Phase Calendars this year. Not all of them sold, so Monica has them sitting at the counter for half off. Wait, we are already in March and we are still trying to sell these things? I have been giving them to our special customers when they come in. Lady just bought $50 in stuff, we hand them a calendar worth $11.99. Better to have that customer think of us every time they look at that calendar than to have tried to eek out a buck. Customer relations.

I am starting to think that there is really no reason that we shouldn't have a time limit to sell on EVERYTHING! Yup, even those really cool Weeping Norway Spruce. Sure they are a little unusual, and should have been sold out by now, a year later! But the reality is at this point it would be better to slash the price, get them out of the nursery and get in a new crop or something different. What are we, a arboretum where every thing is in cans? A museum of un-sold merchandise?

We are going to be a lot more aggressive this year in moving stuff. We are going to keep track of the date when various items we're put out for sale. At the end of a agreed amount of time we are going to bite the bullet, despite how great the items still look, and aggressively mark the price down, or offer buy two get one free, or something that is going to get peoples attention. One other thing is we are not going to timidly make them down 10%, wait a little, then mark them down again, etc. One great markdown and that's it. Get them out of the nursery and into someones home.

The reason this is so hard for many of us is we think like gardeners, not business owners. As gardeners we know the value of these things. We know that the plant that just doesn't look that good, could with proper care be a excellent addition to a garden. That chipped fountain really would be cool in the herb garden. Well you know what, I want it to be an excellent addition in somebody else's garden, not mine. Isn't that why we are in the nursery business? To supply OTHERS with items for THEIR gardens.