Dont fight Scott's Miracle-Gro.

Over at Fine Gardening Billy Goodnick talks about how “Scott’s Miracle-Gro stole my ammo.” Billy say’s, “I also love taking pot shots at those who I perceive as bad guys, imagine my delight when I saw that the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company was sponsoring breakfast at the annual Garden Writers Association symposium in Dallas last week. I mean these are the folks whose very existence has been built upon putting-green-perfect yards where weekend warriors get their NASCAR-meets-John-Deere jollies.

Billy was turned around by Scott’s sustainability representative, Jan Valentic who spoke at the breakfast. Billy continues, “it appears that the folks at Scotts Miracle-Gro have found a pragmatic, shareholder-friendly form of eco-religion. Consumers are becoming more enlightened and demanding products that are environmentally friendly. Unless Scotts wants to go the way of the wooly mammoth, they have to adapt. They're not leaders; they're followers, but they're moving toward the light and they have a huge market share, so this matters.”

Scott's jumped on the organic bandwagon. Here is the news. Organics’ are just not that big a deal with the younger generation. I am talking about 18 to 25 year old's that are just starting to garden. This generation seems to be a lot more focused on results and brands, than organics. If their friends say use Humboldt Nutrients for the best results, that’s what they do. It seems to be weekend gardeners and the older generations that are more into “organics”.  Besides, strange laws that regulate what is considered organic add to the confusion. A fertilizer with minerals like manganese or boron in it can not be called organic in California. They are called “naturals”. So if you buy “organic fertilizer” it will be missing many of the important nutrients that plants use. The younger generation is learning this and want's results, organic would be nice, but not critical.

As an independent nursery owner I want my store to be different than the local Home Depot. If we we’re to carry Scott’s we would have the same stuff as The Depot. We need to set ourselves apart so we can capture some of the market that the mega-companies can’t. We do that by carrying niche brands like Humboldt Nutrients, Foxfarm, Botanicare, etc. Haven’t heard of them? Ask a younger gardener. They like this stuff so much the will proudly wear tee-shirts with these companies logos on them. Yes, they will sport their knowledge and hipness by wearing fertilizer companies logo's. Would they wear a Scott’s tee-shirt? No, except maybe for the retro-mocking aspect.

This younger generation of gardeners is brand oriented. When they find a brand that works, or their friends have told them about, they stick with that brand. Don’t try to sell them something else. Scott’s is just not that cool. That does not mean Scott's won’t continue to dominate the lawn and garden category. It just means we independents have a niche that Home Depot and other mega chains don’t. It never fails, as soon as a trend like organics get's usurped by the big boys that trend starts to dry up. The younger generation does want safe, effective garden products. It just doesn't have to be labeled organic to meet that criteria. More important, is it a brand that has the good reputation amongst their peer group? The younger generation is very brand loyal, and that includes your nursery brand if it has what they want.