Thursday, December 9, 2010

Monrovia's Demise May Be a Sign That Corporate Owned Nurseries Just Don't Grow

I keep reading these articles and blog postings about Monrovia. 'The Death of Monrovia', 'Goodbye to Brand Names'- I have a few thoughts about that and I feel comfortable sharing with you. I know you may, or may not agree.

Poor, poor Monrovia.
I really want to say that some people are only half informed. Sometimes even me.
Monrovia may have to sell their product to the box stores. If they do decide to go this route then they should choose to strip off all the Monrovia taggage and Monrovia pots should be replaced with basic black.
This quick sell is the fast way the banks are seeing that Monrovia can save itself, but maybe the bank just doesn't look at reality.
The reality is most box stores do not have to pay for the plant until it is purchased. They have that much buying power. The box store will not take care of the plant. Box stores tend to put their "garden center" on the sunny end of the building where plants can sit and bake on the concrete. Sales associates, which are basically cashiers, do not have to water plants. I have been to Home Depot and watched as a lonely cashier just sat in their "toll-booth" style cash-wrap and watched the plants droop, wither, and expire.
A friend of mine who happens to work at Lowe's, and sometimes works for me when she wants plants, told me one day, "If a plant is wilting, or even a group of them, we are not allowed to water them. We are not allowed to get out a hose and fill a bucket and drench a plant we can see is struggling." This is exactly how box store management sees things. So this may turn out be a loss for Monrovia, not a real benefit.

Many have written Monrovia products give IGCs an edge. I say yes and no.
They have a beefy minimum to open an account with, and they sell to places such as ACE Hardware giving them a percentage off because they are a buying group. All this, while people who work at most ACE Hardware stores are comparable to those working in the box stores. Admittedly there are a few ACE stores that take a garden center approach and commit staff to it. I worked in one myself, so I know what I am speaking about in this instance.
That percentage off which Monrovia offers buying groups allows places like ACE Hardware to undersell IGCs. They do not offer the percentage off to small Mom & Pop retailers.

Monrovia is facing what a lot of large production nurseries are having to face. When the times were good they expanded and expanded. They over-expanded like so many. More land, more plants in production, more personnel to take care of the plants. This also results in more fuel, more pest and weed control labor, and more chemicals being used- all at greater costs.
So, Monrovia needs to cut personnel-which they did- but not the high cost executives and administration. Lots of the little guys went- mid management as well. Popagation people, nursery labor, people who tend the plants and make the nursery facilities look neat and clean.

Liquidate some plant materials-maybe large items or decorative/ornamental perennial lines which may have royalty cost associated with them. Keep items such as basic perennials- day lilies and such.
Liquidate some of the land. Yes, they bought it high. They can also pay the bank some of the money and keep their doors open while taking a smaller loss.

Now don't think me a hard ass.

Yes, Monrovia is a name brand recognized nationwide. The name a lot of people equate with quality- that is what they have going for them.

In reality, the market has cut back. Plants are luxury goods.
Housing has slowed and people are not working on their homes as much.
The financial resources are not there as banks are not lending for home building or many improvements.
Most home owners have already planted trees and basic shrubs and they have moved on to inexpensive, quick seasonal color. They may add a few special items to their landscape, but the key word is few.

I feel sorry if a trusted name like Monrovia goes to the wayside (no pun intended). They have helped to build what America views as a reliable name in nursery products. The bank will not get their money back if Monrovia closes entirely. Liquidators will be sent in and blocks of plants auctioned off for pennies on the dollar.

Other large nursery growers struggle at the moment Iseli Nursery has filed for Chapter 11 as of October 5, 2010. America's largest suppliers of roses Weeks Wholesale, and Jackson and Perkins have joined the ranks of  troubled nurseries. An article on, an anonymous reader know as Hort Guy commented. "The rose business is on the edge and the 'National Flower' could be without growers."
Who will grow these roses for Americans? I say the small growers will. Breeders will have to pick up and do the production work themselves. We will return to what our roots in the nursery business have always been- small nurseries, in house production, local suppliers.
Perhaps mail order will rise like a phoenix?

Maybe these unfortunate events will create a movement in localized nurseries with more of a personal and hands on approach to what they sell. Can this be the catalyst that moves the the nursery business away from corporate America?
So many of us have taken this stance with the farmer. We try so hard to support local farming, farmers markets, food co-ops. Should we ask this of the nursery trade and our gardening communities?

Support local nurseries, local tree growers, small greenhouses growers.

1 comment:

  1. Plants which are grown at home have plenty to give us as they are more nutritious and without the chemicals.