Independent garden centers can benefit by joining an ecommerce network.

March 2020
Expanding Ecommerce By Joey Frongillo

Independent garden centers can benefit by joining an ecommerce network.

Passion, vision and ethics — it helps you visit the homes and lives of your customers and give them what they want and need. As of now, the horticulture industry has really stepped up its game and created some very cool online stores for live goods.

Unfortunately for many of those innovative online sellers of live goods, their platforms do not include independent garden centers, as evidenced by the numerous and increasing number of online retailers simply overlooking and stepping on local independents. But yet, our industry continues to celebrate them.

The messaging on those innovative online sellers? “No messy car! Skip the store! Get plants faster!”

Additionally, other ecommerce models are leading the IGC market in the wrong direction. Engaging ecommerce solely in a local market and competing for online traffic will not and does not provide ROI and the revenue volume desired or required.

Local IGCs should engage ecommerce in numerous ways, and with varying objectives. For localized ecommerce, customer service and convenience is the primary objective.

Look closely at online efforts under way impacting the IGC. Unless independents come together under one brand and one solution, even greater numbers of consumers will be lost to the online sellers than what we had lost to mass retailers.

Today, everyone has the same competition: ecommerce! Right now, it looks like it is Amazon against the world. This is true for mass retailers and the IGC in all markets.

Empowering IGCs

EdenGrene, with consumer-facing brand Bower & Branch, was built to empower ecommerce for everyone, except Amazon, of live goods, in all sizes, with supporting consumer services. From Plant Whisperers, home delivery and installation, to design and build, Bower & Branch provides consumers with greater choices and more options — and providing full accessibility to products and services alongside partnering brick and mortar retailers.

Independent garden centers can benefit by joining an ecommerce network.This all-inclusive model provides exclusive benefits for its network members and partners. Open to all, everyone is invited to participate and benefit.

“Our vision and passion is to align independents with mass retailers,” said Don Eaton, founder and current CEO. “The message of the last 25 to 35 years was wrong and is still wrong today — competition has changed, the speed of business has changed, the consumer has changed and will continue to change. It is time for some outdated thinking to be silenced and for new and younger leadership to develop.”

Bower & Branch Retail Partners adopt our ecommerce solution to reduce inventory, expand selection, increase value, define market positions and benefit from a national brand that is capturing online buyers and delivering them to local retailers and service providers. This solution is proper for large retailers and small localized retailers.

Partnership Benefits

The Retail Partners enjoy access to expertise in all product groups, supporting in-store staff by empowering them to become better sellers and service providers for all consumer needs.

Altum’s Garden Center in Indiana, a four-year member, reported turning tree Inventory in 2019 six times. What a remarkable story that has been lived out at Altum’s, where online sales for the Altum’s team are a daily occurrence.

In addition to improved turns, this model also is redefining cash flows. Many times, our garden retail partners receive commissions before the sale event is fulfilled, sometimes up to a year in advance.

Bower & Branch Retail Partners must learn to record and measure online revenue from non-inventory positions — something that “experienced” accountants may struggle with. The IGC P&L statement looks very different when the IGC is also a Bower & Branch partner.

Retail Partners engage and use this model at varying levels. Many of our retail partners have installed live online sales kiosks that are used to help consumers choose the right plant for the right space. The website’s exclusive feature of “Find Your Match” is a specialized database for providing personalized selections for the consumer, kind of like a dating service for trees.

Still, some enrolled retailers are just dipping their toes in the water, learning every day how to engage e-retailing with us. Bower & Branch moves as slow or as fast as a partner would like. The greater the in-store online sales, the more the retailer earns in commissions and the greater the investment is made into marketing around that retailer by Bower & Branch.

Digital Services

Bower & Branch has perfected “localized’ pay per click campaigns on behalf of partners, with targeted efforts on very specific zip codes only near our fully engaged members.

Independent garden retailers are invited to participate in ecommercePartner Retailers are encouraged to share Bower & Branch emails, social content and to align Bower & Branch efforts with Buy Online — Pick Up In Store, the true BOPIS for the IGC.

Focused promotions and online offers are scheduled through a full year, over five Online Seasons. This year in January, during our Early Order Promotion, online sales orders increased over 1,000%!

We also provide direct mail campaigns that align with the five Online Seasons. Consumers who have purchased are provided printed catalogs and special promotions and/or offers not available online. Many of these offers are designed to require consumers to visit our partners’ retail locations.

We have also developed — and continue to develop — strategic relationships with other national brands like the National Audubon Society. This brand association will benefit our partners with exclusive product positions, advanced knowledge of major consumer-facing programs to come and many other benefits.

We intend to and will help to re-define the term “garden center” once again for coming generations of consumers.

Additional Business Impacts

Bower & Branch also offers additional business impacts:

  • Real Inventory Control and Increased Turns: Not just digital purchasing, our systems allow for ample opportunity to move smaller orders from grower to retailer, well below typical grower and trucking minimums.
  • Guarantee Burdens Removed: Beneficial and Truth Based Product Sales makes providing referrals and recommendations from store sales staff a natural process. Guarantees are handled directly through Bower & Branch.
  • Consumer Facing Program and Model: Our IGC Partners are not customers, they are partners — we don’t sell to our partners, our only objective is their success in ecommerce. Everything we produce, build and support raises consumer awareness, increased accessibility, and higher value for consumers on behalf of our network of growers, landscapers, and retailers of all sizes.
  • Consumers GET IT!: Fresh from the Grower supported by local, real and experienced experts, providing inspiration, passion and vision. We are communicating how, when and where with truthful and non-manipulative ways.
  • One Message: We are eliminating consumer confusion and fear. Accessible online and through local retailers and service providers.

Bower & Branch is over 150 IGCs strong today and growing quickly. We are a sophisticated, intelligent, practical and impactful ecommerce business for all garden retailers of all sizes.

For tree and plant sizes that require specialized handling, those well above the ability of traditional shippers, we are LIVE from Maine to Tennessee and north to Chicagoland. Our Specialized EdenGrene distribution trucks and service providers are capable of moving live trees and plants directly to consumers and garden centers every day. Additionally, online sales are LIVE across the country with smaller items that can be shipped in boxes.

Independent garden retailers are invited to participate in ecommerce by engaging with our flagship brand Bower & Branch, supported by the Elements brand of plant care products, exclusive to our network.

Joey Frongillo

Joey Frongillo is director of engagement at Bower & Branch. Contact him at [email protected] or visit Bower & Branch is the consumer-facing brand of EdenGrene, a supply, distribution and fulfillment company of ecommerce retail of live good categories — from perennials through very large trees.