VPG, The Independents Friend

outlook_V60b_banner.jpgAs the Holiday Season is here, we start to review and take into account what has unfolded in the world of Lawn and Garden in the previous year. Two issues always seem to come to the forefront: Where did my margins go? Which lines are being sold in the mass merchant channels?

It is a reality that we all face every day in this ever changing industry. Let’s be honest, you do not have the buying power to compete with the retail giants, go head to head with them on price and win with the same exact sku’s while making an acceptable margin. And when you do sell the customer one of these “mass merchant product lines”, you can win that day with the knowledge you have…but are they going to come back to you and buy it again? Or, are they going to take your knowledge, save a few dollars and buy the same product again and again when they are grocery shopping at a mass merchant to save a trip in this busy world? Think about it…that is the way the world is today. Loyalty is a hard trait for some to come by.

There is an answer for you though. It’s called VPG. Since 1968, VPG, the makers of ferti•lome®, Hi-Yield® and Natural Guard® has been the independents friend. VPG is a full line of fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides and pre/post emergent herbicides that ONLY SELLS TO INDEPENDENT GARDEN CENTERS, FEED MILLS, HARDWARE STORES AND FARM AND RANCH STORES. By the way our company is set up we are committed to the loyal owners, managers and employees that have built us over the years…we actually appreciate the hard work you have done and continue to do to be successful!

Let’s talk about the other part, margins! We, at VPG, believe that it is still ok and accepted in this world to make money! Why should independent owners have to make less on a product because certain companies choose to “give” their product away to the mass merchants? At VPG, we offer equal to superior products and equal to better pricing with larger than normal margins

Go walk your mass merchant competitors. Look at their selection and their pricing. Make mental notes of which companies are catering to them. Notice their retails are very near your costs. If you have had enough and want to take your chemical section back to being a money maker and a difference maker…think VPG.

VPG, the makers of ferti-lome®, Hi-Yield® and Natural Guard®, is 100% patron owned manufacturer of lawn and garden products, providing you with Local Solutions for Local Problems™.

Order Now Using Program Number: V60S1

Arett Sales 2013 Recap

outlook_A01d_banner.jpgThe lawn and garden industry was filled with lots of excitement and uncertainty in 2013. With a major shift in the distributor landscape, many retailers were unclear of how the year would play out. Lindsey Chesbrough, President of Arett Sales, reacted to the industry change back in January saying “In response to the unprecedented recent events in our industry, Arett Sales has taken several initiatives to ensure that independent lawn and garden centers can have a strong, stable and secure supply chain partner that will be able to move products from manufacturers to retail shelves with as little disruption as possible. As a fourth generation family-owned business, Arett Sales takes great pride in supporting the industry for over sixty years, maintaining open communications with our customers, and providing fast order turnaround with high order fill rates”. After a full year has passed, here are some highlights from Arett Sales as well as results from the 2013 Arett Report Card as scored by Arett’s customers.

Merchandising
The Arett Sales Merchandising Department spends the vast majority of their time developing sales programs with manufacturers. Before programs can be developed, the product has to be sourced. Many of the manufactures they source product from are based domestically in the United States. However, they find themselves exploring the opportunities that exist in other markets and countries more and more. Recently a few members of the Arett team traveled to England to meet with a group of British companies who are looking for ways to export their products. The Arett team spent three days reviewing new product lines and visiting garden centers. The most notable were Melbicks, part of England’s Garden & Leisure Group, Notcutts and Dobbies. They were amazed to see the amount of foot traffic in the stores during a visit on a Wednesday. Holiday product was well merchandised and on full display for the upcoming Christmas shopping rush.

They also met with fourteen companies who are not currently selling their products in the United States through the independent garden center channel. While there are a lot of steps from the initial review of products to a completed sales program, what they saw and heard about these new product lines bodes well for new offerings from Arett Sales in the near future. They will continue to work with the best manufactures they found in England and keep you updated on new developments.

Members of the merchandising team also attended these events in 2013: Americas Mart, National Hardware Show, National Lawn & Garden Show, Gro Group Vision, Independent Garden Center Show and a sourcing trip to China.

Advertising & Marketing
Greensmith Graphics, the advertising division of Arett Sales, had another successful year assisting independent garden centers and hardware stores in driving traffic and increasing sales through a variety of advertising solutions. For the first time ever, Greensmith offered the Arett Co-op program which allowed retailers to transfer their show wild card money into 2014 advertising dollars and earn up to an additional $275 of free Co-op funded by Greensmith Graphics. This program helped many customers increase their advertising budget for 2014 and re-invest into their stores. Click here for more information on the Arett Co-Op program.

Digital marketing was the hot topic in 2013 with many retailers focusing on E-Mail marketing, Social Media, Video Marketing and, most prominently, Website & E-Commerce Development. Online sales in the United States will hit approximately $262 billion this year, up over 13% from last year, and will account for 10% of all U.S. retail sales in 2017. Many retailers are looking to take advantage of the E-Commerce boom in an effort to better service their customers with a more convenient shopping experience and an expanded product offering. Here are a few websites that we have built for our customers Dees Nursery, Paul Parent Garden Club, and Aco Hardware.

Arett University was another major priority of Greensmith Graphics in 2013 and we are excited to announce a partnership between Ohio State University and Arett University in 2014. Ohio State University will be providing a wide variety of content to the Arett U program on topics such as Climate Change, Greenhouse Condensation, Composting, Pest Control, Vegetable Gardening and much more! We have also scheduled some great virtual seminars within Arett U in 2014 ranging from topics such as “Seed Starting Done Right”, “How to Sell the New American Lawn to Your Customers”, “Watering 101 for Your Lawn & Garden”, and the “Latest in Lawn Care Innovation”. To register for these free seminars and watch last year seminars, please visit http://www.arettu.com/Latestnews.aspx.

Operations
The introduction of new business, increased business with existing customers and the addition of many new customers required the branches to quickly adapt to our ever changing business model. The net result has been an over 50% increase in sales volume through both distribution centers, with an inventory level that has increased to over $30 million dollars for the first time ever. Plus, the number of SKU’s is fast approaching 20,000 with new items arriving daily.

To support this volume the Bristol, Connecticut, facility has expanded into another 65,000 square feet in their existing facility and has added over 30,000 square feet of pallet racking. The Troy, Ohio, facility relocated the entire operation to a larger facility with expansion capabilities up to 200,000 square feet. Both branches hired many new employees to support the increase in volume. The branch managers successfully handled the increase in volume all without any interruption in service to our customers.

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Sales
With a major shift in the World of Lawn & Garden Distribution taking place at the conclusion of last year, 2013 brought on an expansion for Arett Sales. Ten new Sales Professionals joined our industry leading Sales Team, increasing our service level in existing markets and reach into new customer bases. The acquisition of Good Tidings and the upcoming opening of a new Good Tidings Showroom in Baltimore, MD will make Arett Sales the one-stop-shop leader for Christmas and holiday merchandise

Overall, sales were good at the retail level. This year saw a continuation of trends that found their roots 2-3 years ago. “Organics” and “Sustainables” still drive the growth in the mini-homestead and urban farming categories. Consumers are still looking to grow their own consumables through container, raised-bed, and indoor gardening. An extension of this trend has been the reemergence of canning and preserving, and a new interest in heirloom seeds. Sales in premium and specialty soils continue to remain strong.

Pertaining to outdoor living and decor, we have seen a return to bright, vibrant colors when it comes to lawn ornaments. The Independent Retailer continues to reclaim the Wild Bird Care category from the “Big Box” retailer and water features have seen a brisk return to popularity. Grilling and barbecue now has a strong following from avid hobbyists, who are more apt to purchase high-end grills and kamado-style ceramic cookers/smokers.

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Information Technology
One of Arett’s major short term priorities is improving the Business Systems within the company. As we speak, we have an infrastructure upgrade in progress that includes replacing our server hardware, installing new server software and creating a virtualized server environment that will give us an Arett Private Cloud Infrastructure. We have already upgraded our Exchange Email and Arett NAS Servers to this Virtualized Environment. This will allow Arett to enjoy improved performance, increased capacity and elevated Disaster Recovery Planning.

Arett has also improved our EDI programs and established several new EDI connections with customers and vendors alike which frees up time for our customer service and accounting teams to better deal with the customers’ needs rather than handling, matching and processing paperwork. This gives us the ability to focus on the customer, new products and services.

Looking ahead, Arett is nearing the completion of Phase 1 of upgrading our Business Systems which is Software Vendor Section. This project will include a new, state of the art ERP Software System (Enterprise Resource Planning) and Hardware Equipment. This 1.5 year and approximately $1.5 million project will provide Arett leading edge technology to better serve our customers and empower our employees with better processes and access to information.

The 2013 Arett Sales Report Card

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C&S Products Company, Inc. Continues to Grow the Wild Bird Category

outlook_C01_banner.jpgC&S Products Company, Inc. is the pioneer and undisputed leader in the Wild Bird Suet Market. Since our founding in 1986, C&S Suet, Squirrel, and Wild Bird Feeding products have achieved unprecedented levels of customer loyalty.

Their commitment to quality, unique, and innovative products, leads the industry in wildlife acceptance and customer satisfaction. For over twenty-seven years, C&S Products Company, Inc. has strived to produce the best wild bird and squirrel feeding items money can buy. Their goal has always been to bring the consumer the “best value for the dollar spent”. The Treat products continue to grow nationally, but some of their largest growth has come from the No-Melt, No Mess Delight Wild Bird Cakes, their one-of-a-kind Suet Nuggets™, and now their Seed SNAKS™ with Suet Nuggets™.

C&S Suet Delights are a soft dough texture, which is then pressed into cake form. C&S’s process, unlike others who pour their dough products into a tray, creates the only true NO MELT suet product line in the world. The base of corn meal, rendered beef suet, and roasted peanuts, along with other quality fruits and ingredients, makes C&S Suet Delight products unmatched in the industry. Their Delights are the fastest growing segment of their business. They offer tremendous consumer value, but most importantly, the birds love them. Watch for the newest Delight items coming soon using a new unique formulation. Your customers will love them as much as the birds will!

In addition to Suet Treats and Delights, C&S has revolutionized the wild bird feeding industry once again with their new Suet Nuggets™ line of formulations designed for suet, fruit, and insect eating birds. The Nuggets line is packaged in re-sealable bags and available in four current flavors and two brand new formulas to attract more songbirds. If you are a serious birder, or even a beginner, this ready to feed wild bird food has a high energy suet base, which together means no waste and no mess!

The Nuggets can be fed alone on a platform feeder or Nugget/Peanut/Sunflower feeder using 1/3″ wire mesh. To adapt bluebirds to this food source: start by putting a small amount of Bluebird Nuggets™ on the feeder ledge. Once the birds discover the Nuggets, move them inside the feeder. Nuggets may also be blended with 5-10 lbs. of your favorite wild bird seed mix. This mix may then be fed from tube or hopper style feeders.

C&S Suet Nuggets™ products represent quite a departure for the industry. Independent testing shows wild birds love them, they are easy to use and refill, and come in a handy re-sealable bag. They will provide hours of enjoyment from watching nature in action.

The Nuggets can be fed alone on a platform feeder or Nugget/Peanut/Sunflower feeder using 1/3″ wire mesh. To adapt bluebirds to this food source: start by putting a small amount of Bluebird Nuggets™ on the feeder ledge. Once the birds discover the Nuggets, move them inside the feeder. Nuggets may also be blended with 5-10 lbs. of your favorite wild bird seed mix. This mix may then be fed from tube or hopper style feeders.

Buffaloam: The Importance of Organic Matter

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Understanding the importance of “Organic Matter” is critical in successful organic gardening. Adding organic matter to your soil does several things: it supplies immediate nutrients and nutrient reserves that are held in the soil for later use by the plants, it increases the overall number and activity of the soil’s microorganisms, and it helps hold water and loosen soil structure. Organic matter is a very powerful tool.

Healthy soil life in your potted plants and native garden soil depends on continual replenishment of fresh organic matter and humus. BuffaLoam Organic Compost averages over 35% organic matter and humus content. These high levels of organic matter and humus provide nutrition availability for a wide variety of growing plants. It also improves soil structure and builds nutrient reserves in organic slow release fashion. Enhanced micro-organism activity in your soil media is another major benefit. The dark color you see is stable humus. It is recommended that you blend Organic Buffalo Compost with any bagged potting mix or native soils at a rate of 4 parts potting mix to 1 part compost. Blending at the suggested rates will increase the organic matter content of most mixes by 300%! It can take decades for nature to build very thin layers of humus on its own. Adding BuffaLoam Organic compost gives gardener’s a huge head start on that process.

BuffaLoam Brand Products are based on fully composted and aged buffalo manure. It is produced exclusively on their Diamond Tail Ranch in northern Colorado. After a rigorous testing, turning, curing, and measuring process of approximately six months, the compost is aged for an additional eighteen months. This testing and aging process allows BuffaLoam to develop a compost product that is highly consistent, completely finished, with a rich dark color and no offensive odor. There is simply no other compost product like it on the market.

BuffaLoam Organic Potting Soil is ideal for starting and feeding plants without any additional additives. The compost is blended with fine grade Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss to produce a potting blend that is dense, packed with nutrients and has great moisture holding capacity.

BuffaLoam Organic Plant Food is a loose compost tea that is highly effective and couldn’t be easier to use. The compost is given an additional screening to produce a very fine texture that easily releases its nutrients when mixed with water. BuffaLoam adds the right amount of sea kelp harvested from the cold Norwegian coastline and Endo Mycorrhizae. It is recommend to add two tablespoons of plant food to one half gallon of water and stir it up. The 1-1-1 NPK content means it will not burn or over feed any plants. The compost tea can be used every time a plant is watered.

Arbor Stampede, Premium Tree and Shrub Starter gets new plantings on the right start with root supporting nutrients and Endo and Ecto Mycorrhizae Fungi. The addition of sea kelp and yucca extract boost the effectiveness of the compost. The Tree and Shrub Starter is the newest BuffaLoam product and is a great add on sale to a bare root or balled tree or any potted shrub. The Arbor Stampede should be mixed into the native soil in the top six inches of backfill around the plant. This will provide maximum root contact and begin to build the nutrient reserves and soil structure that is so critical for survivability with new plantings.

All BuffaLoam products are packaged in unique and eye catching ways. The dark rich color and consistency of the compost and potting is highlighted in an oversized coffee bag with a window. Unlike most plastic bagged compost products, consumers can easily see what they are getting. The loose compost tea is packed in an attractive and reusable tin. The clear lid on top allows consumers to again see the product and know when it’s time to buy more!

“BuffaLoam is a very unique compost. It has much greater bacterial populations than any of our other composts. Its nutrient values are also higher.”
-Donny Comer, Founder of the Grow Initiative

Order Now Using Program Number: B04s1

Top 10 Tips from LFS Glove: How to Make More Profit Per Peg

outlook_A63_banner.jpgGloves can be a valuable part of your product mix, adding to the bottom line and helping with customer retention. Here are ten good reasons to build up your glove inventory and make more profit per peg:

10. Gloves are inexpensive. Even very good gloves are an affordable splurge, and many of your customers will want two or three different styles for the different jobs they tackle. Make sure your gloves are easy to find and well stocked. Encourage customers to buy several pairs to keep in their various work areas: a pair in the greenhouse, another in the weeding bucket, one in the garage, and a spare pair in the car.

9. Gloves get lost. It’s a good thing they do, too, because good quality gloves won’t wear out very quickly. If your customers love the gloves they found at your store, they’ll come back for replacements for the ones they lose or lend to a friend. Be the place they can count on for really good gloves.

8. Gloves are a fashion statement. Really! With the bright colors and styles available today, nobody wants to wear boring, white cotton Mickey Mouse gloves anymore. Educate your customers about the relative merits of natural rubber (best grip) and nitrile (best abrasion-resistance) palm dips. Offer them some high-end deerskin gloves, and some combination leather/knit performance styles.

7. Gloves make great gifts! Don’t put your pretty garden gloves away in the winter – put a big bow on the rack and remind your customers that their friends and family will love those brightly colored, versatile styles as much as they do. Gloves are easy to mail and there are styles and sizes to suit everyone. Don’t forget the kids’ gloves!

6. Gloves are thinner. People who “hate to wear gloves” love the new ultra-thin palm-dipped styles that let them feel what they’re doing. They want to be able to pick up seeds and handle delicate transplants with their gloves on. Be sure to have a good selection of sizes and colors of the new sheer glove styles.

5. Gloves are cool. Modern “breathable” gloves help keep hands from sweating. Seamless knit palm-dipped gloves with protective palm and fingertip coatings allow hands to breathe, as do performance styles with leather or synthetic leather palms and knit back of hand. No need to have hot hands – unless it’s cold outside and you want to keep warm, in which case see number 4.

4. Gloves are warm. There are many kinds of winter or cool weather work gloves available today, from thick, soft knits with protective palm coatings to insulated performance and leather styles. Make sure your insulated work and garden gloves are prominently displayed all winter.

3. Gloves are impulse items. Put them all around your store: put the performance and leather styles near the tools, put the palm-dips by the pots and plants, put the ultra sheer styles near the seed racks, and the fully-coated styles by the water feature. Be sure to put a counter-top rack of kid styles at the checkout stands.

2. Gloves are interesting. Well-merchandized gloves start conversations. The gloves themselves should attract interest: bright colors, patterns, logos, and the tags should convey the most important points about uses and benefits. Customers will want to know which gloves work best for which chores, so the more you know, and the more varieties you stock for different applications, the better your sales.

And the number one reason to keep those pegs filled?

1. Gloves sell! Gloves sell because they’re inexpensive, and get lost and have to be replaced; because they’re useful, colorful, fashionable, cool, warm, make great gifts. They sell year-round, and in a dozen different locations in your store. And the comfortable margins on this sweet little impulse item guarantee you a dependable, low-risk source of profit.

2014 Holiday Trends And Merchandise Update From Good Tidings

outlook_G48_banner.jpgThe Good Tidings team has been shopping the globe to bring our customers the best in holiday trends and merchandise. Recently the sourcing team traveled to Hong Kong in October to source new products for the 2014 season. There were a few new innovations for trees – the trend seems to be leaning toward PE with indexed silhouettes and there were a couple of new lighting techniques for trees. LED lights on indoor trees continue to improve but, in general, most consumers still prefer the incandescent lights on their trees. Good Tidings will be offering a few trees with lighting which changes from clear to multi, and also trees with twinkling lights. White trees are very strong and we will have several new styles in the showroom. We will be also be featuring several new styles of half trees which are great for displaying ornaments.

In lighting, LED is still gaining some ground but incandescent still outsells LED in America. It is interesting to note that our neighbors to the north in Canada sell more LED. LED lights are really effective in outdoor decor and they do save energy. We found some upscale additions to our Outdoor Décor program which we feel will be good for the garden centers – it will give them a higher quality product than what is available in the mass merchants.

Themes for 2014 are featuring a lot of white: trees, ornaments, foliage and florals. Arctic Frost is an icy group with snowflakes, polar bears, and penguins, all in white and accented with pale blue. Vintage Noel showcases a silver tinsel tree with vintage style ornaments in lime, red, and silver. Our Simply Red collection concentrates on red and white with a slight Nordic feel. Urban Chic is our natural collection, incorporating a little glamour to it this year with gilt added to rustic components.

Birdhouses are making a comeback while snowmen and owls are still strong. The natural look is still very popular with an emphasis on forest creatures such as: squirrels, raccoons, and foxes in our Forest Life theme. Traditional themes are still very much family oriented with “handmade” looking ornaments and trim. Burlap is a very strong trend – don’t miss our burlap ornaments and trim in our Into The Woods Group. Wreaths and garlands will also have burlap elements this year.

You’ll get to see all this and much more at our brand new showroom opening January 3, 2014. Make your appointment today online, email Dottie or by calling 410-360-6614. We strongly urge you to schedule your appointments during our early buy period from January 3 to March 7 for best product selection and pricing.