The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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