Friday, April 24, 2009

Buy Local - not box stores

I can't tell you how disheartening it is to find that people buy plants from big box stores. Don't do it! You're not just taking out the family retail businesses but you're also hurting the local farmers/growers. Agriculture as a whole is suffering terribly and most of your plant growers sell at the market over the winter, just to make meat ends. Living off their summer earnings is never enough and most just get by, barely able to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. You may think I'm lying, over embelishing the truth, but I'm not. I see it first hand. In fact, I've stood by last two years and watched three or four major growers go under because locally, no one supported them. And while oh yes, you may think competition is happy about this, they're really not. It's very very upsetting to see your competition go down and hit rock bottom. No one wishes that on someone else, especially in the plant world. With garden centers, there is always something that they do and they do it well. By supporting your box store, it's just adding to their incentive to take up the business, sell at lower prices and give you poor plants, poor service and poor warranties (like they give any at all!).

Let me break it down for you. Often, box stores will go up to a grower and COMPLETELY buy out one product so no one else has it locally but them! Growers put a halt to this by reserving a block of plants for other retail (family) businesses, but some are greedy and allow this to happen. (side note, small businesses do this too but its different when you're competiting with competition that is also a small business of the same type).

Here's the catch. At any given point, any year, maybe the box store doesn't want to sell this type of plant anymore. They pull out of a promise to buy all this product and wham, the grower is stuck with thousands of potential dollars of plants that die because they can't sell them off to the local retailers because the retailers maybe found that plant somewhere else (plants are like clothes, the trend changes from year to year). A lot of that is fault of the plotting with the devil. And don't get me wrong, I may walk into a box store from time to time but I'd rather support the smaller businesses because they're the ones that'll go the extra mile for you in customer service. And while the box stores aren't going anywhere, it does make an impact eventually if a large amount of people stop going. Rumor has it that Walmart is pulling out of the garden center plant buisness. That they're going to replace the greenhouse with a large sports section. Is this a good idea? Possibly. Is this true? I'm not sure, but it's sure as hell floating around up north here. This is something I would like to confirm but it may be something on the table for them right at this point.

By no means do I mean to slander the big box stores. In fact, there is alot of good they do behind closed doors that we don't see (like exercisin their employees through stretches and workouts before work, charties, etc). But in this world, where greenhouses are already so limited in their numbers, its nice to see support when they need it the most. Planting helps your enviroment, trees clean the air, you've heard it all before, I know, but don't you think it's being repeated for a reason? People aren't just going green for the hell of it. Pesticides aren't being banned because of the colour of the label. They are bad for you and the promotion of going green is because they're trying to thin out the growing spike in cancer (amongst other things). Going green means supporting your local small greenhouse so they can support the growers. It all goes back to the foundations and growers are just that, foundations of a very big picture, the base of our mountain. Without them, we crumble and fall.

Remember that next time you're at the grocery store and buying an apple or when you see the city planting a tree or a garden.

Remember that when you pass a flower, pick it because you can't think of the name and bring it to the garden center to identify it.

Remember it. Because our growers, our garden centers are becoming extinct.


Helen said...

I hear you -- and I wonder if people realize that the flip side of "cheap prices" is negative stress on the supply side. I'm guilty of sometimes plant shopping at big box stores (never Walmart, on general principle), but do try to shop locally or at the nursery most of the time.

What's your position on Loblaws and its President's Choice stuff? Do they fall into the big box category?

Andrea said...

Helen, they do fall into big box category, but only because they do the same thing, getting a grower to grow specific things and then pulling out abruptly, leaving the grower to eat the cost and throwing out the plants (or shipping to the states as a last minute panic). I don't know a whole lot on how they manage with their loyalties but I know with our company, we don't give our business entirely to one grower, but spread the money around so everyone can keep their heads above the water.