Garden Clippings for January 20, 2018
In the last 5 or 6 years, I’ve had many meetings in Grand Rapids, Michigan, giving me lots of opportunity to drive down I-69 and notice the skids of product stored on a parking lot just west of Imlay City. One day this past September curiosity got the better of me and I turned off the Imlay City exit and headed towards Graham Rd.
What I thought was a parking lot was more of a storage compound, several acres huge. It was a Saturday and since there was no activity, this brave soul drove right in and discovered skids upon skids of bagged lawn and garden products, mostly soils and mulches. Turns out, they were all Scotts products, clearly marked, labelled and lined up ready for shipment.
Being a Scotts customer, I felt it to be my right to explore. I quickly realized that the few truckloads of Scotts products that find their way to DeGroot’s represented the tiniest of a miniscule fraction of their business.
I got out a calculator, pencil and paper and took a few minutes to guesstimate the number of skids at the distribution yard. It added up to at least 24,000 pallets and probably much more. Kitty corner of the yard across the highway was a smaller compound.
It was September and presumably near the end of Scotts busy garden supply season, and I figured the inventory would double or triple by early spring. I did the math and concluded the spring inventory on site would amount to a whopping 2 or 3 thousand truckloads.
The business of gardening is obviously alive and well. For the most part, Scotts products land up at Menards, Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart, and Meijer. Some would land up at independent garden centres.
Scotts, headquartered in Marysville, Ohio is a multinational company selling garden products in Europe, Asia, the UK, and beyond. They entered the Canadian market in 1977 when they began selling their products exclusively through the Home Hardware chain. Their claim to fame at the time was Turf Builder lawn fertilizer.
Scotts is a rapidly growing company and most of their growth has come by swallowing up smaller companies such as fertilizer plants, soil processing facilities and pesticide companies. Thirty years ago, Scotts acquired Hyponex, America’s biggest supplier of soils and soil mixes. Twenty years ago, Scotts went to bed with Monsanto and became the sole distributor for retail Round-up and their related lines. They merged with Miracle-Gro in 1995. A few short years ago, Scotts acquired Fafard, a Quebec based supplier and distributor of peat moss.
In 2012, Scotts cleverly saw the light and started up a company called Hawthorne Gardening Company, whose mission is to sell growing equipment and supplies to the fast growing Cannabis industry.
No doubt, Scott’s success can also be attributed to their slick advertising and marketing plan. Somehow, Scotts has convinced much of the gardening public that their products are better than the competition. And that’s in spite of their prices being consistently higher than smaller regional suppliers that don’t have high distribution and advertising costs.
Scotts’ corporate climb has not always been a bed of roses. In 2012 they were hit with two multi-million legal judgments, one of which stemmed from a few years of lacing their bird seed with insecticide designed to keep pesky insects from damaging their product on the store shelf. The battle was a long and nasty one, because nobody could accurately determine the effect the laced seed had on hungry birds.
In honour of 150 years in business, 2018 marks the final year of Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Gro1000 program giving away 1,000 grants to garden groups and societies who are making efforts to benefit communities through gardens. Sarnia-Lambton’s One Tomato was a recent beneficiary of Scotts soils for their garden at Goodwill industries. The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation is a separate 501 (C) (3) entity which is the American equivalent to a registered non-profit Canadian charity.
Interesting to note is that at a recent Garden Centre Group Coop meeting with the Canadian Scotts sales representative, I asked if it would make sense for DeGroot’s to buy product from their Imlay City yard, a mere 30 miles from Sarnia. The sales rep knew nothing about their Michigan location and insisted that all South-western Ontario products will continue to come out of their nearest distribution centre in Delhi, Ontario.