Consider these five questions before signing with a company.
Rewholesale doesn’t have to be a scary word. Many landscaping companies buy a large majority – if not all – of their plant materials from rewholesalers. If a good rewholesale business is found, the landscaper can save money, time and effort. This issue isn’t so much finding a good rewholesaler but finding the right one that caters to a landscaper’s specific needs. The following are some important questions to ask before choosing which rewholesaler to sign with.
1. What can I buy here? A better question might be what can’t you buy? Buying from one place instead of using multiple sources is easier on the landscaper, says David Whittaker, vice president of Chatham Landscape Services in Marietta, Ga.
“When you’re using a rewholesaler, you’re already paying a markup,” Whittaker says. “So you’re depending on a rewholesaler to carry a wide range of materials. If they don’t have something, I’ll keep calling down the line till I find a source that has everything I need. I don’t want to have to get one thing from here and another from there and pay for partial loads and delivery fees.”
Pastorek Landscaping & Grounds Management in Pennsylvania gets 95 percent of its purchases from a rewholesaler. President Dave Pastorek says it’s important to find someone who is knowledgeable about materials, because you might not realize a small mistake until a few months down the road. He says if a rewholesaler chooses a cheaper option rather than the one asked for, the result can be devastating.
“We do a lot of commercial work and the specs are already drawn up,” Pastorek says. “The difference between two pieces can be big. If you have somebody that doesn’t know what they’re buying, trying to save money, it can change the whole project.”
Whittaker adds that the best rewholesalers have everything you’re looking for.
“A great rewholesale nursery is a one-stop shop that has quality material that you can trust when it hits the ground,” Whittaker says. “It has quality material all of the time, not some of the time.” He says a few bad trees out of 100 can ruin an entire project. “Nothing makes me abandon a rewholesaler more than when I’m on a tight deadline and a few pieces need to be exchanged.”
Rewholesalers aren’t just for basic trees and bushes. Whittaker says he uses rewholesale material for all of Chatham’s larger, commercial projects.
“We are able to use a rewholesaler,” Whittaker says of high-end projects. “But we can only use the (rewholesalers) that understand our business and the quality factor.”
2. What are the costs? Don’t be afraid to negotiate with the rewholesaler. They have the ability to play around with prices because they buy so much material in bulk. Eric Taylor, operations manager of Roundtree Landscaping in Dallas, says negotiating can only benefit you.
“With the way that the economy is, even though it’s wholesale, we’re still trying to get the best deal for the best quality materials. We work with renegotiation,” Taylor says, adding that most rewholesalers give discounts if you buy larger amounts.
“If we buy exclusively from them, what kind of discount price can we get without sacrificing the quality?” Taylor says, noting that to Roundtree price does not trump quality.
Whittaker says it’s important to make sure there is a set pricing structure in place. Inconsistent pricing strategies can ruin a business, he says. For example, if a landscaper buys flowers for $10, and then the next week the rewholesaler increases the price to $12, a $2 variable can be crippling if buying large quantities.
“In a low margin business like landscape, that can be huge,” Whittaker says of the $2 difference. “Set pricing strategies specified for your needs.”
Plant prices aren’t the only thing worth looking in to. The current economic forecast can change the cost of delivery and labor very quickly.
“When gas prices start to shoot up, fees start to go up as well,” Taylor says. “Different wholesalers charge (differently) for deliveries. Some vendors don’t charge too much for delivery. I put all that into consideration when going with someone.”
3. How quickly can I get materials? With projects being signed off on every day, the quicker plans get under way, the better.
Even if a rewholesaler doesn’t have the materials in stock, Taylor says its better to at least have a workable time frame to plan around.
“A bad rewholesaler will just say, ‘Oh, no, I don’t have it.’ They’ll just leave it like that,” he says. “The good ones will say, ‘I don’t have this right now, but I know I have some trucks coming in next week from these nurseries, and I’ll see if I can get it for you.’ They always give me a call back or shoot me an email to keep me updated. ‘Hey I can get this in, but it might be a few weeks,’ or ‘I can get this in tomorrow. Will you be ready?’ They go that extra mile.”
Taylor adds that a good relationship with your rewholesaler can help you find specific items elsewhere.
“I just give them a call and they help me out a lot,” he says. “If they don’t have something, they help me by getting them shipped in for me from someone else. Then I don’t have to get one plant shipped in from Louisiana and deal with the shipping costs.”
4. What if plans change? Sometimes, project start dates can get moved around because of the threat of weather. Taylor says a good rewholesaler will try to work with your flexible schedule.
“If you don’t schedule a delivery ahead of time, their delivery boards fill up,” he says. “The good ones do what they’ve got to do to get that out to you. They take that extra step. It makes my life a whole lot easier. Otherwise, I’m having to drive out there myself and make arrangements.”
Whittaker also says communication is key.
“If they don’t deliver 100 percent of the order, they have to communicate,” he says. “It’s OK, especially if it’s a lengthy job. Mistakes happen, but they have to contact the company as soon as there is an issue. They need to call the buyer and say, ‘We’re not going to deliver on these items,’ so (the buyer) can readjust.”
5. What should I look for? Taylor suggests searching your local area first because rewholesale companies are everywhere. “I would first try out the larger, more established ones that have been in the area for awhile,” he says. “The bigger ones are really good about working with you, and all you’ve got to do is contact them and a salesperson will come out.”
Pastorek says it’s a matter of finding who matches you. “Find a good relationship, a trusting relationship,” he says. “If you don’t feel comfortable, don’t be there.”
Great rewholesalers are “few and far between,” says Whittaker, but they’re an asset to the landscaping industry.
“(Rewholesalers) are a necessary service,” Whittaker says. “When business is slow, and you write a contract today that starts tomorrow, there’s no time to set up deliveries. It’s not practical to go straight to the source.”
The author is a freelance writer based in Cleveland.