<b>Trees, ornamental & bedding plant:</b> Hard goods, easy sales

Features - Supplement

Today's vendors work with landscapers to provide products and services that please.

April 23, 2010

The easy-maintenance Samovar Fountain from Ceramo can be used as a focal point of a landscape or as a complementary piece in a larger ensemble. www.ceramousa.com The 21st century landscape scene is obviously rooted, as it were, in all manner of beautiful plants. But it doesn’t have to be confined to them. In fact, as customers have become more sophisticated in their tastes, many hard goods vendors are crafting high-end complementary items that are often as attractive as the plants themselves.

Not only that; the companies that create these products are also creating landscape-specific marketing and merchandising programs that help the landscape pro expand his services – and his bottom line.

Ceramo Company in Jackson, Mo., for example, tries to make it easy for professional landscapers by giving them useful business tools. “Our Web site, www.ceramousa.com, lets them shop 24/7 with clients zooming in on the products in great detail without showing their costs,” says Vernon L. Kasten, Ceramo’s president and CEO. “With a minimum order of $500, they can shop by project, getting our great prices without having to stock inventory. Our regional customer representatives have a great handle on the area’s product preferences, and they assure a single point of contact for pricing, shipping, service issues, alerts regarding deliveries and specials so that the landscapers can get what they need when they need it at their best pricing from the same rep via phone.”

Ceramo markets a wide range of high-end landscape options. The company’s more-popular landscaping pieces are generally the larger, sturdier containers and fountains. “Most landscapers who work with Ceramo already have a pretty clear idea of what they require but are searching for ‘just the right look,’” Kasten says.

Kasten says Ceramo works directly with landscapers and garden centers in a unified fashion. “If one of our landscapers is having trouble meeting the $500 minimum order or wants to see the pottery in person first, we have a very large network of several thousand garden centers that stock our products and are more than happy to sell the pottery, as needed, through their center,” Kasten says.

The Maine Bucket Company in Lewiston, Maine, likewise, is landscaper friendly, with both products and with services for contractors.

The company sells a lot of wiskey barrel-style planters, half barrel planters and architectural planters of many sizes and shapes. It also offers arbors and pergolas to the landscape customer.

“Our volume planter right now is the half cedar wiskey barrel style,” says owner Doug Boyd. “Every landscaper knows the use of this style planter. Sales tend to be regionalized due to freight costs. We do great from the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions, back to New England. Our colored half barrel planters can have some interesting twists. How about offering your customers planters in your local university colors? We can and do stain them in a multitude of colors.”

Boyd says he likes to pitch options to landscapers that they might not have thought of previously. “Homeowners even in this economy – and maybe because of this economy – spend more time in their back yards,” he says. “Maybe the bigger projects (such as stone landscaping) have slowed down, but people still want their retreat areas to look great. Deck rail planters, window boxes, fence planters, container gardens, vegetable gardens and especially raised bed gardens for the aging boomer population should all have a place in the landscapers’ proposals to their customers.”

Boyd says his company’s architectural and raised bed planters have been an area of emphasis the past couple of years. “A lot of landscapers miss out on deck and patio features that homeowners will buy,” he says. “They do the in-ground work, but leave a lot of the other decorating to someone else. I think they miss a lot of opportunity for sales. We spend a lot of time talking to landscapers about providing container gardens, raised vegetable gardens, etc., to their homeowner and commercial customers.”

Campania International deals primarily with retail garden centers, but company CEO Glenn Appel Campania’s landscape clientele often have the same questions. “When we talk to landscapers at tradeshows or when the call us directly,” Appel says, “we hear requests from them for special orders, drop shipments, on time deliveries, and product availability lists, all of which we provide to our customers through our Web site and through our sales team.”

Campania offers a broad range of containers in different materials, each of which has particular applicability to a landscape project. “The choice and selection we offer is big selling point for our customers,” Appel says.

For landscape projects Campania’s cast stone containers and fountains are particularly popular, Appel says. Cast stone items are available in a variety of styles and sizes, from classic to contemporary, and in a wide selection of patinas. “Our cast stone is weather-resistant and durable,” Appel said. “Its weight and high PSI is also a plus for many landscape applications. Our glazed offerings are also popular.”

The company also offers lighter-weight and easy-to-move items for roof decks. “We offer these in very large sizes at reasonable prices,” Appel says. “That’s something that may be difficult to find in more traditional materials. Lighter weight also provides more ease in installation for these extra large sizes.”

Campania also works with its retail garden center customers to form a bond with the landscape community. “We strongly encourage our customers to embrace landscapers by displaying our catalog and offering to special order,” he says.

The author is editor of Garden Center. Send him an e-mail at yyoungblood@gie.net.