A discussion with Bob Smiland, head of sales and marketing for Monrovia Nurseries

I meet with Bob Smiland, who is the Chief Sales & Marketing Officer for Monrovia Nurseries.  Bob was nice enough to sit down with me today, and chat about some of the rumors flying around Monrovia. If you remember, Monrovia sent a letter to all of their retail customers asking them to book and additional $20 million dollars in spring bookings. This was on top of the spring bookings the retailers had already placed. If the retail customers could not come up with the additional money the bank asked for, then the bank wanted Monrovia to move more plants through the box store chain. Bob say's that they did not meet their goal of raising an additional $20 million dollars. You will see Monrovia plants in the box stores. They will be in plain black containers, delivered by independent trucking companies. They will not use their own branded Monrovia trucks. Bob tell's me that the box stores will not receive any discounts above what any independent garden center would receive. Naturally, with the volume the box stores do they will likely receive the maximum discount, but no more than what would be offered to their best independent customers. Bob also say's that none of the exclusive varieties that Monrovia grows will be sold at the box stores. It's clear that Monrovia never thought they would find themselves in this situation, and it does pain them. They grew just too many plants a few years ago when the world was their oyster. With the downturn in the economy, they found themselves with too many plants. By opening up the distribution channels to the box stores, they hope to reduce the amount of stock on the ground. Bob also mentioned they have reduced their production substantially this past and current year.

We had been doing business with Monrovia for well over 20 years, and always felt they we're a top notch nursery supplier. I think, and Bob agrees that Monrovia was a company that had a lot of pride, bordering on invincibility when it came to what was possible in years past. No one is immune to the giddy feeling that enveloped the nursery trades a few years ago. An attitude of anything is possible, and no one is going to tell us how to run our company prevailed. It must be painful to be told what to do by the bank, but these are the days we live in. Situations none of us would have ever thought possible a few years ago have now come to fruition.

One area Bob say's he would like to address was the poor outreach Monrovia has had over this event. We talked here at this blog on how Monrovia had already hired Mike Trebbing, who is their box store specialist, before they sent out the letter. It left a sour taste in many of their customers mouths, and he said the company should have done things differently. My guess is Monrovia is an old school company. They assumed when they sent the letter to their customers the confidentiality they requested in the letter would be honored. The nature of the new world is there are no secrets anymore, and once the letter was leaked by a industry blog, the cat was out of the bag.

Bob reads this blog, and mentioned he is also given updates by staff. So comment's made at this blog are noticed and read at Monrovia, which is a good thing. I invited Bob to comment here next time. Perhaps in the past they should have addressed the comments or post's that have appeared here before. Like a lot of companies that are here at the ANLA Clinic, they are use to doing things they way they had always been done in the past. Press release goes out, give interview to trade publications, stir, and wait. Like we have said before, that doesn't fly in this new world. One person banging away at their computer in their pajama's at home, can potentially have as much impact as traditional media had in the past. Perhaps we will see a new interactive Monrovia in the future.