Some said it was impossible, others cautiously awaited its arrival, but the day has come and Amazon now sells live plants online. Unveiled earlier this year, Amazon’s plant store was launched, allowing consumers to purchase virtually any plant, from orchids to shrubs, online. Lawn and garden hardgoods, like other industries with easy-to-store inventory, have been sold on Amazon for years but live plants were often considered too great of a challenge for the tech giant. Now that they’ve entered the market, the horticultural industry has joined the ranks of other sectors impacted by “The Amazon Effect”, leaving many wondering how, if at all, Amazon will overcome the unique intricacies of live plant sales.
Overcoming the Logistics of Selling Plants online
Many people are curious about how Amazon or other online merchants are going to be able to manage not only what stock is available but also the quality of the products themselves. They are live plants after all. Garden Centres Magazine’s article “What’s Up with Amazon” outlined a number of factors in managing the logistics of selling plants online. Perhaps the most obvious question would be determining who would be responsible for fulfilling the online orders. That responsibility has fallen on the shoulders of Proven Winners’ largest supplier, Four Star Greenhouse.This means all of Proven Winner’s line of products will be on Amazon, with that many plants available how do that manage it.
In the same article, Tom Smith, founding member of Proven Winners and Four Star’s president, highlights another key concern: inventory and availability. “They don’t commit to any numbers. It’s a wild card on Amazon, so it’s basically what we have available,” he says, adding that availability is a challenge. “You have to get people out there counting plants, pot by pot, because that’s what you’re selling now — not cases — and you better be dead-on right,” Smith explains. “This isn’t something you can do once a week. It’s a daily process. If you don’t deliver or you deliver bad quality, you’re gone.”
Manually counting plants is an old way of solving what continues to be a current logistical challenge, - one that may sound, for many, sounds all-too familiar.
Overcoming Inventory Woes
For many wholesale suppliers and distributors, LinkGreen has helped address that challenge. LinkGreen online ordering service integrates with wholesale suppliers’ internal inventory systems, ensuring that wholesale online customers have access to current inventory at all times. This ensures that when a product is ordered by a customer, the order can be reliably fulfilled. For retailers, this represents enormous peace of mind, while suppliers present themselves as reliable and trustworthy - is paramount for nurturing repeat customers.
A Threat or Opportunity for Garden Centers
Online plant prices won’t be able to compete against local brick and mortar stores, but is the price all that matters? The real appeal of online ordering to everyday consumers is convenience, and if people are comfortable ordering groceries online without picking their produce, the same attitude will likely be applied to plants as well. Reliable quality of plants will be the most significant factor in the success of online plant sales. So yes for many independent garden centers this new shift in the industry will bring change, and they will have to adapt. Online sales offer opportunities for garden centers as many have been reaping the rewards of both a brick and mortar store as well as an online store for years. What is clear from this new development is that the horticultural industry can no longer ignore the impact of e-commerce.