“People have to be careful because they will insure equipment and media, but people have to check their policy to see if there is coverage for data,” says Nancy Zollo, CPCU, AIC, senior claim representative with Hortica®, a brand of the Sentry Insurance Group. “Some policies may provide coverage; however, it may be an optional endorsement. You really need to know your insurance policy.”
Hardware failure, lightning strikes, power surges and fluctuations can all leave you without that precious data. Physical storms are a major culprit, and usually lead to a longer-term outage and suspension of your business.
In insurance terms, lightning and fire are considered standard perils. Power surge isn’t always covered, so check your policy.
Storm surge is often part of a hurricane. Most insurance policies do not cover this peril, but The Federal Flood Program is an option to cover Business Personal Property, which includes computer equipment. Because data recovery may be an out-of-pocket expense for the affected business, any and all precautions will only help post-storm.
What to protect
From an accounting and bookkeeping perspective, sales, inventory, payroll and income statements are crucial. You might have an accountant who takes care of this part of the business, but many smaller retailers and growers may not.
“Those records are key in the event of a loss, whether it’s a failure of hard drive or physical damage from a hurricane or tornado, because you want those available to reload, to get back in business as soon as possible,” Zollo says.
Income statements are particularly important if you have business income insurance. In the event of a claim, you will need them to show your carrier your typical income for a given time period. Insurance companies prefer monthly profit and loss statements, because they are the most up-to-date, but quarterly reports may suffice.
“You have to have data — we can’t just guess,” Zollo says. “Especially if you’re seeing an uptick in income. Even if you can say ‘I’ve implemented a new business plan, I’ve added service XYZ, and my sales this year are up 25 percent from last year.’ You have to be able to prove that trend. A claim representative will look at historical data to show what income you should have seen if not for the loss. If you’ve made changes or if you have an upward trend, it’s important to meet with your accountant quarterly. You want to be able to document that.”
Preset sales agreements, equipment leases, corporate records, and existing contracts that are suspended at the moment but may be picked up again are more examples of data to protect. LLC documents and payroll records would be a major headache for a business that lost them in a disaster.
“Anything with a raised seal needs to be safe,” Zollo says. “To reproduce those would take time and expense.”
In the horticulture industry, smaller nurseries and greenhouse growers may keep track of their own payroll. Zollo highly recommends these growers back up that data — even if it is a manual process. You may need to be able to prove what you’ve paid to which employee.
In addition to financial data, it is important to protect your customer database. If your hard drive is wiped out from a storm surge, or your facility is lost in a tornado, you need to be able to know who still owes you money and who’s scheduled for a delivery. When your business gets back on its feet, you’ll need those customers.
“You could have a fire in your main production building, but still have plants outside you can still sell,” Zollo says. “So you need your customer information so you can get shipping as soon as possible.”
How to protect it
There are two main options for backing up your data: manually copying files to a disk or external drive, or using an outside service to automatically back up your files to a remote location.
If you do it yourself, Zollo has a few tips: check the backup to make sure the copy actually worked and you could use it, if necessary. Next, get the backup away from the business — at home or with your accountant. Your backup won’t do much good if it’s lost in the same disaster as the original.
There are also network-attached storage options — separate servers for saving data that can be set for automatic backups.
There are also cloud storage options that give a small amount of space for free. The major advantage to these is that data entered syncs between multiple machines.
“If you’re evacuated for a hurricane, you can grab your laptop and whatever you can and you go,” Zollo says. “If your place has severe damage, with the cloud-based options you can sync your data with your laptop and start notifying customers while you’re away.”
Zollo says the cloud-based backup can be a good option for small to midsize businesses. A large wholesale nursery or retailer may consider an internet provider that provides encryption, more space and more options for a fee.
— Matt McClellan
Employees are at risk for many types of injuries, but with proper training and diligent inspections, companies can avoid many of these hazards. One of the most common problems at work is a back injury; it’s the second most common cause of lost work time, with the common cold being No. 1.
OSHA does not have any specific requirements for back safety training or back injury prevention programs, but back injury has important workers’ compensation cost considerations, says Brent A. Bates, Director of Safety Services at Hortica®, a brand of the Sentry Insurance Group.
To keep employees healthy and to avoid work stoppages, it’s a good idea to develop a back injury prevention program, including injury prevention techniques, available lifting equipment, proper lifting techniques, and lifting hazards specific to your workplace.
“Everything you do both at work and at home impacts your back,” Bates says. “Most back injuries can be prevented if you always think defensively about your back. When people injure their backs, not only does it impact their work, it impacts every facet of their lives. A back injury can prevent you from doing many of the things you love to do and can even make daily movements near impossible.”
Although statistics show that back injuries occur more often at home than they do at work, it’s a business owner’s duty to keep the risk of injury low while at work, especially since injured backs are often subject to re-injury, he adds.
Make sure your employees know how to properly lift. Don’t assume that it’s common knowledge. Here are some tips you can share with your employees.
- Know where you are going to lift a load: Pre-plan your lift.
- Get a firm footing: Keep your feet apart (shoulder width) for a stable base and good balance; point toes out.
- Bend at your knees and hips: Don't bend at the waist. Keep the principles of leverage in mind. Don't do more work than you have to. Maintain your three natural back curves.
- Lift with your legs: Let your powerful leg muscles do the work of lifting, not your weaker back muscles. Maintain your three natural curves.
- Lift smoothly; don't jerk as you lift: Sudden movements and weight shifts can injure your back.
- Keep the load close: Don't hold the load away from your body. The closer it is to your spine, the less force it exerts on your back.
- Keep your back upright: Whether you are lifting or putting down the load, don't add the weight of your body to the load. Your nose and your toes should be facing up when lifting.
- Turn with your feet: Avoid twisting; it can cause injury.
Post this information in areas where employees are more likely to be lifting objects. Remind them of these steps during routine safety meetings. Remember to treat your back with respect at all times. “One wrong move could cause you a lifetime of pain,” Bates explains.
— Kelli Rodda
Disclaimer: This document is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. No one should act on the information contained in this document without advice from a local professional with relevant expertise.
Disclosure: Hortica® property and casualty coverages are underwritten, and loss control services are provided, by Florists’ Mutual Insurance Company and Florists’ Insurance Company, members of the Sentry Insurance Group. For more information, visit hortica.com. Policies, coverages, benefits and discounts are not available in all states. See policy for complete coverage details.
For the vast majority of responding garden centers, 2015 was a good year to be selling succulents and cacti, according to this year’s State of the Industry Report. Out of 340 businesses surveyed, 281 respondents said their IGC carries a succulents/cacti category. Of this group, only 4% (10 businesses) said the category declined in sales in 2015, with 56% (156 businesses) reporting increased sales and 41% (115 businesses) saying their succulent/cacti sales remained the same.
Source: 2016 Garden Center magazine State of the Industry Study, conducted by Readex Research in September 2016.
It’s increasingly simple to buy everything online, and although live plants have been a partial exception to this rule, that may be changing.
Online plant sales form a rapidly growing segment of the market, with retail giants like Amazon looking to deliver in-demand plant varieties to customers across the country. As part of the State of the Industry issue, we talked to Sid Raisch, CEO of e-commerce brand Bower & Branch, about the current and expected direction of plant sales on the web as a business model.
Garden Center: Could you get us up to speed on how you’ve been integrating into your new position as president and CEO at Bower & Branch?
Sid Raisch: There has been a steep curve of learning, but that’s the easy part, as it turns out. We are behind the market when it comes to consumer interest to buy trees and plants online. The greatest difficulty is to act with a sense of urgency and to also keep the big picture in mind, so we’re working with solid strategy. The difficulty with this is that trying to scale up to the current market is suicide. We have to anticipate where things should be going and head directly there before someone else arrives and captures the market with a better offering.
GC: How would you describe the state of online plant sales?
SR: These are pioneer days for selling plants online as compared to selling, say, books online. What that means to us is much different than what it meant to pioneers of the West. The acceleration of acceptance of buying online is underway and is on a steep trajectory as mainstream sellers are reaching mass media. The biggest trend of online buying is happening on mobile devices multiple times each day with food ... People already have the device to buy online in the palm of their hand, and now they have a reason to use it to buy practical stuff — like lunch at their favorite place and to pick it up or have it delivered. Try Domino’s, Starbucks, Panera, McDonald’s and the list goes on, and it’s growing fast. Yes, plants are different, but consumers who want to buy stuff online is not the problem.
GC: What are your thoughts on e-commerce giants like Amazon expanding into plant sales?
SR: This is underway in a serious manner. They have a team working on signing up growers and brands and they’re doing it. The problem isn’t that they can’t deliver, or that people aren’t ready to buy. They need the sellers, and they’re working hard to sign them up. Many think they won’t succeed because plants are different. I get that, but once you understand how they think and how they work, the game changes. Amazon Services already bought one of the “Uber of” companies that mows lawns [companies that use a mobile app to send landscapers directly to customers’ homes]. Amazon will be selling, delivering and planting every plant that can be sold to every [possible buyer,] and it won’t take long. Amazon’s mission has always been to sell everything to everybody, including services and stuff that doesn’t ship. Amazon Local will be the platform where you buy merchandise and services from other local independent businesses from the Amazon website, which is picked up in the local store or delivered or installed by them or others. Amazon was never about the books — that was only the point of entry.
GC: Some independent garden centers are either already involved or are considering getting involved with online plant sales. What do you think they should be aware of when it comes to the state of the industry today?
SR: The ability to sell stuff online has come down in cost, but the time required is more expensive. The local garden center with a website can sell online, but we feel strongly that they will need a larger network and greater capabilities to do it well and sustainably. And to keep current business going while investing and building online capability — it’s a crash course. That’s why we feel the Bower & Branch network is essential for independents to thrive in the future and is the best opportunity to take back the 83 percent of plant sales that box stores have garnered. Fighting for the 17 percent that independents get is not the scale we can be satisfied with.
GC: Any final thoughts on where online plant retail is going?
SR: Yes, fasten your seat belts. Learn fast. Make lots of mistakes as fast as you can. Let go of the past mistakes, the wrong lessons that were learned, and quit resting in that bed of laurels of the past because they are turning to compost.
Big message — online service is not what people mistakenly believe. Zappos, the online shoe company, now owned by Amazon, is famous for attentive and thorough service. They are simply better at it than 99 percent of brick and mortar independent businesses in any category, and they’re getting better by using predictive analytics and artificial intelligence integrated with human systems. This is all doable and is becoming not only cost-effective — it is becoming much more profitable. I believe brick and mortar retailing is a viable long-term strategy, but not by itself in very many instances. The multiple front (omni-channel) opportunity means adding to that the clicks-to-bricks for in-store pickup, and online value-added Uber-like types of services to deliver and install.
With Bower & Branch, we’re experimenting with extreme services to supplement those of member garden centers. Our online chat is used by both consumers and member garden retailers to assist in making choices and getting purchases made, delivered and installed. We’ve done FaceTime walk-arounds with consumers to help them decide where to plant and what to plant. Those efforts don’t always scale up to a big operation, but we see the market demands them and we’re aligning plans and resources to provide plants in the way consumers want to buy, with high levels of consumer engagement on a consistent basis.
GC: Aside from the online plant sales issue, how would you describe the state of the independent garden center industry in general?
SR: 2016 has been a fairly strong year, all things considered. There were challenges of course, with the biggest being the weather as usual, depending on the location. A large area of the Midwest was troubled by rainy weekends in May, but by and large recovered by the end of June. The Northeast was challenged by drought — that is still a factor even into late fall. Presidential election years are typically more challenging than this one has been. We’ve seen continued increases in consumer spending as if there were no economic concerns if either candidate is elected. It will be interesting to see how this carries out after inauguration, but I expect the irrational exuberance to continue.
Investing in weather resistance with covered shopping should be a top priority of any retailer with limited covered shopping. The costs and complexities of construction continue to rise and the impact of poor weather on outdoor shopping is consistently bad. Covered shopping doesn’t have to be fancy, but it is a need, not a choice.
Labor availability is going to be a top concern for the foreseeable future. Investing to buy or develop labor saving equipment, practices and procedures is a winning strategy. Which national chain location have you driven by that doesn’t have “help wanted” signs up? This is going to get more difficult, and finding ways to get things done with fewer people is as essential as is finding the right ones and keeping them employed with you.