Landscape distribution innovation

Features - Cover Feature

With an eye on efficiency and value, Arbor Valley Nursery is improving the distribution model

December 17, 2009

The Edmundson family possesses the fortitude required to lead instead of follow. Father Dave and son Matt have made big changes in their business to not only diversify their customer base, but to improve the landscape distribution model.
Arbor Valley Nursery in Brighton, Colo., has served the landscape market along Colorado’s Front Range since the 1980s. When landscape customers began asking for product not typically grown in Colorado, the firm sourced plants from wholesale nurseries in other states.
And since 1993, Arbor Valley has maintained an 80-20 balance between distribution and grown product. Revenue has grown from $900,000 in 1993 to more than $12 million in 2006, according to Matt, who became a business partner in 2001 with Dave and co-owner Dan Lira.
Arbor Valley has developed a national network of growers encompassing more than 50,000 acres of production spanning 30 states and Canada. By mixing growers from USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 6, Arbor Valley is able to cost effectively supply virtually any available product on the market and resupply later in the spring and earlier in the fall than many of its competitors.
“This gives us the ability to confidently identify the current and future trends within the market and empower our customers with reliable supply and pricing protections, particularly for long-term projects,” Matt said.

Retailer, brand focus
Arbor Valley is broadening its customer base beyond landscape contractors to the garden center market.
“Adapting to the future now means more than just providing quality, service and a fair price to your customer,” Matt said. “We are realigning our vendor relationships to innovate the future of landscape distribution.”
The Arbor Valley team wants to be a bridge for retailers, Matt said.
“We’re not trying to supplant what the plant rep is doing for the retailer, but instead help retailers have more just-in-time deliveries and more diverse stock,” Matt said.
Garden center customers who may not meet the branded plant company’s minimum order can get those premium plants from Arbor Valley, Matt said.
The company is trying to leverage the branding that’s happening in the marketplace, but the branded plant message isn’t reaching the landscape contractor.
“Contractors tend to buy more on price than on brand,” Matt said. “But if we can get changes made at the designer level, the brand messages will trickle down.”
Arbor Valley ownership understands that communicating the value proposition is not a simple math equation.
“We are becoming more consultative in the nature of what we do and reinforcing the idea that we are not only a trusted resource but also a stakeholder in our customer’s future,” Matt said.
Education will be a central part of Arbor Valley’s push to selling brands and improved genetics.

Attention to detail
The company’s new distribution center was designed to capitalize on new markets. 
“The thoughtful and deliberate layout of the facility and products improves not only our operational efficiencies, but also has streamlined interactions with specifiers for material inspections,” Matt said.
Premium product and branded plants will be merchandised in the front of the property.
The facility has a state-of-the-art irrigation system that includes a two-wire system with a Hunter central control, 900 gallons-per-minute pumping capacity, which generates 60 psi anywhere on the facility, as well as acid injection and in-line fertigation capability. There are 15 acres of container production and storage area and 35 acres of B&B holding area. The other half of the nursery is home to field growing operations which currently include 40 acres of in-ground production. The company plans to add a 10-acre plant center to service will-call customers and more specialty products for high-end residential contractors.
“The future of regional and local distribution is becoming increasingly valuable as not only the future of common-carrier multiple-drop shipments become more expensive, but as the management of balance sheets and cash flow requires tighter inventory control for the landscape and garden center channels,” Matt said.

Shipping efficiencies
About 90 percent of Arbor Valley’s orders are delivered “just in time” to projects along Colorado’s Front Range, typically with about a 24-hour turnaround.  
The company owns five semi-tractor trailers with four flatbed trailers, two 28-foot box vans, one 40-foot box van, a 53-foot reefer trailer, three Freightliner 24-foot straight trucks and four 1-ton flatbed trucks. Over the winter, Arbor Valley Nursery uses its own fleet to pickup nursery stock from surrounding states, creating a significant savings in the cost of inbound freight.
Arbor Valley has crafted three customer-service programs to streamline operations – Direct, Select and Project. Arbor Valley Direct provides full truckload shipments to a job site or holding yard. Select is typically suited to the design/build residential contractor, which is a new push for Arbor Valley. And the Project program works as a single-source solution for the entire plant procurement process.

For more: Arbor Valley Nursery, (303) 654-1682;