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"Benefits of Stockosorb seen by retailer and consumers"

In the 10 years that Randy Stetor and his wife Debra Galob have operated PGH Garden, a retail garden store in Bethel Park, Pa., they have learned what makes a good quality plant. They know that it takes more than purchasing an attractive plant to perform for them and their retail customers.

by David Kuack

The couple buys 60 percent of their plants from Bob's Market and Greenhouses in Mason, W. Va. Bob's Market incorporates Stockosorb hydrogel into its growing media and Randy and Debra have seen the impact the hydrogel plays in maintaining the quality of the plants.

"When I think of Bob's products, I think of them from two different perspectives—the retailer's and the customer's," Stetor said. "From the retailer's perspective, when the plants come in, they aren't usually on our shelves for more than a few days. With the help of Stockosorb, the plants go out the door looking a lot healthier."

Photos courtesy of PGH Garden.

The less time plants are on the shelf, also means the fewer employees Stetor needs to take care of them.

"It doesn't take long to see the difference between our plants and the plants from other growers that may not be of the same quality as Bob's Market," said Stetor. "We can start to see the stress on the plants. If the plants aren't watered right, we'll see them start wilting within a couple days. The flowers will start to decline. That costs us money. In the long run, it is more economical for us to buy plants that may be a little more expensive, but don't require as much of our attention to keep them looking good."

Stetor said not having to water the plants from Bob's Market is one of the biggest benefits he has seen from the incorporation of Stockosorb into the growing medium.

"We don't do much watering with Bob's product at all," he said. "For our store, we have five full-time and four part-time employees. We constantly have to move people to the registers. An employee who isn't watering can be operating one of the registers, which means the customers are happier."

One of the biggest benefits of incorporating Stockosorb hydrogel into the growing medium is that employees at PGH Garden don't have to water the plants as often allowing them to focus more of their time on assisting customers.
From the customer's perspective, Stetor said customers are satisfied with the plants grown with Stockosorb once they take them home. Customers come in and ask specifically for plants grown by Bob's Market based on their experience with the plants in the past.

What's in the growing medium?
Stetor said one of the biggest lessons he has learned buying plants from Bob's Market is what's in the growing medium.

"Whenever we consider working with other growers, we evaluate their growing medium and what it consists of," he said. "We don't just look at the tops of the plants. We want to know what a grower is putting in the pot below the plant. What components, like Stockosorb, is the grower incorporating into the growing medium?"

Although Stetor considers himself a novice grower, his experience as a vendor of Bob's Market plants has taught him the importance of a well hydrated growing medium, allowing him to expand his business by prioritizing plant performance over cost.

A major learning curve
Stetor had a different perspective about plants when he and his wife started PGH Garden in 2007.

"My wife and I had operated four independent dollar stores," he said. "We had always sold some plants on the sidewalk in front of the stores. The plants were just a come-on to get people to come in to buy our garden gloves and tools. Over the years the plants sales kept growing."

When many independent dollar stores began to close in 2007 during the recession, the couple liquidated all of their stores except one, which was 10 miles south of Pittsburgh.

"We kept this one store and came up with the idea that since the plant sales had kept growing every year that we would try our luck at becoming a garden store," he said. "We started as a garden store and we learned about plants as we went along."

PGH Garden's customers are happy with the performance of plants grown with Stockosorb, returning to ask for plants produced by the grower who incorporated the hydrogel into the growing medium.
Initially Stetor faced a major learning curve, concentrating on inexpensive plants that put PGH Garden in direct competition with the box stores. He began to study the plant market and understand what the box stores were doing. He started to realize the impact growing media and components like Stockosorb hydrogel could have on plant quality. Receiving product from different growers enabled him to see the difference in the quality of the plants.

"We started to realize that our dollar store mentality had kept us in that cheaper frame of mind, but we began to wrestle with that and started to realize the benefits of offering a product with value," he said. "A perceived value that people like and want."

Lesson learned
With the increase in sales of plants from Bob's Market, Randy and Debra have definitely learned that plants grown with Stockosorb perform better in their garden store and for their customers.

Initially PGH Garden concentrated on offering inexpensive plants, but general manager Randy Stetor learned the impact growing media and components like Stockosorb hydrogel can have on plant quality.

"Scott Barnitz at Bob's Market told me that most customers don't generally remember what the plants look like when they buy them, but they do remember what they look like at the end of the season," Stetor said. "That is going to determine if they are going to come back to buy more plants. With Bob's Market incorporating Stockosorb into its growing media it has made a major difference in plant performance for us and our customers."

For more: PGH Garden, (412) 833-3610; [email protected];

David Kuack is a freelance technical writer in Fort Worth, Texas.

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