Growers have voiced mixed opinions about an idea to introduce price lists to encourage retailers to take complete orders at lower prices than those wanting to reject deliveries if sales fail to meet expectations.
Hayloft plants director Derek Jarman, speaking in response to widespread spurned orders after the cold spring of 2013, suggested two nursery price lists (HW, 10 December 2013), with "one for people who are going to take it all and a higher priced one with the option not to take a proportion".
Delamore managing director Wayne Eady said: "This was a great statement and a development of this principle would assist the industry no end. When plants aren't shipped there is a saving against shipping, but generally most costs are sunk.
"An upfront arrangement with a retailer or indeed any customer in the supply chain would allow flexibility to the customer but also sufficient security for the supplier."
He added that Delamore's regulars pay a certain price all season while last-minute customers pay a bit more to allow some provision for the waste created as a result of uncertain demand. "Everyone should understand that wherever there is waste there is a cost, whatever the cause," he said.
"If the whole industry recognised that, and as Boyd Douglas Davies suggested 'didn't just pay lip service to it', there would be much better possibilities for longer-term closer working relationships rather than a constant tussle over who is responsible for waste."
But Alton Garden Centre director Andy Bunker said: "It's a non-starter. I'm going to go where I get the best deal. A grower will get a reserve for £10,000 instead of £30,000 for seasonal plants because retailers know they can definitely sell them."
He said early bird-offers are a better option because they could induce him to take five trolleys instead of four: "So why do it any different?"
Porters Fuchsias director Alan Porter said early-bird offers a few per cent cheaper from growers to garden centres are quite uncommon industry-wide but useful for planning his budgets. He is flexible after that and will not make customers take orders.
But he added that the "two lists" idea would not work with multiples, which demand the best price straight away or will not order.
Porter said the nursery is at capacity and he is happy with its orders for 2014 after "weeding out the ones that don't pay or don't take orders when they say".
Will Armitage, president elect, Garden Centre Association
"We'd be interested. This system would encourage commitment and give both parties some comfort, but it needs some thinking about."
Ian Riggs, chairman, British Protected Ornamentals Association
"If growers can get their customers to agree, very good. But it would have to be individual agreements between growers and retailers. But free stock is subject to market forces and may mean lower prices."