Seedlings buying and maintenance
This job description should be read in conjunction with:
(a) Guidelines for staff in charge of a section
(b) Guidelines for buyers
(c) Bulleen Art and Garden Environmental Weed Policy
The seedling section is an area that requires more attention than most areas of the nursery. The plants are far more delicate, they have a short shelf life, and our customers are going to use seedlings as a point of comparison to other nurseries. Stock turnover can be high during spring and autumn but the profitability of the section can fall rapidly if toss-outs increase to an unacceptable level or your time is not used effectively. A print-out of yearly sales figures is available in the seedling general information file as a general guide to stocking levels. Also, a weekly record of trays ordered is also kept and should be added to each week for future reference. This can be found under, public, nursery, seedlings, seedling orders table.
At Bulleen we have tried to attract the enthusiastic gardener. Most enthusiasts are going to use seedlings in the garden and know if plants are substandard. It is therefore imperative that your buying be closely tuned to seasonal and weather associated changes in customers buying, and that you maintain this area to a high standard.
During Spring two people are usually needed to maintain and restock the section, particularly on Mondays/Tuesdays. In Winter, as preparation for Spring, discuss this with the manager so you have enough help with these tasks in busy times.
Because of the short shelf life of seedlings you should not buy more seedlings than you can sell in a high turnover week. With the frequent opportunities through the week to buy new stock there is no need to stockpile, however, we are prepared to accept some stock losses, especially in the vegie section if it means we are going to increase sales significantly by maintaining our stock range through the weekend and having lines, such as lettuce, zucchini, cucumber, basil etc. available right through until the next seedling delivery.
Use the Seedling Order Database and Annual Sale cart as a guide, record weekly orders and losses. These records are helpful to any new staff member who starts ordering seedlings but must be updated and adjusted to be of any real use.
Even after a busy weekend Monday customers expect a full range of seedlings to be available. Seedlings should be ordered in such quantities that we don’t run out of anything over the weekend. This means there should still be some left for customers on Monday morning.
They are an important part of our clientele. In Autumn and Spring it is useful to them to keep some lines in large quantities (2 trays)- landscapers tend to buy whatever they can get enough of, rather than having a preconceived idea of what they want when they come in. This also creates impact in the section, especially with new lines and single colour varieties.
In the past seedlings have had a weekly stocktake but this has not been done for years. These sales records are a first step to computerised ordering.
It is however worth consulting the yearly sales figures kept in the seedling file and notes compiled by previous buyers over the breakdown of the year. It is very useful to keep the orders made on one day in the middle of each season. Annotate it to indicate which varieties are moving quickly and slowly and keep it in the file. This will assist appropriate buying.
Bad buying results in:
1. Time consuming maintenance.
eg. Dead-heading and moving.
2. Gives an impression of poor quality plants at Bulleen.
Seedlings have a MAXIMUM shelf life of four weeks. Their value declines from the moment they are delivered. Consideration of past sales will reduce the chance that they will pass their use-by date on the shelf.
3. Poor use of retail space.
Even if we require varieties to maintain range it should be bought in sufficiently small numbers so it does not take space from a variety which could be turning over.
NB Plant stock records should not stop you trying new varieties, it should stop you making the same mistake twice.
The jump in sales from Winter to the first weekend in Spring is dramatic. Eg. You will go from ordering 15 trays a week from Oasis through Winter, to 350 trays per week through Spring.
Some varieties have a short season. They seem to be popular because they are the first new season varieties to come in but as the range increases these lose popularity (eg. Verbena, Coleus, ageratum).
After Cup Weekend tomato orders should be halved by reducing the range to eliminate all early fruiting tomatoes, such as Apollo and KY1 tomatoes, keeping the other varieties in one size (100mm or twin/four packs) only. Metric punnets are much faster sellers at the start of the tomato season and don’t be afraid to cull them completely by cup weekend. Just because suppliers have them available for months after cup weekend, doesn’t indicate that they will sell.
Begin at this time to dramatically reduce the volume and range of other varieties of vegetable and flower seedlings also. From cup day there may be no more high turnover weekends.
You should end up with a core range consisting of :
-Popular varieties in single colours, the most popular colour mixes and one or two trailing/double or unusual varieties. Don’t duplicate the range in different price categories, but make sure you stock some cheaper lines.
-The odd tray of less popular seedlings for variety.
Stock red and white petunias and other flowers in November for Christmas displays.
In the last week of November sales drop considerably. Ordering each week is still almost definite, just less of.
Sales pick up in Autumn. Gradually reduce stock from the end of April and especially after Mothers’ day.
As a general rule we buy on quality then price. You will find suppliers’ quality will vary over time, so monitor quality closely and if it is Oasis you are experiencing problems with, speak to the manager as soon as possible. Oasis are our preferred supplier, we are required to have 80% or more of our stock on the benches at one time all from them. This is a deal we have arranged in order to get quite large discount on most of their products. This deal is not hard to stick to, as their vegies and flowers are almost always of top quality and it is what we would buy over anything else anyway. Scotsburn then come next, with us buying from them if Oasis do not have on their order form what we want on that day. Oasis is also our preferred supplier for Grafted tomatoes, as they are of better quality than Scotsburn and United.
Scotsburn also have cheaper metric punnets than Oasis and if you ask Peter from Scotsburn he will generally drop the price more if you buy 5 trays or more, eg.Petunia Super Colour Parade, these can be put on special in busy times. Choosing the range for a new season can be a daunting task. I have found it is safest to choose from Oasis, with there Woodlyn range being preference, choosing by names your familiar with (bobby dazzler), colour mixes, and white. The secondary suppliers are used to extend our range of seedlings (for example, double flowering, or spreading types). And new releases. United are excellent for diggers varieties and other unusual types of vegies.
Seedling orders are usually placed on Monday morning for delivery that afternoon and then another order is made on Wednesday for delivery on Thursday.
Order forms from Oasis, Scotsburn, Prestonhome and United are emailed to your personal work address or can be found in the shortcut to received faxes icon on the main menu. To order form Oasis, you download the availability on the web by going to the site- oasisaustralia.com. The login name is bag1 and the password is bulleen. Print this list off, fill out and return via fax.
Do not hesitate to return substandard stock to the supplier. If you are returning stock be polite but firm. Try not to hold suppliers up. Particularly in warm weather, don’t accept stock that is too large, the shelf life will significantly decrease and watering is an issue.
When buying be very careful of soft stock, some suppliers are going to rush stock out which has not been hardened off. In these cases you, or the nursery manager, should complain to the supplier.
Insist that seedlings be delivered to the correct area to save time and ensure the stock is not damaged by strong sun and excessive handling.
Policy of supplier preferences
Do not change suppliers or emphasis with suppliers without consulting the nursery manager. There are reasons why we are using a supplier and an abrupt change can upset a good supplier unnecessarily. This does not mean you do not continually check out alternative suppliers for quality and price. This is a must as suppliers are continually improving or dropping their relative position in regard to both quality and price. Do not allow personal friendships to affect your decisions as to whom you buy from.
At Bulleen we have been trying to build a reputation for stocking a good range, therefore try and stock a good range, but be sensible with quantities, make sure you relate quantities on shelf to sales at all times. It is worth ordering in one tray of an unusual product every so often, especially if it has been promoted on TV, in magazines or at the flower show, or if we have them in stock in colour pots.
We have tried stocking potting mix and liquid fertiliser in the section, but it didn’t sell well enough for the space it takes up.
Discuss with your suppliers how sales of vegie and different seedlings travel according to the time of year. Discuss when to cut back on vegies, when tomatoes fall off etc. The suppliers list is a very rough guide of what we want at certain times. However don’t be fooled and sell broccoli and cabbage all summer, you will soon see that it sells slower and people are only buying it because they trust we know what to grow successfully at particular times of the year. Put on the shelf what you as an experienced produce gardener would grow at that time.
Recovering after weekend sales
We want a good range of quality stock back on the bench by Monday arvo for our weekday customers. This may necessitate an early start on Monday morning at some times of the year. Stick to a system of specific days for ordering and deliveries. Do not deviate from these days without the manager’s approval.
(a) pest and disease free
(b) size- not too big or small
(c) all punnets to be labelled
(d) flowers (not ususally desireable on normal punnets, but preferable on advanced punnets, such as Easy colour Packs)
8 Pricing and margins
Make sure the prices are clear to the customers from all benches, with quantity discounts and specials specified both at the bench and the cash register (especially for multiple purchase deals eg. 2 for the price of 1). Customers will not buy products they do not know the price of.
All $3.95 and $5.95 punnets of seedlings are now priced only on the bench, not on individual punnets. Small shelf labels with punnet prices must be placed in front of all trays of unmarked seedlings. These must be checked carefully to ensure the correct price is in front of each tray. A key to these prices should be kept at the register.
Specials should never run out over the weekend. They should be what the customer wants, in quantity and well displayed in high traffic area. These should have an orange special sticker on each label.
Seedlings are priced at 75% mark up on the wholesale (pre-GST) price with the 10% GST added to this figure, then assigned an appropriate price point ($3.95, $5.95). A breakdown of this process is included in the seedling markup analysis spreadsheet. By filling in the columns highlighted in yellow, the programme will automatically calculate the markups for you, then you need to assign a price point. Suppliers will send out letters via post approx late winter, with price increases, so this is the time to analyse prices and make changes if needed, in time for spring.
Stock that is below standard (that you wouldn’t pay full price for) or has been on the shelf for more than 4-6 weeks is marked down to half price (or less if special stock is building up over weeks) and put in the specials section, near the flower seedlings.
The specials section should be maintained to ensure that only seedlings worth buying are kept there, otherwise they should be thrown out. This needs to be monitored weekly.
All mark-downs and throw-outs must be recorded as they occur and entered into the Seedling orders table, each week.
Margins must be monitored closely, discuss regularly with the Manager.
Seedling margin analysis spreadsheet
This spreadsheet must be updated for every price change and be thoroughly reviewed every 12 months.
Environmental message in seedlings
Environmental considerations should be included in all advice given in the section. This includes water requirements, weeds, increasing self-sufficiency with decorative vegies that can be used with colour, use of multiguard snail pellets so as not to affect bird life and encourage natural predators to the garden.
This job description should be read in conjunction with Bulleen Art & Garden’s environment policy.
At all times work your old stock to the front of the bench.
Your area must be checked and the stock worked quickly into order at the beginning and end of each day. Using both hands to pull stock forward, means you can protect one punnet and move the other.
It is a high turnover area and needs checking and continual maintenance throughout the day also.
When displaying seedlings do not squash trays or punnets tightly together, well-spaced seedlings do not suffer disease problems as readily, shelf life will increase, and the customer has easy access to choose.
Make sure your stock is clearly and correctly labelled. Every year we have customers complaining that they have bought seedlings which have turned out the wrong colour etc. Therefore keep the same varieties in the same tray whenever possible so you can be confident the labels you are picking up are being returned go to the correct plants.
Unlabelled plants will not sell and detract from general displays. They have to be marked down and put in the specials section.
To give an impression of size in the seedling section it is important that the back wall gives a clear message that it is a seedling section for its length. Other products can be displayed on the benches at times when seedlings are not busy.
It is important to get good array (samples) of annual display plants early in the season. Work with seedling reps to plan seasonal potted colour well ahead of time eg. New releases and proven sellers.
Seedling companies sell some of their range as colour pots. Scotsburn and Oasis are happy to provide free punnets of seedlings to plant out in display beds or containers.
Plant out hanging baskets and endcap wall pots with advanced pots which relate to the section look great and attract customer attention.
How do customers use seedlings in their gardens? Answer the question with your display, product range and info.
You should have basic range of attribute signs out, eg good cut, fragrant, long-flowering. The information crew have designed permanent metal benchtalkers for the most common flower and vegies, they are to be kept clean and in the rack in the info stand.
In order that customers can find particular varieties you should specify why plants are blocked in particular groups, eg A-Z, specific varieties primula, petunias, impatiens, colour. Duplicate the range if necessary especially in peak seasons.
You may want to provide pictures of planting combinations with plans for arrangement and spacing etc.
With point of sale we have to differentiate ourselves by providing information that helps the customer and is not focussed on flogging a product. We have to provide a better service to the customer. Provide links to other products and services in signs eg. Preparation of seedling garden beds.
Order in the section
Tradespeople need to be able to find what they’re looking for quickly, so keep them in mind when arranging the section. Alphabetical order seems the most logical way to arrange the section. For impact, we like to keep the front of the first bench as a theme area. Geraniums, Impatiens, and Easy colour packs are examples of groups you might keep at the front. The back wall is great for displaying Petunias and Impatiens through Spring, with the rest of the flower range in alphabetical order on the three short benches.
The layout of the section should never be designed to suit pricing or price points. It must reflect how best to service the customer keeping in mind at all times what the customer wants.
Some of the new releases and promotional lines are bought on impulse. Additional sales will be generated if you treat them as conventional impulse lines. They should therefore be bought and displayed in sufficient quantities to create an impact. They should also be displayed in high traffic areas, for example at the end of the benches facing the customer as they walk towards the seedlings and on the impulse stand. Try to think of other ways to increase impulse sales eg.
During peak spring (Sept.-Early Nov).
New release and promotional lines.
New releases will sell well if displayed prominently and promotional material is used properly. Do not special promotional lines, it will not increase sales but will reduce our margin. For promotional lines where point of sale material is provided more impact is gained if these are displayed separately and several trays of each variety are displayed. One tray of the “Flower of the Year” has absolutely no impact whatsoever. As the same goes for certain vegies, having a few trays of the new release is generally a success.
To give the impression that something is happening in your area and that we are reasonably priced it is essential that you at all times through Spring have a variety on special on a promotional end. Price these specials at 30% off normal cost and try the suppliers for discounts so we can, where possible, still achieve a good margin.
Seedlings can help sell many more add-on lines, from fertiliser, snail killer, gloves, to even glass houses.
A great opportunity exists for us to promote our mushroom mix and soils, all necessary for the customers to grow good plants from your seedlings.
A Specials endcap works really well in busy times.
Provide signs for each endcap- 7-9 words per sign. Change end caps every 2 weeks to maintain customer interest.
Materials handling, efficiency and customer processing
Use trolleys to transport seedlings from truck to reserve and reserve to nursery. Keep them oiled. Use the taller shelves first to save your back.
When arranging seedlings and ordering signs always think about how this will enable the customer to locate and choose the plants they need.
Excessive stock losses will occur if you do not water correctly. Seedlings will need watering up to twice a day in Summer and should be monitored for water needs in other seasons. Care must be taken to ensure EVERY PLANT IN EVERY PUNNET receives enough water, especially those with big labels. Inadequate watering in summer will be the cause of your major stock losses, so be careful and refer any problems with weekend watering to the manager. Over watering in winter can cause fungal problems.
Use of a good fine spray will save the plants from being damaged. In cool weather it is preferable to water seedlings in the morning to allow foliage to stay dry overnight. This helps to reduce the risk of disease.
Raking and cleaning
The area under the benches should be raked weekly or more if neccessary.
Benches should be clean and free from soil build up.
Regular weak liquid feeds will prolong shelf life and improve the average quality. Charlie Carp is good to use on the pansies and violas to prevent powdery mildew. The Brassicas also need a little care to prevent fungal problems and white cabbage moth. Spacing them out and giving them extra sunlight helps with fungal issues and spraying with success helps the latter problem. Do this as seedlings arrive and keep on top of it as required. Displaying signage about cabbage moth and other common problems informs customers and will inturn mean they are satisfied and confident gardeners.
Use snail pellets (multiguard only) but remember we have a lot small children and dogs. Snail pellets can be fatal to both so be careful where you put them and use them sparingly. Put multiguard snail pellets underneath punnets in seedling tray. Petunias are prime targets for this during wet weather.
Through Winter and Spring you need to keep an eye on the weather. If there is the danger of frost (temperature forecast of overnight low of 8oC or less in Melbourne) the frost covers need to go over the seedlings.
Phone the weather station every afternoon 1196 for the Melbourne forecast or check the bureau of meteorology website.
The benches need to be scrubbed down periodically to guard against spread of disease. White King has been found to be very effective and if used at the beginning of spring does reduce fungal infections.
Carry baskets and trays
The plastic carry baskets should be neatly stacked. If cashiers are letting customers take them to the car and we are losing them report the problem to the manager. Customers may take old seedling trays home with them, but encourage them to bring them back rather than throwing them away, as there local council waste won’t re-use them.
Stocking out of season stock.
At BAAG we are here to provide good service to our customers. If we have tomatoes for our customers who have hothouses put a note up saying that they need protection from frost, tell customers that rocket and coriander need a cool spot in February etc.
It may be worth having signs that tell customers that Impatiens and Basil are unavailable in Winter and why. Just because someone asks for something, doesn’t mean you must have it, often they are just eager.
We have spent a lot of money to construct benches that will enable you to display promotional material easily and effectively.
You must maintain all promotional material and check that it is put out every season. Put in a signage request to redo any faded signage. Julian Agius is available via email and will happily re-print signs for you. Ask him for instructions if needed.
Any larger promotional material should be securely attached to the frames. Always use point of sale material behind the right variety.
Suppliers sometimes offer there own promo signs for us to display. Baag have always preferred to make our own signs to avoid having clashing colours and fonts all around the nursery. Suppliers are fine if you tell them our reasons.
At certain times of the year it is very difficult to get done all the tasks associated with the seedling section. It is very important that we are strict about our priorities to ensure the most important jobs get done first.
There are very few seedlings that need to have price stickers added, now that we have price indicators on the benches. All $3.95, otherwise known as metric punnets are unpriced and $5.95 medium punnets (8 per tray) are also not priced, unless they are Oasis C or D code or higher, in which case you price with the gun that holds seedling stickers. Also don’t forget the grafted seedlings and Easy colour Packs, from Prestonhome. A chart of seedling prices is in the blue cabinet in the reserve. And can also be found in public, nursery, seedlings and then seedling price guide. The price of 100mm square seedling pots varies, so be sure to check the list of pricing carefully.
Please note that it is not the size of the label that determines the price of the punnet, it is the size of the punnet.
Use seedling trolleys to transport seedlings from truck to reserve and reserve to nursery. Keep them oiled. Use the taller shelves first to save your back.
Before you begin restocking the section, quickly check the end caps and feature benches for which varieties need restocking in these areas. You don’t want to find out this after you’ve made room elsewhere.
Next walk around and take off anything you wouldn’t buy yourself due to poor quality and put it on the stock trolley. Also take off any punnets missing a plant as these won’t sell for full price.
At the end of putting out all new stock, mark the poor quality stock down to half price ($2.00 or $3.00 generally) and record the number of mark-downs per assorted tray and let the seedling buyer know via email, (eg.five trays, specialled, two trays binned) This will be recorded in a weekly orders table.
Work through the remaining punnets that are staying full price and pinch off any yellow leaves and spent flowers.
Before you start off loading seedlings, start pricing the trays that need a sticker on each label. If you already have the trolley in the nursery, this is particularly important, as customers start taking punnets immediately. Doing it in the nursery reserve helps to price stock quickly, but sometimes stock is needed in the nursery straight away, particularly on a Monday. And Thursdays in the reserve is busy enough without an extra trolley to clog it up.
Take care to position the seedling trolleys close to benches but without blocking aisles. Imbetween the info stand and the herb bench is an ideal spot for vegie unloading.
To begin restocking it helps to put new trays on the ground first roughly where they belong, especially in the veggie section. This then gives you an idea of where you will need to find more space and where you may be able to condense. By mid spring, all varieties will be in, and restocking can be easier in terms of not shuffling as much.
New stock must go behind old stock.
Always have a couple of centimetres minimum between trays, so they aren’t squashing eachother.
During Spring, it is acceptable to have a tray upturned with excess stock on the ground. This is then restocked very easily, and shows we have more stock available to customers and staff at all times, rather than keep it out the back for restocking.
Bring all punnets forward to the front of each tray. Small magnet labels with punnet prices must be placed in front of all trays of unmarked seedlings. These must be checked carefully to ensure the correct price is in front of each tray. Once all the stock has been put out it is essential that you check each price label to ensure it is front of the appropriate tray. Don’t be fooled by the size of the label. It is the punnet size that determines the price.
Safety at BAAG is more important than customer service!
There is a risk of a serious accident with the electric tractors. These tractors can pull five-ton and so could crush a leg or a toddler’s head. BE VERY CAREFUL. Do not let your legs hang out the side, take keys out and switch off when not in use AND NEVER SPEED, A TODDLER COULD COME OUT FROM BEHIND A BENCH.
Lifting and bending
Be sensible with your lifting and bending. It is continuous, so talk to senior nursery staff for techniques for lifting and to minimise bending. Straighten your back regularly and spend the time to get in the best position. Use your free arm to support your body when reaching. Never lift anything that you find too heavy and do not hesitate to ask for assistance. When full of plants the large plant trolleys should be towed into the nursery with an electric tractor. If this is not possible, a heavy trolley should always be pushed by two people. It is too heavy for one person to push.
Be aware of and reduce or communicate (with signs if appropriate) hazards to you and customers associated with handling plants, eg. climbers and other staked plants and deciduous trees in winter- historically every few years someone in industry loses eye.
Tools and safety
Put your tools away and always roll up your hoses. We have a lot of elderly customers but anyone can break a limb tripping over a hose or rake left carelessly lying around.
Your responsibility and duty
As in all sections of the nursery safety comes first. If you see a hazard it is more important than anything else, including customers, and you must do something about it straight away. The new laws make you now individually responsible and it is surprising how easy it is for a serious accident or a death to occur in the workplace. You must all contribute actively and positively to the health and safety of other staff and our customers.
If anything in this job description is unclear, appears outdated or requires some training for you to perform, please let your manager or supervisor know. As you become familiar with this job it is your responsibility to suggest ways that we can make it safer, more efficient and better able to work in with other people’s tasks. Please communicate any suggestions to managers or put them in the suggestion box.
The chooks are intended to be a drawcard for children and also to expand the idea of self sufficiency at home. They are part of our theme in the produce section. Although you may not be personally responsible for their care and maintenance, as they are in your section you need to monitor their water, food, and shelter needs.
Order Days and Cut off Times
Delivery Days approx arrival time
Minimum tray qty.
Note: if miss out on Monday due to illness of buyer, ring and speak to Jodi, Tracey or Kelle (pronounced Ca-lee)
Ask for unavailable phone call on the fax, especially if it’s important stock. ie. Springtime.
Michelle will credit us for stock that we use in garden displays. If its bits and pieces, take from stock and tell her afterwards. If its trays of the one thing she will deliver new stock.
Woodlyn flowers have great labels and are quality plants usually. Avoid petunias over $5.95, unless spreading.
8% off retail price and extra 2.5% if paid in time.
Print availability from website
user name bag1
and fax through.
Minimum 10 trays Or $250.00
Minimum 10 trays Or $250.00
Often send stock on the small side as a rule, ok for some things but try to avoid small spring onions, capsicums, chillies, people want a decent size. Great for 100mm vegies, not so much tomatoes.
Don’t bother with Funky Packs, they are too expensive compared with the Easy Colour.
Print availability from fax or email, and fax back.
Minimum 10 trays.
Thursday or Friday
Minimum 10 trays.
Min 20 trays
Tuesday or Wednesday
They take back poor looking stock and give credit off invoice for them. Take out plants and store empty easy packs under the bench. Annie will credit all at once next time she is in.
You can put seedlings on the staff take home table.
Have great stock, top quality, cost us less and some metric punnets only have 6 instead of 8, so can use this stock as specials, price at $2.95. Have just been doing produce specials, not flowers, if you do choose flowers, perhaps try a companion flower?
Print availability from fax, and fax back.
Can ask them to send an availability earlier so can get ordering done on wed if you like. Not always deliveries later in the week.
Min 20 trays.
Watch for poor or yellowing incoming stock, you have to ring them and organise a credit, also tell them the driver has to pick up stock. They have some great lines like the diggers varieties of veg. Sweet potato, potatoes and okra. Surcharge of $1- per tray, if split trays.
Print availability from nursery email, and fax back. Minimum of 10 trays, free freight, less than is $1 per seedling tray and $2 per pots tray.
Could ask for earlier availability to be sent to get done on Wednesday
Meg or Matt
Thurs or Friday
Van Berkells, call them after faxing order back to ceres and ask for Graham. Tell him after 9am pickup and total amount of trays. Their unusual lettuces, tomatoes, chillies and eggplants are popular. Watch for oversized tomatoes and make sure full punnets.
Can fax order. May need to ring and get availability, sometimes it gets sent to the nursery. Look in contacts.
Smaller punnets in veg are OK as back up, good for bok choy, broadbeans, dutch carrots. Great quality flower punnets. Watch poor quality stock, will credit us no worries.
Min. trays 10.