Big-box bucks

Features - Sales & Marketing

Matthew Wood of Wood’s Greenhouses discusses his 20-plus year collaboration with neighboring Home Depot locations.

June 19, 2020

Photos courtesy of Wood's Greenhouses

As the second-generation grower and owner of Wood’s Greenhouses in Asbury, New Jersey, Matthew Wood continues his 40-year family legacy with knowledge from his father — Randy Wood — and hard work from his wife of almost 18 years, Renée, who is 50% owner. The 165-acre property is home to a “mixed bag” of almost 30 hoop houses and gutter-connected greenhouses, with 8 acres under cover. Wood’s Greenhouses has a strong partnership with Home Depot, which Matt credits to a relationship his father established years ago.

For more than two decades, Wood’s Greenhouses has exclusively grown and supplied annuals — geraniums, begonias and impatiens during spring; mums and asters during fall — for Home Depot stores in western New Jersey and New York’s metropolitan area, with stores being within an hour’s drive from the greenhouse. The partnership began with just two stores in 1996 — two years before Matt purchased the greenhouse from his father — and has now grown to a total of 15 sites, all of which are managed by Renée, who oversees the merchandising and in-store service teams.

In the beginning, Wood’s Greenhouses sold to Home Depot as they would sell to a garden center: they delivered, received payment and lacked control. But now, the franchise operates under a pay-by-scan system, a distribution method that allows suppliers to allocate inventory, maintain product and replenish as needed. Matt prefers this approach due to the freedom it provides.

“One of the beauties of pay-by-scan is that they don’t have to police us,” he says. “I can ship as much or as little as I want, and I don’t have to wait for an order, for someone to call, email or say, ‘We need more of this.’ It’s my job to track the inventory as my representatives tell me, and it’s my job to feed it appropriately. Home Depot is not worried because if I’m not doing my job, their numbers suffer, but so do mine.”

While Home Depot’s main requirement is to produce quality plants, Wood’s Greenhouses is virtually neonicotinoid-free, which aligns with Home Depot’s guidelines. The greenhouse also continues its sustainability practices with recycling efforts by reusing as much plastic as they can: salvaging in-store trays, reusing them on the farm, cleaning, disinfecting them and continuing the cycle.

Hanging baskets that were displayed for Mother's Day by Renée Wood

Individual attention

To organize and maintain heavy demand, Matt and Renée have split their overall team into two divisions: greenhouse staff and in-store representatives. With the help of four area managers, Renée supervises a service team of 30 and makes weekly visits to all district stores while Matt tends to the greenhouse and completes orders.

Although Home Depot is a franchise, Wood says his team approaches each location as the opposite, and treats the big-box chain as an independent garden center. Onsite employees are still responsible for the care of the plants, including watering, pruning and feeding, as well as inventory management. And since there are different demands at each location, they are trained to “read the volume and velocity” of each store, down to the plant types, preferred colors and common quantities.

For the Woods, 'Spring Black Friday' kickstarts their gardening season and Renée decorates the garden centers with colorful hanging baskets, trays of vibrant annuals, pre-planted box inserts and Drop-n-Bloom containers to catch the eyes of shoppers. And like most independent garden centers, Mother’s Day is their biggest sales weekend, which proved to be true again this year.

A bird's eye view of one of the many Home Depot locations the Woods work with

Finding the right path

While the husband and wife team is successful with Wood’s Greenhouses, they both sought different careers beforehand. While attending Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania, Matt originally worked in the greenhouse to earn money during his breaks until his father asked him to join the business before retiring. Matt left college and spent the next two years learning the ropes before his purchase. Since then, the business has grown six times over due to Matt’s innovation and longstanding relationship with Home Depot.

Renée previously worked as a director of marketing and public relations in New York. But after having their son and daughter within a year of each other, she decided to work closer to home, which led to her training in the merchandising department and later leading it.

Now, Matt says leaving college was a great decision, and partnering with Home Depot was an even better one. He describes himself as “team orange all the way,” and has no plans to associate with another big-box franchise. However, he wouldn’t mind expanding to other Home Depot locations if the opportunity presented itself.

“What my plans are and what their plans are may be two different things,” Matt says. “As far as individual plans, we would welcome more growth with Home Depot if they saw it in their powers to give us more. I’m only 43, but we’re still hungry and looking to grow if possible. I could go from 15 to 500 [stores] and be happy. But if not, I’m OK with that, too. We’re just happy to oblige.”

Focusing on quality

As far as maintaining valuable crops, Matt says quality is their biggest goal. He’s even turned down jobs because of quick turnaround times, which is his biggest advice to growers who are selling to or interested in selling to big-box retailers.

“My advice is something that we’ve lived by which is, don’t promise more than you can deliver and grow at the right pace for you. Stay within your lanes because if not, that’s when the wheels start coming off,” he says. “The other main thing, hands down, is to grow quality products. Never sacrifice the quality because quality products solve almost every problem in this business. If you have good stuff, you can sell it to anyone.”