10 November 2012

The Ultimate Test: Will Hydro Customers Shop At Big Box Hydro Stores

Will Big Box hydro stores ever catch on? I think the
answer is.........hope not!
It's not here yet. Harvest Moon is a "chain" of hydroponic stores with six stores on it's web site. The store that is not listed on it's site is  Hudson Valley Hydroponics and Organics . At one time the store was listed as a Harvest Moon store. HHVO does not even have a web site that comes up on a Google search and only lists a Facebook address. I have picked up many customers from this operation who have found my service far superior and more friendly. And I charge the same price for items day in day out not making up prices as I go along.

Hydroponics customers young and old are mad loyal to their local shop. Hydro/indoor farming is the fastest growing segment of gardening.  The Progressive Gardening Trade Association claims hydro is a $1 billion dollar industry roughly 5% of the $30 billion garden industry. It will only be a matter of time before someone in a corporate bean counting room will think they can take over the market with a nationwide big box Wal-Mart of Weed concept. Photon Holdings, which now calls themselves, GrowLife Inc. (OTCBB: PHOT) recently released an SEC filing saying it purchased a California Hydro store Urban Garden Supplies with the intention of expanding nationwide "by a nationwide retail hydroponics presence offering more niche home gardening products than Lowe’s Companies (NYSE: LOW) or Home Depot (NYSE: HD)".

I applaud their intentions of offering better gardening products than Depot or Lowes, both the home of dead plants and totally knowledge-less garden associates. It does not take a rocket scientist to do that. However the acquisition of one store does not a chain make. 

The biggest stumbling block to obtaining a nationwide big box format in hydro, after customer loyalty to their local shop, is price. No I do not believe in discount hydro stores. The price issue here is the retail cost of most growing systems  is way out of line with a mass market approach. Aerogarden tried and for a while succeeded with it's table top growing systems that ranged from $150-$200. The problem with Aerogarden was that after  the novelty wore off users realized they could not feed a family or grow full sized vegetables and the cost of the finished produce was far higher than store bought. Every product was proprietary from the replacement grow light bulb to the seeds pods. Home made systems made from 10- 15 gallon storage tubs, cheap net pots   small air pumps and a T5 lighting system can grow up to 10 full size herbs or five vegetable plants. These systems can be built for as little as $100-$200 and even less if using a compact fluorescent fixture(CFL) instead of a T5 system

The big winner in the converging hydro, indoor farming, urban farming field will be a product that Grandma buys for $300-$500 that does everything but harvest the tomatoes for you. This product will look like  a kitchen appliance or a piece of IKEA designed furniture depending on the room it is placed  in.  This "indoor farming appliance" be the focus of conversation. And the biggest point is Grandma won't even know it's a hydroponic system she is buying.

Garden advice you can dig!

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