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Re: WalMart hostas

Anne Kolaczyk wrote:
RE:>>I hope that all the specialty nurseries have enough business to stay
alive but if they don't, I don't think it's because Wal-Mart is stealing
their customers. Maybe there are just too many of them for the collector
I don't have a problem, Anne, with Walmart, K-Mart, Lowes, Home Depot, or
whomever, carrying Hostas.  This is a product line to them just like any
other, and hey, it's a free country so they can do as they please
(fortunately, so can I!).   What I AM concerned about is the illegal
"dumping" of product onto the market at a loss with the very likely result
of putting others out of business because they do not have access to a much
cheaper, third-world country, labor pool.

This is what some offshore manufacturers did with computer memory chips.
The US-based manufacturers had to lobby hard but finally got Congress'
attention (were they asleep at the helm while they were conducing inquiries
regarding the definition of the word "is"?), to take legislative action to
enforce laws already on the books.  Finally, these offshore manufacturers
were forced to price their products competitively for sales into the
US market.  With third-world countries' labor often very cheap, commodity
products can be priced far below the cost to manufacturer them here.
Sometimes this is good, but when they get to the point where they are
"dumping" and putting our companies out of business, we can wake up too
late to discover what is happening.  Which "big" TC propagators do I want
to see go out of business here?  None, but when we're talking about
supplier contracts to furnish Walmart with Hostas, we're talking about big
bucks and companies go broke over such deals.  We have laws on the books
that I just hope are being observed.

These are much bigger issues than, "Should people be allowed to sell and
buy Hostas wherever they want?".  Of course they should.  The free
enterprise system is the greatest economic system in the world.  All US
residents enjoy the benefits of it, as do those from most countries in this
hemisphere.  I primarily get concerned about the "free enterprise system"
when some foreign country uses US Government-subsidized manufacturing to
produce products that are sold far below a fair price level, back into the
US market.  We send money to foreign countries to be used indirectly so
those manufacturers can help put OUR manufacturers out of business?  What's
wrong with this picture?

And, I believe the problem is not the same as the question of "should these
plants have a good-housekeeping seal of approval" for quality, even though
Kevin raises some excellent points.  Regulatory controls are already in
place for nursery growers and dealers to annually obtain state
certifications.  Just had an inspection this last week and they really DO
pay attention to plant quality and make recommendations for culture
changes, when necessary.  However, that's about all the mandatory
regulation I need.  My memberships in the AHGA, the AHS, the MRHS, and the
ROHS help educate me on the importance of keeping track of which plant is
which.  This is a large part of why I'm such a strong promotor of grower
membership in the AHGA.  I don't need mandatory controls to increase my
costs of doing business.  The market rewards excellent suppliers and
punishes bad ones.

So, we're talking about a big problem.  It involves the production and
distribution of millions of plants at deep, deep discounts; so deep that
few US-based TC propagators or growers cannot compete because they would
have to be willing to LOSE money to do so.  Remember Walmart's ad campaign
"Made in the USA"?  I don't know the whole story on the origins of these
plants, but I'll bet that a great number originally landed here as Stage
III TC plants from China, Taiwan, or other SE Asian countries and are now
being "dumped" into the US market.  They are not from the US at all.  Sure,
some US growers added more value by "growing them on" during the
distribution cycle, but if they can buy these plants for 33 cents instead
of $1.00, multiply this cost savings times 5,000 plants, times the number
of varieties they carry and we're starting to talk about real money.
Eventually, somebody here is going to go out of business because of it.

Is this good?  Should we care?  Can we do anything about it?  Probably not
to all of these questions.  Maybe if we can't beat them we should join
them.  Some try but it takes LOTS of capital and a tough business attitude,
including a disregard for the well-being of others.  I don't know that
I personally have the stomach for it.

How many H. 'Choo Choo Train's did Walmart sell over this past weekend
because of this free advertisement about the $10 plants, now likely spread
all over the internet?  I don't know but I imagine the word gets out pretty
quickly.   This is maybe my major objection--the advertisement of plant
PRICES through this list.  This is not the Gardenweb.com Hosta forum and
maybe that is part of why this rubs me the wrong way.  I haven't seen much
discussion of pricing here and I prefer it that way.

Unfortunately, because we now have this information, we may need to make a
decision.  We can ignore it, and most of us will.  But a few of us will
call our local Walmart and see if they have any more H. 'Choo Choo Train'
left!!! Unfortunately, their clerks may think a 'Choo Choo Train' can is
over in the toy department so I pretty much know I'll have to make the
physical trip there if I want accurate information.  For all those in the
DM market, "last one there gets none!".

From Des Moines, where we just got another 1" in the last hour.  At least
we don't have to water...

And, I remain,

The Emerging Hostaholic

(Anne K., if you think this was long, you should see how many paragraphs I

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