Finance strategy hot topic at Farewest Trade Show:

"Growing everything for everybody isn't going to cut it financially"

To survive the Great Recession, nurseries had to get quickly very good at cost management, said industry consultant John Kennedy. With the economy slowly improving, the danger now is that they will begin to slide back into bad habits, he said at the recent Farwest nursery and greenhouse trade show in Portland, Ore. "That's my biggest fear," he said. Rather than risk sinking into complacency and leaving money on the table, nurseries should refine the "lean" skills they learned during the downturn, Kennedy said.

"Are we selling the right things that are making the right money we want to be making," he asked.

The nursery industry stands to improve its management of numerous product lines, often called stock keeping units or SKUs, said Charlie Hall, an economist specializing in the nursery industry at Texas A&M University.

First of all, nurseries should identify which plants contribute minimally to revenue - for example, less than $1,000 in annual sales - and remove them from their product portfolios immediately, he said.

In the future, growing everything for everybody isn't going to cut it financially, said Hall.

Growers often don't have sufficiently thorough cost accounting, so they're unaware of how much they're spending to produce each type of plant, he said.

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