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Why Is HydroFarm Undercutting Hydroponics Stores?

Hydroponics retailers build trust that gives you confidence. Hydroponics retailers build trust that gives you confidence.

The more things change, the more they stay the same, except in the world of hydroponics.That’s how I felt when I heard that major hydroponics manufacturer-distributors like Hydrofarm abandoned their loyalty to growers and hydroponics retailers by selling hydroponics equipment at Kmart and Sears instead of only selling via hydroponics stores.


This move was a big surprise to one of my buddies who has run a hydroponics store for 14 years. He says Hydrofarm representatives looked him in the eye and assured him that they’d never sell to anybody other than hydroponics specialty stores…for obvious reasons.

For one thing, hydroponics equipment and gardening are highly specialized, so no matter how well you educate yourself about hydroponics gear by reading Rosebud Magazine cultivation articles in print or online, you still need to ask questions of hydroponics store personnel who know a lot about hydroponics and who have different brands of products for you to look at in person.

Some hydroponics gear, such as nutrients, comes with instructions or you can easily get the instructions from the manufacturer. But in most cases, what you need from hydroponics store staff is detailed information that compares hydroponics products in the same category, as well as personal recommendations from retail staff who are hydroponics gardeners like you.

Frankly, I’d be very nervous asking anybody at Kmart or Sears about much of anything. I asked a Kmart person about an oil filter once, got the wrong advice, and almost fried my engine!

And Sears has long been rumored to be going out of business (the one where I live has gone out of business). Business teachers use Kmart as a case study example of how not to do business, unless your goal is to go into bankruptcy.

I just don’t trust the people at stores like that…neither their expertise nor their understanding of hydroponics equipment, supplies and gardening.

What’s weird is that when you look at the products that Hydrofarm is selling at these failing stores, you see the pricing is no better than at retail hydroponics stores. You also see that there’s no way you could outfit and run an entire grow room at a Kmart or Sears…they only sell a few hydroponics products.

So why would I go to a Sears or Kmart store to get the few hydroponics items they sell, knowing that I won’t get better prices, and I won’t be able to get everything I need, and I won’t be able to get the right information, and I won’t be able to trust the store personnel? Instead of making one stop at the hydroponics store to get everything I need, if I go to Sears or Kmart, I still have to make a second stop at the hydroponics store.

And there’s also the issue of loyalty, which is something that counts a lot. Because hydroponics is a community as well as a career and a passion, many of us look at hydroponics stores differently than we look at the store where we buy our groceries.

It’s a more personal relationship, built on trust and discretion, and in the ability and willingness of hydroponics retailers to help us find the best hydroponics gear and use the most productive gardening techniques.

Most growers started their hydroponics careers depending on hydroponics retail stores, and some of them later became hydroponics retailers or hydroponics store employees. This sharing of expertise and teamwork strengthens the hydroponics industry and creates more rewarding gardens.

When I look at this situation, it seems to me that Hydrofarm and the other near-monopoly hydroponics manufacturer-distributors decided to sell out hydroponics retailers and go for profits, even if it means a race to the bottom and perhaps the eventual closure of many local hydroponics stores.

Is this any way to treat a (large) baby?

Nobody who’s loyal to hydroponics or their own best interests is going to shop at Sears for hydroponics gear, nor are they going to buy Hydrofarm products.

Instead, hydroponics growers who have a sense of loyalty and who want the highest-yielding gardens are going to continue giving their business to the hydroponics storeowners who have created local businesses that serve their hydroponics community.

As regards Hydrofarm, most industry insiders have sadly realized that Hydrofarm’s only loyalty is to something green…something that isn’t a plant. Cash is what they lust for, and one wonders what’s the next sellout move they’ll do that hurts our industry and breaks the heart of growers and retail storeowners.

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Last modified on Monday, 06 December 2010 21:04

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