Many factors affect commerce, including uncontrollable and unpredictable rising and falling fortunes of various industries, such as air travel, that nevertheless still performs excellent passenger services for our American society. The soaring fortunes of the National airlines 10 years past, now has been reversed by ongoing bankruptcy factors caused by inflated fuel costs, worker pensions and salary contracts. American automobile manufacturers may face a similar fate from the Japanese aggression into the world vehicle markets, but contrasting the problems of these industrial icons of the past, the petroleum companies are flooded with phenomenal profits, and their warehouses are continuously overflowing with stashes of cash.
Box stores are experiencing record sales and are moving towards an overactive expansion for new store locations. Box stores are incorporated within and under one roof, a collection of many separate business units. A few of these competitive businesses would include a paint store, hardware, camera, clothing, building supply, grocery, pharmacy, plant nursery and many others. Can this momentum of the box stores march forward at its present pace? On the surface it appears that box stores are less vulnerable than smaller, more specialized businesses, because of their versatility in offerings of many different product lines and their clever, financially firm grasp on boxing-in contracted plant suppliers for merchandise and garden products that will furnish to them low priced plants and trees much below the prices of their competitors.
Perhaps the greatest threat to box stores expansion and survival is the current proliferation of more chains of well financed box store competitors. That additional competition will substantially dilute the future and success for all box stores in the market. There are many other factors that tend to destabilize the economic “status quo”. Consider the general slowdown in the present economy that can be caused by foreclosures, job layoffs, and high interest rates. A general slowdown in the U.S. economy would reduce spending on most goods by Americans and could precipitate a looming financial recession. The attack on the World Trade Center on 9.11.01, affected tourism for over two years following the incident. Many plant sales at nursery locations dropped 90%, until finally in March of 2002, the interested buyer for plants and trees was healthily restored. An event similar to 9.11.01 could again negatively influence the economy to a sudden retraction its momentum; the extent of the damage would be determined by the severity of the attack and where the attack might occur.
In early January of 1983, a deep freeze hit the Southeastern U.S., where most nursery container plants were produced and temperatures plummeted to zero degrees, even in South Georgia. A great amount of the spring inventories of, 'ready-to-market' plants were ruined to such an extent that the State Agricultural Departments “stopped the sale” and recalled many plants that had been distributed for sale, because the plant roots growing within the thin-walled plastic pots were frozen. Root rot entered and weakened the plants to the point that plants and trees were unmarketable. If a future freeze equally that severe in the plant production areas of the Southeastern U.S., the market demand for many plants items would be so restricted in supply, that sales could not be made and income for nurseries would be severely cut back.
Most box stores have discovered that in all areas that are North of Florida, it is not profitable and is impractical to grow or to keep large inventories of plants during the fall and winter, except for the quick sale items marketed for Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, such as poinsettia plants, mums, and potted amaryllis flowers. The amaryllis bulb is easy to force into flowers in a matter of 3-4 weeks, and the bulbs are economical, as buyers pick them up impulsively when they are in flower. Most amaryllis will re-flower, so even if the plant is not sold when exhibited originally, it will often be picked up later by a buyer. Since it is not practical to stock up on plants for the box stores during the cold months of fall and winter, the empty space is commonly used to market Christmas trees and all the decorations that are associated with the holidays.
One criticism that has been directed toward the survivability of trees and plants sold at box stores is that Arkansas grown plants may not survive in Louisiana or Michigan climates. Another criticism is that the quality of the plants offered to buyers looks absolutely fine when purchased, but after they are taken home and planted in the garden, the leaves fall off and the plant flops. This condition can be expected, because most of the perennial and annual plants are grown in high concentrations of light and in 100% greenhouse humidity, but when the plants are re-located to lower light conditions or lower outside humidity, the leaves shrivel off and the plants must readjust to regrow after about a month in an altered environment.
Another potential problem of huge proportions has appeared from new invasive weeds that threaten to cover and plague the entire country, such as the tropical spiderwort, Commelina benghalensis L. Tropical spiderwort has spread throughout the Southern United States and appears to be unmatched in its chaotic spread by all other invasive noxious weeds. Tropical spiderwort, as the name, “tropical”,suggests and inaccurately implies that it is tropical in nature. Even though it is very sensitive to cold temperatures, it resurges like an uncontrolled monstrosity in late spring from the seed that are produced above the ground from blue flowers, called the “day flower”, and also from underground seeds that were produced at each node near the roots. Tropical spiderwort, rapidly covers farmland fields to damage such valuable crops as cotton and peanuts, as its vines grow several feet upwards to envelop and shade out those field crops. The USDA has issued an order to prohibit interstate shipments of container plants containing this new weed menace to all nurseries that produce containerized plant material for shipment anywhere. Nursery owners are faced with a dilemma with tropical spiderwort infestations, because of the aggressive genetic resistance of the spiderwort toward all herbicides, including roundup. It appears that the only control of tropical spiderwort, Commelina benghalensis L. is fumigation of the soil. The seed of this plant can sprout years after lying dormant and inactive underneath the soil. Nursery operators including box stores face this noxious weed, tropical spiderwort, as the most serious threat to confront agricultural continuity in many years.
Box stores have demonstrated in the past their talent and vision in changing the direction and goals of plant sales at retail operations. Whether those many successful ideas will continue in the future depends on many circumstances, many of which are unforeseen until they happen in the future.