PRICING MERCHANDISE AND SERVICES

Determining the correct price to charge is an ongoing challenge in any business, and ornamental horticulturists are famous for doing it badly year after year. They have underpriced their products and services for so long that consumers have come to expect a great deal for comparatively little. Too many horticulturists do not know why they charge a certain price except that their competition charges that price and they match it.

If horticulturists made a single product whose material costs were constant, whose time of manufacturing was as predictable as an auto­mobile, and whose workers were all paid the same wage, it would be easier to determine the cost of the product, and a fair profit could be calculated and added on rather simply. However, one of the great diffi­culties of pricing horticultural products and services is that there is little quantitative repetition. When a retail flower shop fills an order for a large number of identical wire service specialties, it comes the closest to assembly line production that ornamental horticulture ever does. Much of what ornamental horticulturists do is custom work. Most floral arrangements that leave a shop have a different combination and num­ber of flowers, greens, and other materials. No two landscapes are the same. A greenhouse crop produced in one season is subject to an entirely different combination of environmental variables than a similar

crop produced immediately before or after it. A nursery may suffer no rabbit or deer damage one winter, yet be devastated the next year. Therefore, the pricing of horticultural materials, like nearly all agricul­tural commodities, is imprecise and subject to rapid changes. Nevertheless, it must be done knowledgeably, not with fingers crossed and a rabbit’s foot in the back pocket.

Some horticultural operations sell products (flower arrangements, nursery plants, potted flowers, sod, chemicals). Others, such as land­scape designers and contractors, sell mostly services. Often, these ser­vices are rendered only after successful competitive bidding. Just as there are diverse ways of doing business, so are there different methods of pricing.