Most houseplant lovers are familiar with Costa Farms. If you've ever purchased a houseplant at a big box garden center or grocery store, chances are it was a houseplant developed and grown by the Miami-based grower. Around Christmas time in 2020, I saw a mysterious rumor that started circling amongst houseplant groups on Facebook—Costa opened an online store. At first, I thought it was an error. Costa is a wholesaler and does not sell directly to consumers. Well, it's no a rumor. The wholesale grower is opening its door and selling your favorite trendy plants direct to customers.
Why Offer Direct to Customer Now?
Costa did a soft launch of the online store to gauge interest at the end of 2020. Word spread like wildfire, and houseplant fans shared the news (along with the secret password) to shop online with other plant parents. The interest was more than Justin Hancock, brand marketing director at Costa Farms, could imagine. The plant grower's main reason to offer plants directly to consumers is that they want plants to be more accessible. "We know that there aren't a lot of retailers and some especially rural areas and that some popular plants tend to sell out fast in some markets," Hancock explains, "And so by giving the option to order online, you're not at the mercy of did my local store get this in? Did I get to my local store fast enough for some of these hard-to-find varieties?"
It's All About Customer Service
Many of Costa's popular plant varieties are already available at retail garden centers such as Home Depot, Lowes, and Walmart. You can also get the plants on those retailers' websites and have them shipped directly to you from Costa's growing houses. So, what makes ordering directly from Costa different? The short answer is there is no middle man. "You have more control over what you are getting," says Hancock.
Purchasing through one of Costa's retail partners means that the availability and condition of the plants at the brick and mortar stores depends on how well the staff takes care of the plant at the store level. As a frequent shopper of houseplants, I know all too well that no two garden centers are alike and I tend to shop at certain ones because they take care of the plants they have in stock. Furthermore, returns or replacements are handled by the retailer and not directly by Costa Farms. Ordering directly from the company ensures that the plants receive the utmost care until the day they ship and, if there is a problem, a replacement will be headed to you as soon as possible.
What Will Be Available?
Currently, Costa's online offerings are mostly their Trending Tropicals® collection. For the time being, that will be the extent of their offerings directly to consumers. "I suspect we will open that up more," says Hancock, "We're still figuring out eCommerce." Because Costa Farms' infrastructure is 99 percent wholesale, the company has focused this past quarter on building up a customer service team and shifting to eCommerce retail. However, the company wants to work out all the hiccups before they open the floodgates.
Why Are The Plants More Expensive?
Currently, the Trending Tropicals® plants on Costa's site are all $50. This price included fast shipping via FedEx. The price is probably the most significant sticking point I hear from Costa plant fans in my Facebook groups. Yes, it's the exact plants you can pick up online or in-store at Home Depot for around $20. So, why does it cost more when you order direct? The answer is two-fold. "Costa Farms is a wholesale grower," explains Hancock, "We don't set retail prices." The second reason is the cost of labor and shipping. "When you buy a plant online, it's significantly more labor to process an individual order to pull that plant singularly to pack it for FedEx than it is to put 100 of these things on the truck for Home Depot," says Hancock. I've purchased plants from smaller growers and retailers on Esty, and proportionally, the cost for shipping and handling is the same. Comparing the shipping cost with large retailers like Amazon, Walmart and Home Depot isn't an apples-to-apples comparison. They deal in volume, and in turn, can negotiate lower shipping costs for customers.
Is buying directly from Costa worth the additional cost? For me, yes, because I know exactly what I am getting, and if I don't have to deal with another layer of customer service from a retailer if there is a problem. Costa may be a massive player in the wholesale nursery business, but they are still a small company and will give you personalized customer service.
When is the Official Launch Date?
Costa Farms launches its online store on May 12th. Shop now on the online store and get some new plant babies to add to your collection!