This story has been updated.
Decatur, GA — Lush Plant Company and Plant House have similar stories.
Both are owned by women. Both started small. Both plants sell to green-fingered enthusiasts. But Planthouse, first planted in Virginia Beach in 2018, has grown, with about 10 locations in the South. One of its new locations opened in 2021 at the AMLI mixed-use development in Decatur.
Lush Plant Co. launched with a pop-up in 2020, and has remained small at its Oakhurst location. Lush has a loyal customer base in Decatur. Lush Plant Co. co-founder Andrea Kidd said at first that she welcomed the competition from Plant House and said the two businesses had coexisted peacefully for some time.
“We’ve been playing well for 18 months,” Kidd said.
But the gardening gloves came off during the Thanksgiving holiday. Kidd was celebrating the holiday in Tennessee when she received a “strange” email from her largest supplier the day before Thanksgiving.
The supplier, based in Florida, informed Kidd that they could no longer supply Lush Plant Company due to a dispute with another customer.
“Although we appreciate the business relationship that has been established, unknowingly, this puts us in breach of the agreement we have with other distribution partners,” the supplier said.
Kidd speculated that Planthouse was another distribution partner, in part because the company suddenly blocked him on social media. And so began one of Decatur’s most bitter feuds, with local mothers rallying to support Lush and vowing to get the plant house out of town.
Planthouse says the situation is not personal and the company has not directly ordered its supplier to stop doing business with Lush. The supplier made the move after Planthouse inquired about deliveries to Lush, according to President Ted Davis and CEO Billy Ryan. The company’s contract with the supplier predates Lush’s opening, Ryan said.
“At no time did I make any ultimatums or threats,” Ryan said.
For the supplier, potentially losing Planthouse, with its many locations throughout the South, would be a bigger threat to its business than ending its account with Lush, Kidd noted.
When the Florida company backed out of its contract with Lush, the Decatur-based company lost a reliable, affordable supplier with access to specialty products, and Cade confirmed that its business may continue as a result. don’t have
Having a reliable supplier, especially one who waived shipping costs and delivered products on time, made a difference, Kidd said. Losing this supplier means more work and expense for her. She had a family to look after and before finding a stable company to deliver products to, she often had to cut back on the time she spent with them to grow her business. Without this supplier on board, she’ll face the same pressures again, and she’s not sure she can handle it.
“I’m only human, and I’m a hard worker, but at the end of the day, everybody has limitations,” Kidd said.
Decaturish was first alerted to the situation by a Decatur mom’s group that submitted a letter to the editor signed, “#LushAF group of plant moms.”
“Is Planthouse so threatened by Lush that it can’t succeed without destroying the livelihoods of two women in our community and destroying a small, local business? And more importantly, is that what we Will we sit back and let it? Our small businesses are the heart of commerce in Decatur, making this region unique and exciting,” Lake says.
Ryan knew something was wrong when her business started receiving one-star reviews and negative messages in their inbox. Davis said that while Lush started its business before Plant House opened its doors, lease negotiations with AMLI suggest a Lush pop-up in Oakhurst.
Initially, the company did not see Lush as a competitor, but then Lush began offering similar services to Planthouse, Davis and Ryan said.
“For us, it’s always been about differentiating ourselves from similar companies,” Ryan said. “When it comes to plants, it’s about finding the best quality, finding suppliers that have a wide variety, access to plants that are different and new, andI really found that with this supplier, as well as the price. Having that competitive advantage is really important to us.
The supplier acquired the plant house through the epidemic and allowed the company to create a special inventory. Davis and Ryan said Lush’s offering of similar products is hurting Planthouse’s business.
“There was concern when Lush started to adopt our business model and offer the same things that we offer,” Davis said, later adding, “T.There is no copyright in this business model, so someone can come in and copy you. Why would someone come to us versus another company? For us, it is a plant supplier. This is how we protect this business model. What we can back up is that we have an amazing supplier who is very reliable and can give us the variety and quantity of plants that we need.
That’s why Plant House’s marketing team blocked Lush on social media, Davis said.
“Essentially, it’s someone looking at your playbook,” Davis said, though he added Planthouse wants to review its policy of blocking competitors on social media.
Davis and Ryan were concerned about what happened to Kidd when they contacted the supplier about a delivery to Lush. Kidd said he had to cut his Thanksgiving vacation short because suppliers tried to cancel deliveries that had already been confirmed. Kidd returned on Saturday to accept the delivery, which the supplier delivered via a third-party shipping company.
Davis and Ryan promised to look into the situation.
“We’ve been in Lush’s shoes before, and it’s a very difficult position to be in,” Davis said in an email.
Ryan said, “MeIt’s a really horrible situation that I haven’t seen change into what has changed.”
“I wish Lush all the best, especially as another female owner, going through the struggles they’re going through,” Ryan said. “We want to exist peacefully.”
Kidd doesn’t see her business as a threat to Planthouse, saying their need to protect their contract with a supplier “is silly to me.”
“We were the first in the area, and they came to town that didn’t sell the same plants, ceramics and accessories,” Kidd said. “They came to town to sell the same things we sell. I was upset when they had the same list for us. If they want to say who’s copying whose playbook, that’s where they come into our copy. We still run our business in a different way.”
But the plant house is large and there is a local presence that does not have Lush. It’s a battle Lush isn’t equipped to win, and Cade knows he’s screwed. The plant house can flex muscles that are not lean.
“They can do it, and we can’t,” Kidd said. “Big dogs win these fights and little dogs don’t stand a chance.
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