by Danny Summers

For some of us, the title of this message might take us back to our childhood days and one of the earliest TV sets. In fact, for me and our family, it was more a piece of furniture than actual electronics. And it was a black-and-white picture! Ours' was more of an upright piece of furniture with a dark mahogany finish and a large speaker at the bottom. And I remember it had an RCA Victor label on the front. The picture above is not actually our tv, but it is very close (as my "kid memories" recall).

I had no clue what RCA Victor stood for but a quick search today fills in the blanks... Radio Corporation of America and Victor Talking Machine Company (when they merged in 1929). Does anyone remember their "His Master's Voice" logo with a dog listening to the record player?

Several years later what a HUGE day it was when Mom and Dad had a new TV delivered... our first COLOR TV. And it was even more of a piece of furniture than the first. It had a beautiful maple hardwood cabinet. It too was an RCA Victor... just like the ad here. It was about 1967 if I remember correctly. Boy, do I remember vividly seeing The Wizard of Oz that fall in COLOR.

WOW, the Wicked Witch of the West was even more scary!

Now for me during the next few years or so, most of my favorite shows on Saturday mornings were still in black & white, Roy Rogers, Sky King, and others. But we quickly became accustomed to seeing all of the normal broadcasts on the three networks, NBC, CBS, and ABC (plus sometimes PBS) in color. How quickly we were spoiled. Color made a world of difference.

But the title above and this message are not about RCA Televisions. It is about our own RCA...

The Retailers' Choice Awards!

It was August of 2004, and Karen and I were managing the Southern Nursery Association and the SNA Trade Show in Atlanta. It was our 16th year doing so. That year, Robert Hendrickson was presenting education for our Garden Retailers and we had the idea of engaging some of the Retailers the next day to work the show floor and pick the best new plants and products for us to recognize with awards. We called it the Retailers' Choice Awards.

Karen dug out one of our newsletters with post-show coverage and it recaps the awards Robert and his team of Garden Retailers selected. That year, we recognized and presented awards to 17 companies. Looking over the list of award winners and products a few names stand, even today... Bailey Nurseries' Tiger Eyes® Cutleaf Staghorn Sumac and Carolina Nurseries and its Novalis Partners for Double Knockout Roses.

That was the first year we used the term Retailers' Choice Awards. Granted, there have been a few years in between that it may not have been used and awarded. But as we gathered last week in Portland for the Farwest Show 2023, it dawned on me that this is the 20th year birthday of the beginning of the Retailers' Choice Awards. Now you know my idea for the title above...RCA-20!

The process we use for the Retailers' Choice Awards has developed and been refined over the past 20 years, but the basic idea remains the same... Garden Retailers recognize and nominate plants and products they want to sell in future seasons. They vote on the combined list of nominations overnight for their top choices and we products earning the most votes of confidence are awarded the next day.

Over the years, we have been blessed to gain the post-event promotional support of not only the trade show where we present the Retailers' Choice Awards but also Green Profit, Garden Center Magazine, and Lawn & Garden Retailer. They all have shared so many great new plants and products with everyone.

And for all our Garden Retailers who have participated in the search, it has provided an opportunity to meet other peer Centers, see all of the nominated plants and products (not just the winners) and, of course, be some of the first to know about them.

Last week I had the opportunity to visit Jonn Karsseboom's The Garden Corner, a Group Center just outside of Portland. It was an amazing visit and while Jonn and I were talking, our conversation eventually moved to the Farwest'23 Show the next day and our search for the Retailers' Choice Awards. Jonn has always been one of our participating retailers at Farwest. During our conversation Jonn said,

"We don't realize what a huge difference we make when the retailers find a new plant or product, especially when it's from a small company. It must be like a shot in the arm with all the attention and recognition."

We talked some more and over the next few days while on my trip, I thought more of what Jonn said. It is very rewarding to think about how this program and activity is making a real difference for both Garden Retailers and the companies that work so hard to develop and bring these new plants and products to market. At the same time, I am very thankful for all the Retailers who have seen value in the search and selection process for the Retailers' Choice Awards.

I can not end this message without giving a reminder for our upcoming Retailers' Choice Awards searches. Be watching for our signups at TPIE-Fort Lauderdale, FL in January 2024 (where the awards are called Cool Product Awards), at Cultivate'24 in Columbus, OH in July, and then again at Farwest 2024 in Portland, OR.

You may even see a few future Retailers' Choice Awards from our Sponsors at The Fall Event 2023 in Cincinnati next month.

Be sure to see all the details of what the judges found and awarded at Farwest '23 last week below.

And a big Thank You to everyone for all your efforts and support and of course...

Happy 20th Birthday RCA! And THANK YOU Robert Hendrickson for helping me bring this new idea to life 20 years ago in my days before The Group!


Sharing is at the heart of The Group and your ideas are very important. If you have any trouble logging into The Group WebSystem, please let me know. Are you and your staff all subscribed to our eLists such as GroupEs, Retail-Grower, Retail-Landscape, Owners-Only, and a number of others? Need help subscribing? Let me know so I can show you how you can sign up.

Thanks for sharing!

Danny Summers
[email protected]
Tel: 678-909-7770
Cell: 678-761-7145

REMEMBER: Your interaction (by phone and email) with Group Service Providers such as Tim Quebedeaux, Sid Raisch, John Kennedy, Jean Seawright, and of course Danny Summers are included in your retainer!

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