Hirt’s Gardens Takes On The Ecommerce Sphere with ShipWorks
Tell us the story of Hirt’s Gardens. Where did it all begin?
Hirt’s Gardens’ story began in 1915. Samuel Hirt grew and bottled horseradish that he sold at the Sheriff Street Market in Cleveland, Ohio. By November 1917 he had moved his family to a farm in Strongsville, Ohio and continued to sell horseradish and other vegetables. In the late 30’s the business was passed onto Samuel’s sons, Art and Hobert Hirt. The construction of multiple greenhouses expanded the business and Hirt’s began selling both wholesale and retail: trees, shrubs, perennial and annual potted plants, vegetable plants, berries, and seeds.
Hobert’s sons, Alan and Clare Hirt, began running the business in 1975 and eventually divided. Clare moved onto a florist’s shop he would run for several years. Alan continued to sell retail only, but sales were faltering. So, in 1993 he needed to make the most important decision, sell the business, or make the leap to the internet. Selling plants online was not so common at that time, so this was a big step. He decided to take the risk and began selling seeds and some of the plants on eBay.
Did taking the risk of selling online have a positive impact on your business?
Slowly, sales started to grow as more plants were listed, and the business began to recover. Needing to expand and move out of the bustling center of Strongsville, now much more populated than when it all began, the decision to move out of the city was made in 2002. From 2002-2004 sales were only online with only a few people on the fulfillment team.
In 2007 in addition to eBay, Hirt’s started selling on Amazon, shipping live plants 4 days a week. We hired more employees to assist with the greenhouse work and packaging of the plants. Presently, Hirt’s Gardens sells primarily online, shipping orders 7 days a week, with 98% of sales made on our website – www.hirts.com, Amazon, eBay, Walmart, and Etsy. Walk-in customers are still welcome, and we are open year-round.
How large is your fulfillment team?
In the peak Spring season, our fulfillment team consists of 40-50 employees and in the off-season 25-30 employees.
What are some unique shipping challenges that come with sending living, delicate plants across the country?
Winter shipping is the most challenging aspect of selling live plants. We use time-released heat packs in the winter months to ensure the safe arrival of the plants. We also use proper packing with air pillows and wrapping the plants in paper to keep them from shifting around too much in the boxes during transit.
How does ShipWorks work in tandem with your subscription service?
ShipWorks communicates with Stamps.com directly which takes out additional steps for us. Our orders are imported from our integration platform into ShipWorks which relays back the tracking when orders are fulfilled.
What was your shipping process like before you found ShipWorks?
Before ShipWorks we had to manually enter every address into Stamps.com, a very cumbersome process with a greater volume of orders. This was also before Amazon and eBay required delivery confirmations via tracking numbers. So, the need to manually enter tracking numbers was not an issue like it would be now.
What ShipWorks features have been game-changing for you?
The ability to scan a barcode and not have to type out the shipping address of each order has been the most beneficial change. ShipWorks also enables us to filter data in various ways, easily allowing us to view the orders by sales platform, create sales reports and apply various filters that assist us in processing the orders.Tara Billeter
IT Support & Customer Service
What shipping challenges do you predict facing in the future? How can ShipWorks help you navigate those issues?
If ShipWorks is down, we grind to a halt. Our ability to process and ship orders is reliant on both ShipWorks and Stamps.com to be running smoothly. Our hope is that ShipWorks will continue to provide quality updates, handle our processing volume, and provide excellent customer service.