F&G strengthens its roots: Foster & Gallagher acquires two more gardening books

Sep 01, 1999 9:30 PM  By

After expanding into various product niches over the years, including gifts, foods, and children’s products, 85-year-old Foster & Gallagher is feeding its core horticultural business with new acquisitions.

In July, Peoria, IL-based Foster & Gallagher acquired Yankton, SD-based Gurney’s Seed & Nursery Co. and Shenandoah, IA-based Henry Field’s Seed & Nursery Co. And in August, the company was said to be in discussions involving another plant company, but details were not available by press time.

These acquisitions “complement Foster & Gallagher’s well-established horticultural brands and further reinforce its leadership position in the horticultural market,” says Lisa Hahn, a spokeswoman for the company. More specifically, the new catalogs expand the $480 million F&G’s business into seeds, gardening tools, fertilizers, and pest control products.

Also, says David Grim, senior vice president of merchandising for F&G’s horticultural group, both Gurney’s and Field’s have “an extremely loyal customer base,” and the mailing lists for both catalogs have worked well for F&G in the past. F&G’s plant division accounts for nearly 70% of the business, with titles such as perennials book Spring Hill; bulbs catalogs Breck’s and Michigan Bulb; and Stark Bros., a catalog that sells fruit trees.

But while F&G was busy snapping up gardening books this summer, it also unloaded one of its food gifts titles. In July, it sold Lake Forest, IL-based Popcorn Factory to Wand Partners, a New York private equity investment firm that owns Paragon Holdings, the $100 million parent company of The Paragon gifts catalog, puzzles title Bits & Pieces, and housewares book Practica. In a statement, F&G claimed that the Popcorn Factory “no longer fit into its strategic plans.”

In addition to its horticultural catalogs, F&G still owns three children’s titles, two gifts catalogs, and Healthful Secrets, which sells vitamins and related products. Hahn says that no further changes are expected in its children’s, gifts, and hard goods businesses.