Burpee Holding Files for Chapter 11

Warminster, PA–Burpee Holding Co., the holding company of seed cataloger W. Atlee Burpee & Co., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in a Philadelphia bankruptcy court Sept. 21. The filing “will have zero impact on our catalog business,” says chairman George C. Ball Jr., nor is the company exploring buyout options.

According to Ball, “discussions were becoming disputatious with our bank lender regarding our acquisitions,” though he would not disclose specifically which acquisitions. In January, Burpee had bought assets of now-defunct pure-play Garden.com; in June 2000 it had acquired the Heronswood Nursery catalog.

Burpee Holding Co.’s bankruptcy filing comes on the heels of similar filings from gardening catalogers such as Foster & Gallagher and Etera. “Big box” stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s “are stealing market share from every type of garden retailer and cataloger, because they’ve begun to sell products that were once available only by catalog or in specialty garden stores,” says Bruce Butterfield, research director for the National Gardening Association in South Burlington, VT.

Butterfield also notes that an exceptionally long and cold winter this year delayed gardeners’ purchases for spring planting. “By April, some gardeners may have feared that it was too late to order by mail and wait for the products, so they went to their local garden centers for what they needed,” he says. Mail order gardening accounts for about 10% of the total garden market.