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Greener Fields

A genuine friends-and-family enterprise, Forest Lake Greenhouses has connected the Florence, South Carolina, community to the natural world for more than 30 years. From spring blooms and summer vegetables to rare tropical and holiday poinsettias, the retail garden center and wholesale nursery offers something for every gardener and plant lover.

When Luke Venable, General Manager at Forest Lake Greenhouses, made the jump from IT consultant to realize a long-time dream of taking on the business, his ambition was to tackle projects to advance and expand the company. He revealed, “We were a traditional greenhouse operation; everything was accomplished with phones and fax machines.”

One of Venable’s first strategic moves was to deploy Epicor Propello Point of Sale (POS). He explained, “A native cloud solution, Epicor Propello is highly intuitive, with a friendly look and feel, and did not require an implementation team onsite. It played a major role in transitioning us into the modern era.”

Productivity at Scale

Forest Lake is a seasonal business, adding roughly 25% more staff for the spring peak season. The immediate benefit of Propello was expedited onboarding of new cashiers while delivering improved customer and employee experiences. Previously, the business had four veteran cashiers who had prices memorized. At the time, this was a much-needed skill because only a fraction of items had price tags, making it challenging to get new employees up to speed in time to support the increased volume.

“With Epicor Propello, new staff is productive faster than we ever thought possible,” Venable divulged. “Instead of working registers, our most knowledgeable people are now on the sales floor, answering customers’ questions and driving sales. That is huge for our business.” He added, “We are no longer limited to four cashiers; we have eight or nine employees who can use the system, giving us tremendous flexibility.”

Since 2020, we have experienced a 30% growth and Epicor Propello enabled us to ride that wave. We have also had record sales days and have never been overwhelmed because the solution allows us to scale effortlessly.

That agility has cut queues in half and enabled Forest Lake to take advantage of the COVID-19 plant boom. Venable elaborated, “Since 2020, we have experienced 30% growth and Epicor Propello enabled us to ride that wave. We have also had record sales days and have never been overwhelmed because the solution allows us to scale effortlessly.”

Visibility Speeds Answers

Epicor Propello has facilitated efficient inventory management, a massive benefit for Forest Lake’s dedicated phone team. “With Epicor, those employees are confidently providing immediate answers about product availability without the need for someone to run across a half-acre to check,” Venable acknowledged. Furthermore, the POS system delivers historical data to inform ordering and sales goals, as well as better analysis of sales data and clarity on margins.

He shared an example, “Epicor Propello revealed that a category gross margin was not what we expected. That insight prompted us to adjust the markup to achieve a higher gross margin and improve profitability.”

Additionally, Forest Lake is expanding the product mix to match customer appetites. “We have reorganized our buying team and are testing a lot of new and interesting items,” Venable clarified. “Data allows us to analyze what is working and what is not so we can make smart decisions about which vendors and products to move forward with.”

Cultivating Loyalty, Trimming Costs

Forest Lake offers two customer loyalty programs: the year-round points-based Frequent Flower Club and the seasonal Blooming Bucks. Epicor Propello has transformed these plans, delivering both massive efficiencies and cost savings.

As an example, the Frequent Flower Club was a 100% manual process, requiring customers to save receipts and bring them into the store for points-off discounts. “With Epicor Propello, the process is faster, more accurate, and less frustrating for our customers,” Venable noted.

Blooming Bucks, which runs March through May, lets customers earn dollars to redeem in June, helping Forest Lake sell down inventory before the slower summer season. Venable shared an unforeseen value, “By redeeming Blooming Bucks through Propello, we are able to apply sales tax accurately, something we were not able to achieve with a manual process. This modification has saved us a great deal of money.”

With Epicor, we are saving a whole percentage point. The solution basically pays for itself just with that benefit, a definite competitive advantage.

Another major cost savings came from moving credit card processing from Forest Lake’s bank merchant services to Epicor. Venable revealed, “With Epicor, we are saving a whole percentage point from service fees. The solution basically pays for itself just with that benefit, a definite competitive advantage.”

Will to Win

“The Epicor dashboards have created a sales-driven culture,” Venable highlighted.

He elaborated that year-over-year sales numbers are shared with the Forest Lake team every Friday, something that simply was not possible before Epicor. An unexpected bonus was that employees adopted a decidedly competitive attitude to beating previous years’ numbers. “When we break last year’s sales for a given date, the sense of accomplishment and pride is tangible,” Venable emphasized.

The Right Partner Opens Opportunity

As a former IT consultant, Venable has high standards when it comes to technology. A key criterion for selecting Epicor was that it is an established software company that supports its own products, compared with a start-up that has a thin staff or outsources to an implementation partner. He has found Epicor’s customer support team to be both responsive and knowledgeable, stating, “Epicor support is top-notch. They deliver timely, expert answers.”

Looking to the future, one of Forest Lake’s priorities is to build out the eCommerce channel to expand sales nationally. Venable underscored, “A strategic goal is to shift the volume of wholesale versus retail to drive the bottom line, an objective technology can enable. With Epicor, technology is no longer a limiting factor. We are empowered to achieve our dreams.”

Company Facts


  • Inefficient manual processes strained resources and customer experiences
  • Lack of inventory and sales data
  • Profit-eroding procedures constrained growth


  • Cloud-native POS facilitated 30% growth
  • Increased productivity, data-informed decision-making
  • Credit card processing and accurate sales tax application delivered significant cost savings
  • Enabled ecommerce for expanded reach
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