Montgomery's Atlanta Retail Report
Marketing consultant Jerry Montgomery traveled to Atlanta last weekend and shared his findings from Home Depot, Lowe's, Walmart and independent garden centers.
April 21, 2009
The weather was ideal for gardening last weekend with day temperatures of 75 to 80°F and nights in the 40s and 50s. As we observed in other areas, vegetables were selling like hot cakes along with T-18 Landscaper trays, 4.5-inch annuals and 10-inch baskets.
As an observer, it seemed prices points above $15 were not moving well. We saw a more basic assortment in many shopping carts. Premium hanging baskets were moving well, but it is clear only if they are full and colorful. The higher the price, the more consumers look for value. I saw a lot of empty patio pots in the 10- to 12-inch sizes being sold.
Its stores were really busy, particularly between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., with lots of Bonnie vegetables in shopping carts of consumers - along with 10-inch hanging baskets (basic seed) on sale at $5. The T-18 Landscaper tray was moving at a rapid pace with emptier shelf space than any other item except vegetables. Home Depot seems to have more of an emphasis on bagged goods than other retailers, with many pallets on the outside aprons whereas others use the aprons for color.
Home Depot ran a number of ads featuring Bonnie 5-inch vegetables at $3.48, which is its normal retail price. Bonnie also ran TV spots featuring its biodegradable peat pots extolling the virtues of the environmental issues.
Stores were loaded with customers, and like its competitor, Lowe's had 10-inch basic hanging baskets at $5. The T-18 landscaper tray was also moving along with tons of Bonnie vegetables.
It seems as though Lowe's was selling more upscale premium annuals and perennials. The T-18 Landscaper tray pricing was somewhat confusing, retailing at $9.97, $10.97 and, in some Atlanta stores, $12.48. The lower prices were mostly south of Atlanta in the smaller towns like Macon and Thomaston.
This company has shown so much improvement in the Southeast that it is hard to explain, with vastly improved in-store merchandising and product quality second to none. One of my issues has been the lack of price signs, but that has changed this season with 95 percent of displays accurately and clearly priced.
Walmart has a very easy-to-understand pricing strategy, using whole- or half-dollar increments in most cases on "green goods." Walmart has also gone to a more basic product mix, with just enough "cute stuff" to make shopping interesting.
You just can't say enough about the improvement in product quality. Walmart stores are more colorful than ever. We have been closely watching the great new Geranium Calliope. Walmart offers a 12-inch Calliope at $20 retail. Talk about a great value.
Armstrong has really made a huge difference with its approach to retailing, and that is especially true in its remodeled Atlanta store located in the Toco Hills area. Pike's has improved the interior with lighter and brighter colors, and a wider array of upscale merchandise. In the greenhouse area, it has installed more tables and uses many more signs to direct customers to various products areas. On Saturday morning, this store had more customers than any other retailer we visited.
Pike's is the only retailer we visited selling organically grown vegetables, and the consumers were buying plenty at reasonable prices. They also did a masterful job in cross-merchandising tie-in products.
Pike's overall pricing strategy is to be competitive on the basics and offer more premium products at higher prices. There was nothing in these stores in the green goods category we considered outlandishly priced.
It offered several items of garden plants, but most everything was out of flower and did not make a real statement.
- 8-5-inch annuals retailing at 10.99
- 12-inch premium baskets retailing at 16.99
- 16-inch patio combinations retailing at 29.99
- 12-inch patio retailing at 13.99
The only item it had in outdoor garden plants was 10-inch braided hibiscus trees retailing at 19.88. It was at least a great value.
Vegetables are selling briskly in the five markets I've visited, with the biggest beneficiary being Bonnie Plant Farms. It's almost the sole supplier for the three national retailers.
The only organic program was at Pike's Nursery, and we saw a small display of the Spice of Life program from Costa Farms in one Lowe's garden center. Other than that, everything else was from Bonnie Plant Farms. Clearly, vegetables are the No. 1 growth category this season. Vegetables also generate a lot of tie-in sales with soil fertilizers, tomato cages and more. The total economic impact for each vegetables sale in my estimation is greater than any other green goods category.
Many are wondering what impact the Burpee Home Garden vegetable program will have on the market in the coming years. What will be the costs of the inputs? What are the marketing fees connected with this program? Will it be sold to the national retailers then forced onto the grower? Will growers be able to achieve an attractive gross margin?
If the program is sold to the national retailers, they set the retail and the brand owner sets the costs of inputs and the marketing fees. The grower is in the middle and can be forced to accept a reduced margin.
Clearly, vendor performance has improved. We are seeing more plants that are the right size for the container, and the amount of color at retail is far greater than in past years. This is more evident at Walmart than anywhere else.
If we could improve the performance even more, the suggestion would be to make sure any premium products have the right amount of color and plant size, especially those that are branded. We have seen a number of high profile varieties that are sold at premiums, but look worse than their generic equivalent. This is no more true than in the geranium category.
If the Atlanta market is any indication of what will occur in other parts of the country, then everyone should look for awesome opportunities. Make sure you don't run out of vegetables!
|Atlanta Retailers & Their Vendors|
|Retailer||Store Number||City||Vendor Annuals||Vendor Perennials|
|Home Depot||0163||Warner Robbins||Pure Beauty||Stacy's|
|Home Depot||1772||Macon||Pure Beauty||Stacy's|
|Home Depot||8527||Thomaston||Pure Beauty||Stacy's|
|Home Depot||0138||Griffin||Pure Beauty||Stacy's|
|Home Depot||0120||Atlanta||Pure Beauty||Stacy's|
|Home Depot||0111||Marietta||Pure Beauty||Stacy's|
|Home Depot||6906||Austell||Pure Beauty||Stacy's|
|Home Depot||0153||Marietta||Pure Beauty||Stacy's|
|Lowe's||0483||Warner Robbins||Costa Farms||Layman's|
|Lowe's||1807||Sandy Springs||Costa Farms||Layman's|
|Sam's Club||6646||Alpharetta||Costa Farms|
|Retail Prices Atlanta Metro|
|Plants That Work||4.3-inch||3.99|
|VIVA! 'Lemon Zest'||1G||5.97|
|Color of Caladiums||6-inch||4.48||4.00|
|Gerbera Tin Pot||8-inch||7.98|
|Garden Club Select||Pint||2.98|
|Proven Winners HB||12-inch||19.97|
|Big Red Geraniums||12-inch||16.97|
|HB Square Fiber||12-inch||19.97|
|HB Regal Geranium||12-inch||26.98|
|HB Yellow Petunia||12-inch||14.98|
|Color Bowl Premium||12-inch||14.97|
|5-inch||3.99 or two-for-$5|