The weather was perfect for gardening and shopping, with nights in the mid-50s and days in the mid to upper 70s. The consumer traffic was heavy and most garden centers were crowded especially on Sunday, April 15. The stores were well-stocked. Some had outside corrals in order to have enough merchandise to satisfy the demand.
The outside areas were set up with carts and the carts were often spaced too close together, allowing only one consumer to shop in an aisle at a time. The carts can be evenly spaced if one cart is centered on each parking paint line. Also, be sure not to water plants during peak business hours; complete watering before 9am and don’t start again until 4pm to avoid driving consumers out of your stores.
Clearly the leader in perennials supplied by Stacy’s Greenhouses, this store had more flowering merchandise than one usually sees. This made for some very impressive displays. Home Depot clearly understands that consumers buy on impulse and green perennials do not create an impulsive reaction. They also understand the importance of packaging with colored containers and huge descriptive labels.
Home Depot offered a new program called Smart Starts for starter size perennials in 209 retail with Salvia ‘May Night’ and Coreopsis ‘Nana’ for $15.98. The 209 tray had a colorful handle with a lot of consumer information.
In the annuals category, it offered a new size of ipomea. A 306 handle pack retails for $7.98. It was an item that seemed to be moving swiftly.
In the stores supplied by Rambo Nursery they offered a 12-inch Wave basket in the signature pink color the first we have this season. They also are the only vendor we have seen this season using large Wave point-of-sale signage attached to the display carts. Obviously a grower who understands the consumer knows and looks for Wave and it is one of the highest margin items in most growers’ product portfolio, low input costs in the premium category and in my estimation the No. 1 plant brand in the annual category.
Home Depot offered a lot Big Red (Calliope) geraniums both in both the 1-gallon and 12-inch hanging basket SKUs, large displays on Sunpatiens and a number other Viva branded items, including petunias, XXL dahlias, dianthus, coleus and snapdragons. The Vigoro brand consisted of Geraniums and other vegetative items. In the basic annual category they were running a promotion of 606 packs, four for $5.00. They offered large inventories of 4.5-inch basic annuals as well as T-18 (aka 1801) landscaper trays.
Every store carried Proven Winners but not in the large number we observed in other markets. The retail was $4.98 for a 4.25 inch and the sell through seemed to be doing well, as we observed many empty trays
Seemingly far more focused on premium items, they have created a very relevant mix of products that seems to resonate with the consumer as evidenced by the busiest stores in this market. Costa Farms uses color containers as well as a vendor we have seen over the past several years. They take a genic product like lantana in a colored pot and make it look like a premium item in an 8 inch.
Lowe’s had a number of interesting programs that has helped make them relevant:
- 306 Landscape Pack with premium items like Sunpatiens retail for $7.98
- Patio Tree Collection
- 2 gallon vining on a trellis
- 1 gallon Mail Box mandavillea
- 10-inch alstromeria
- 8-inch kangaroo paw
- Quart Soil Wrap Sunpatines
- 1 gallon premium annual combo
- Trays that allow the graphics on each pot to face outward
- Drop & Grow 10 plants of vegetative items to plant directly in a flat
The Garden Club Select (GCS) brand continues be the mainstay for new premium genetics although every store carried Wave and Proven Winners. There are premium items that sell free standing most notably Geraniums and New Guinea Impatiens.
These were really impressive stores. I have not seen any Walmart stores that are comparable for a while. The merchandise was good quality, and the stores were neat and clean. Seldom did we see a missing price sign or a product that was past prime.
Clearly Metrolina Greenhouses knows how to work in cooperation with each store to insure their products are well merchandised and receive the necessary post-delivery care for maximum shelf life.
Metrolina had some of the best Wave displays we have seen because they ship a mix of light and dark colors that make a very compelling color pallet. Many Wave displays we have observed consist of one or two colors, but these displays always had three or more.
The Better Homes & Gardens (BH&G) displays in these stores were really outstanding with every size showing a lot of color on well-grown compact plants. With this level of product quality, BH&G is bound to be a success.
Metrolina also had a very relevant generic vegetable program, which featured a 1 gallon retailing for $4 and a 1 pint retailing for $1.15. This is a seemingly a good consumer alternative to the branded vegetables.
The one new item that really stood out was an 8-inch combo pot called Pop In that was positioned to be dropped in a larger container. It was the most attractive combo I saw during the entire trip; when you entered the garden center, it immediately drew your attention. And for $5.98, you have to believe it’s a home run for Walmart and Metrolina.
Pike Family Nurseries
They just keep getting better and better since Armstrong Gardens bought them with more upgraded stores and great plant merchandising in their greenhouse sales areas. Each year they have a seasonal theme, and this year it is “Gardening without Guesswork.” The nursery backs this theme up with helpful and knowledgeable staff. If only the big boxes realized the importance of friendly and knowledgeable people in the green goods sector, IGCs would find it far more difficult to flourish.
The Pike garden centers are almost totally focused on selling green goods. I would estimate their sales are 80 to 85 percent green goods. The largest hard goods item appears to be its container area with a huge selection of high quality outdoor containers.
It’s always a pleasure to visit a Pike location and would not think about doing a retail tour of Atlanta without stopping a one or more of their stores.
- 10 pack 4.5-inch annuals, $19.99 from American Color
- 16-inch patio pot combo, 26.98 from American Color
- 12-inch Coco fiber basket, $16.99 from American Color
- 12-inch patio vegetables caged, $13.99 from Sunshine Growers
- 3 pack 1 gallon perennials, $13.79 from BFN
- 10-inch hanging basket premium annuals, $8.99 from Metrolina Greenhouses
- T-18 annuals, $10.98 from Metrolina Greenhouses
- 10” hanging basket ferns, $9.98 from Metrolina Greenhouses
- 3g azaleas- $18.98, no vendor ID
- 3g Knock out roses, $16.98
The Atlanta market is clearly the bell weather market for the Southeast; as it goes, so goes the entire Southeast. Next season will be worth watching even more so than this year, as Costa Farms enters the perennial market with their recent purchase of Layman Nursery who is the primary perennial supplier to Lowe’s and Walmart in this market. Costa will now share the Walmart account with Metrolina who is the primary supplier in the annual category and what will be the reaction of Stacy’s the premier perennial company in the eastern U.S.
We are seeing changes especially with Walmart as they launch the Better Homes & Gardens program, arguably with great success in this market. Not to mention the Atlanta market stores are some of the best in the country. I thought the Pop In combo program was one of the most interesting of the season, with recipes that actually all flower together. It’s certainly eye-catching at the point of purchase.
At Lowe’s we see a lot of activity on the product mix front, and Costa Farms is constantly adding new and interesting programs and expanding the use of colored containers. They are adding interesting programs like the Sunpatiens in the soil wrap packaging, a very interesting concept. What will next year bring as they enter the perennial category?
Home Depot seems to be betting their growth on the three brands that currently command a lot of space in their garden centers: Viva, Proven Winners and Vigoro.
In the edible category, the only area of note outside of vegetables seems to be strawberries driven arguably by the success of the seed Strawberries from ABZ Seed in Holland. Bonnie continues to dominant the vegetable category and has upgraded their program with more colorful and relevant POS materials. It has also added a nice 12-inch caged vegetable program. Metrolina Greenhouses has a nice generic program in Walmart that gives the consumer another choice and is aggressively priced.