In the Cincinnati market, you know before you arrive that retail will be interesting. Bell Nursery serves the market, and it clearly was not disappointing. It was a Monday after a very busy weekend when I visited, so it was not typical of the store condition. On top of that, Bell was doing an extensive inventory.
The stores were not yet back in shape from the weekend, but it was easy to see the merchandising was far above average by merely looking at the displays that had been put back in shape. As usual, the Bell merchandisers were working hard. They still paid a lot of attention to customers that needed assistance.
Clearly the leader in this market is Home Depot because of the Bell performance. Word is they are up significantly in store comps year over year, which is not surprising. As in other Bell areas, Home Depot focuses on more premium items and does not offer small seed-grown packs. Home Depot offers a very nice half-flat at $7.88 (24 count) and a full-flat at $11.97 (32 count). Both SKUs are really good values.
I observed a number of premium SKUs being offered and saw some of the best-grown ‘Lemon Zest’ of the season. It was merchandised so well that every consumer who entered stores stopped by the display. They also had some of the best ‘Lemon Zest’ baskets we’ve seen this year produced in an 11-inch fiber at $21.97.
Other notable products were large displays of Wave Petunias still growing in demand, all displayed in the signature pink packaging. The VIVA! Henna coleus was excellent quality and well merchandised. The Calliope geraniums looked great and sales were strong.
The merchandising of perennials was interesting the way the two products categories were separated and merchandised in a way to make them very easy to shop. Unlike many retailers that mix perennials into the annual plan-o-gram, both had their own plan-o-grams. We also noticed the Home Depot people are becoming increasingly friendly and are offering more assistance than ever.
Lowe’s has vastly improved its product quality and merchandising, obviously to remain competitive with The Home Depot. Lowe’s had a very wide array of items and had a really good assortment of patio pots and hanging baskets. The primary annual vendor is Color Point and, it is raising the bar at Lowe’s. Particularly impressive were heir large selection of patio pots in a number of different containers and a nice range of retail price points.
It seems as though in every market we visit, Walmart has made such huge strides in product quality, merchandising and has made the shopping experience much more pleasant. The Cincinnati metro stores have clearly improved in all of these areas. They have some really nice hanging baskets in several prices points and are more focused on the basic high-volume items but enough premium items to make it interesting for the consumers.
The Cincinnati market just came off a big weekend with many stores reporting increased comps and an unprecedented demand for vegetables and herbs. Bonnie Plant Farm is by far the market leader in this area relative to vegetable and herb supply with little sign of any competition at any of the three national retailers.
The one product that seems to be always present at all retailers is the famous Wave Petunia. All three national retailers dedicate significant shelf space to this powerful brand. With the most recognizable packaging, the signature pink color makes one of the most compelling displays. Any retailer not offering Wave in its signature packaging is probably losing 50 percent or more of the potential sell-through. At Lowe’s, it offered four sizes and four price points. No other product has that kind of exposure.
If this past weekend is any indication what will happen throughout May, there will be many happy growers and retailers, not to mention the consumers who get to enjoy our products for three to five months arguably get the best value in any consumer product category.
Because of time limitations, we visited only 12 stores and were unable to cover an independent garden center, Sam’s Club or Costco. Hopefully, this report will provide a reasonable sketch of the market.
|Retailers Visited Cincinnati Metro|
|Retailer||Store||City||State||Annual Vendor||Perennial Vendor||Vegetable Vendor|
|Home Depot||2324||Crescent Spring||Ky.||Bell||Stacy’s||Bonnie|
|Lowe’s||1071||Highland Heights||Ohio||Color Point||Berry||Bonnie|
|Retail Prices Cincinnati Metro|
|Full flat (32)||Flat||11.97|
|Color of Coleus||1G||4.98|
|VIVA! Henna Coleus||Quart||4.48|
|Garden Club Select||Quart||3.98|
|Garden Club Select||12-inch||16.98|
|Coco metal stand||6-inch||36.98|