Colorado is a hot spot for some of the best retail growers and independent garden centers in the country, so it was a great opportunity to be able to tour some of these facilities on a beautiful summer Saturday in July .
I had the opportunity to tour the area with Frank Yantorno, owner of Center Greenhouses. Yantorno knows the local market as well as anybody and supplies many of the high-quality garden centers in the Denver Metro with “wow” quality hanging baskets and perennials.
Center Greenhouses arguably has the most consistent basket recipes. All varieties bloom at the same time, and this is not very typical of most mixed baskets.
The weather for our tour was in the low 60s in the morning and climbed to the 90s by late afternoon. There was a lot of activity, particularly at the independents, with less traffic at the national retailers. We visited a limited number of the national retailers to compare product mixes and price points.
All retailers were running summer sales, and some had a very relevant product mix while others had the same mix they offered in the spring. The hottest items were 12-inch and 14-inch hanging baskets and large summer annuals. Zinnias and perennials were selling particularly well.
Lowe’s offered a fairly good array of summer annuals in 6- and 8-inch sizes and did not stock annual packs. It had a large selection of perennials from Oklahoma and Washington. No perennials were produced in Colorado.
Home Depot had a wide range of annuals and perennials and several price points on hanging baskets from 10-inch basic to 14-inch premium. It also offered a large selection of pack annuals but had a limited supply of larger summer annuals. All perennials were from out of state vendors that included Arizona, Washington and California.
Walmart featured 6-inch summer annuals with a lot of vinca and zinnias with very few hanging baskets. It also did not offer pack annuals. One of the best summer items was rudbeckia ‘Tiger Eye’ in an 8-inch logo pot that stood out because of the large number of flowers. It has a real “wow” look.
Nick’s Garden Center
Nick’s Garden Center in Aurora, Colo., a featured a great selection of hanging baskets that created the “wow” effect not often seen in garden centers. Nick’s also featured a nice selection of mixed containers ranging in prices from $36.99 (12-inch) to $149.99 (24-inch). All annuals and perennials had a price sticker on each pot, and the retailer uses POS signage as well as anybody I have seen this season.
The aisles were wide, making it easy to shop, and each product area was well signed, making product easy to find. Overall, Nick’s is one of the most consumer friendly garden centers I have ever visited. Talk about cleanliness: This garden center is spotless. Female shoppers must love this format.
Nick’s had the best display of rock garden plants featuring both the Stepables and Rock Stars brands, using the brand POS materials to identify the area. It had a very innovative display, building a bench where it installed flagstones and then planted the Stepables between the stones. This demonstrated how simply and effectively the product could be used.
Good Earth Garden Center
Good Earth Garden Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., is a well-run garden center with excellent product quality and a lot of the “wow” effect driving sales velocity. Good Earth featured many high-quality hanging baskets and patio pots with much higher prices than the national retailers but product quality that was superior. The sales areas are divided nicely into separate formats with good signage and a number of well-trained and very friendly staff members. It’s just another outstanding garden center in the Colorado market.
Rick’s Garden Center
Rick’s Garden Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., is an old, well-established garden center with a large following of consumers as evidenced by the traffic that was extremely high for July. The owner indicated Rick’s was known for high-quality plants and friendly customer service.
Spencer’s Garden Centers
Spencer’s Garden Centers is a long-established business in Colorado Springs, Colo., with a newer location in Fountain. Both locations were holding an ice cream social during my visit for their customers. Spencer’s offers a nice selection of green goods featuring good quality with outstanding merchandising.
High Country Garden Center
High Country Garden Center in Monument, Colo., is a very diverse garden center that also features a full line of pet supplies, horse feed and supplies and wine-making kits. High Country is a well-diversified company that has created a format for year-round income and customer contact.
Ace Hardware in Colorado Springs, Colo., has a complete garden center division attached to the hardware store that was well laid out. It offered a large array of outdoor living products. Ace Hardware was phasing out live goods for the summer with most items reduced for clearance. Ace obviously has seen the opportunities in outdoor living and is moving to tap into this huge market.
Look for Ace to increase activities in the marketing of green goods that will present a lot of opportunities.
Because prices were so diverse and varied so dramatically form retailer to retailer, I am not reporting them. In general, though, the prices are 30-50 percent lower at the national retailers. But from what I observed, many items, especially hanging baskets and patio pots, are far better values at the independent garden centers. Here are a few examples of 10-inch hanging baskets representing the premium SKU:
Most retailers were having sales. Some used a percentage discount method while others were just marking down prices on selected items. For July, traffic was brisk and there were still a lot of bedding plants and perennials going out the door of most garden centers.
As I’ve written in the past, Colorado has better managed independent garden centers than any other state I’ve visited.
The national retailers have a much more limited supply chain in Colorado with only two large bedding plant growers to pull from. All the perennials are shipped in from distant markets in the Southwest, Northwest and West.
There is a very noticeable difference in perennials at the independent garden centers because most of their supply comes from local high-quality suppliers like Center Greenhouses Not only do the local growers produce consistent product quality, but they have the advantage of lower-cost distribution. More importantly, they can respond to their customer needs in hours.
|Good Earth GC||Colorado Springs|
|Home Depot||1504||Colorado Springs|
|Ace Hardware||Colorado Springs|