After arriving on an early flight, I had some time on Saturday [July 11] to take a quick afternoon tour of the retail scene in Columbus. Because of limited time, only 14 stores were surveyed.
It was a rainy and windy Saturday that obviously slowed most traffic, but I did have the opportunity to see what was on the retail shelves and to observe how effective the merchandising was at the national retailers.
Columbus is clearly one of the best markets for Home Depot, exhibiting big bold color, really good signage and very clean and well organized garden centers. Mixed containers were well grown using recipes in which all varieties bloomed together. That’s unusual.
Containers were spaced so the consumer could easily see what they were buying. I did not find one item that was not clearly priced, and Home Depot did not have too many SKUs that it confused consumers. Home Depot also did a masterful job integrating the merchandising of annuals, perennials and shrubs to create a very uniform and cohesive appearance.
Lowe’s had a huge focus on perennials and had reduced the prices to $3.33 for a 1-gallon container. It had an unusually large assortment of red, white and blue annuals, probably from the recent July 4 sales period.
Overall, product quality was reasonable but the number of price points was unusually high for this period. All annuals were on sale for 50 percent off–an obvious sign of inventories that were too large for this sales period. Bonnie Plant Farm had several carts of 5-inch annuals–maybe a sign of things to come from Bonnie.
Walmart is the most vastly improved retailer from my July 2008 tour. It has a focus on fewer SKUs and a heavy orientation to warm weather varieties led by Cora vinca in both upright and trailing, rudbeckia ‘Tiger Eye’ and zinnias.
The stores were neat and clean and all items were priced, making it easier for the consumer. Although Walmart uses the narrow and deep product mix strategy, there was a nice assortment of pots, hanging baskets and patio pots. The Columbus market features some of the better Walmart stores I have seen this season, and it has dramatically upgraded from 2008 relative to selection, product quality and merchandising.
All three national retailers were clearly open for business for the summer with good inventories and some summer oriented programs. Hanging baskets were very visible at all retail locations, as well as a nice selection of patio pots.
Many items were on sale, obviously to drive higher levels of sales velocity. The overall product quality for summer has been vastly improved. Larger items are evident with a decline in offering of pack annuals with an increased emphasis on potted annuals in the 6-inch and 8-inch sizes.
This market is a prime example of the potential of summer season sales opportunities that drive increased sales volume for the retailers and growers. The market also presents opportunities to drive capacity utilization that has been challenging for many who are too reliant on springs sales but face higher costs and declining margins.
|Retail Location Visited: Columbus, Ohio|
|Retailer||Store No.||City||Annuals Vendor||Perennials Vendor|
|Home Depot||3816||Reynoldsburg||Bell Nursery||Stacy’s|
|Home Depot||3828||Columbus||Bell Nursery||Stacy’s|
|Home Depot||3811||Columbus||Bell Nursery||Stacy’s|
|Home Depot||3825||Westerville||Bell Nursery||Stacy’s|
|Home Depot||2831||Dublin||Bell Nursery||Stacy’s|
|Home Depot||3867||Springfield||Bell Nursery||Stacy’s|
|Retail Prices: Columbus, Ohio|
|Colors of Coleus||1G||4.98|
|Suntory Mandevilla||1G Trellis||10.98||10.00|
|Fill Up & Forget||12-inch||24.98|
|Hanging Pouch||6 plts||15.00|