Marketing consultant Jerry Montgomery spent the weekend February 27 and 28 in Southeast Florida touring garden centers at Walmart, Lowe’s, Home Depot and other retail locations. Below are his findings in the Miami and Fort Lauderdale areas.
The weather was ideal for gardening with day temperatures in the low 70s. It did rain in the late afternoon on Saturday, the 27th, but the weather was sunny and warm on Sunday, the 28th. It was somewhat surprising to observe how little traffic there was at retail. Of course, traffic varied by time of day and there was a steady stream of it. But very few stores were crowded, with Costco being the exception. It seemed to be at capacity.
Walmart is sticking with its “less-is-more” concept with minimal SKUs and a major focus on outdoor foliage. Lots of damage was observed in this area coming out of one of the coldest winters in recent history. The major items in the annual category are 4-inch annuals and 10-inch hanging baskets, with a smattering of premium items.
Lowe’s has more of a focus on premium items than the other national retailers with fairly large displays of the Garden Club Select premium line. In its Florida stores, Lowe’s offers a category called “Florennials” that offers annuals and perennials that will survive in the wide range of conditions in the Florida. Florennials are obviously positioned to compete with the Home Depot’s Florida Friendly brand, with very aggressive pricing.
Every Lowe’s store offered the new “Grow Your Own” vegetable brand, with varying levels of sell-through. It seems as though the quart herb SKU was enjoying much greater sales velocity than the one 1-gallon vegetable SKU. The quart herb retails at $2.48 versus a Bonnie Plant 5-inch at $3.48, while both lines offer the 1-gallon at $5.98. It does not appear many consumers are buying $6.00 tomato plants.
Home Depot has more of a focus on basic annuals with large displays of 4-inch annuals, T-18 landscaper trays and 10-inch basic hanging baskets. Its branded products include Viva, Proven Winners and Vigoro–all offered in small quantities except for Vigoro their house brand.
Viva has added some new petunias to its offerings, including ‘CrÃ¨me Brule,’ ‘Inc-Red-ibel’ and ‘Rhythm and Blues.’
Flamingo Road Nursery
Flamingo Road Nursery is a first-class garden center–or, you might say, an outdoor living center and a recently added farmer’s market that attracts a lot of attention. Huge inventories of upscale patio containers in an array of sizes and types. The personnel were friendly, very knowledgeable and more than willing to answer questions and provide advice. Flamingo Road is a very impressive retailer that was busier than all the other retailers we visited.
Sam’s Club only offered two items in the outdoor gardening category:
- 12-inch fiber hanging baskets retailing at $23.62
- 14-inch patio pot combos retailing at $25.02
Costco offered large qualities of orchids along with Elatior begonias and one annual item.
–6-inch orchids with a clay pot retailing at $17.99
–1-gallon Cymbidium orchids at $19.99
–Four 4-inch Elatior begonias retailing at $8.99
–10-inch patio pots retailing at $10.99
It was interesting to note how few patio pots were available for sale at the national retailers. Container gardening has exploded over the past five years but the availability is clearly behind the demand.
In the vegetable category, other than Lowe’s “Grow Your Own” program, I only observed minimal generic vegetables at Walmart–and they were primarily a cole crop. Bonnie Plants still controls 80 to 90 percent of the vegetable category at the national retailers.
The Bonnie Plants brand has a tremendous following among the consumers and any effort to compete with it will not be easy or quick.
I did finally see one Lowe’s store that offered the Wave brand, which is really surprising for such a nationally recognized brand. In the 50-plus retailers I visited over two weekends, Wave was only available at one store. It’s a real missed opportunity for the retailers and growers.
We did see the popular Calliope geranium at Lowe’s in 12-inch baskets. For the most part, they were well done. Home Depot offered the Calliope geranium under the name “Big Red” in quarts and gallons.
Other than three new petunias in the Viva program, I did not see anything new for the season in the annual category.
About the author: Jerry Montgomery is a 40-year veteran of the floriculture industry and has worked for distributor companies, breeders and large growers specializing with a focus on sales and marketing. As an industry consultant, he works for large growers, distributors and breeder/producers. His focus is to understand the market dynamics from breeder to consumer through intense retail travel, visiting almost 1,500 stores since January 2008.