Marketing consultant Jerry Montgomery visited garden centers at Home Depot, Lowe’s and Walmart on Saturday, March 27 around Orlando, Fla. He also spent time at Lukas Nursery in Oviedo and visited Costco and Sam’s Club. Below are his findings:
Consumers were out in droves on this ideal spring day, and all garden centers I visited were crowded with goods moving rapidly off shelves. The spring season has clearly arrived after an unseasonably harsh winter.
Although I observed good sales velocity–with green goods there were incredible quantities of bagged goods being sold–it had to be a huge weekend for companies like Scott’s.
Although Home Depot is a major player in green goods, it seems to sell higher percentages of dry goods than Walmart or Lowe’s–from many hours of observations. Bonnie Plants has a huge presence here with large inventories, prime space allocation and well-merchandised material on risers with improved POS materials.
The Proven Winners brand and the Florida Friendly premium annuals, both in 1 gallons, are the premium-priced items. The Viva brand has morphed to a mid-tier brand with 1-gallons priced at $3.97–the same as the Vigoro brand 1 gallon. One-gallon Sunpatiens at $4.97 are an item that appears to be at the mature stage of its products life cycle.
As the season progresses, there is increasing space allocated to the Grow Your Own (GYO) program vegetables, herbs and a large assortment of fruits like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, grapes and figs. All are offered in an 8-inch picture pot.
Grow Your Own has also packaged edible roots and strawberry jars with dormant berry plants. Some of the Orlando stores had a dedicated area where all the GYO items were displayed, although the area was behind a wall of bagged goods adjacent to the checkout area and not very visible.
The Orlando area has some of the best Walmarts I have seen, featuring clean well-organized stores with high-quality high impact annuals and perennials. Orlando offers some of the best values around in hanging baskets–10-inch premiums at $9 and 12-inch premiums $13. Walmart’s 10-inch basic hanging baskets were similar to Lowe’s but higher than Home Depot’s sale price of $4.98.
Lukas is a garden center that knows how to sell green goods well. It is located on five or six acres and is full of everything, from annuals to shade trees.
After spending 30 minutes watching the checkout lines–the average sale is 98 percent green goods–Lukas Nursery is in the business to sell plants but does offer many of the basic gardening supplies. Annuals are displayed on tables that have rubber tires for easy movement. Tables are generously spaced to create wide aisles for easy shopping. Lukas has made shopping a pleasant consumer experience that obviously is a destination for many.
On Saturday afternoon (March 27), cars were being parked on both sides of the street while consumers were buying more plants than you can imagine. Lukas has a butterfly house called the “Butterfly Encounter” that attracts throngs of children who, of course, brought their parents along.
Pricing is not much different than the national retailers on many items except for unique or hard-to-find items. The only real push on hard goods is a very extensive line of high-quality containers at reasonable prices. I would estimate from the 20-plus stores visited, Lukas sold more green goods than five to seven big box stores combined.
Sam’s Club offered a mix of spring and Easter items. Most were really good values.
–12-inch Proven Winners fiber hanging basket retailing at $19.88. The only issue was Sam’s Club only offered one variety: Super Bells Blue.’
–14-inch patio pot at $19.88
–10-inch tree hibiscus at $15.32
–3 pack of 6-inch Easter lilies at $16.88
–11-inch hyacinth (10) bulbs at $15.38–a little past prime
–8-inch sculptured ceramic pot at $19.28
–10-inch hydrangea (eight to 10 flowers) at $23.72
Costco offered the following items:
–7-gallon Bougainville retailing at $35.99–one of the best values you will ever see in a warehouse club.
–6-inch Calla lily in a ceramic sandstone wave container at $14.99
–8-inch hydrangea (five to six flowers) at $13.99
–10-inch hydrangea (8-10 flowers) at $19.99
–10-inch tomato staked at $11.69
–16-inch patio pot at $29.99
It is clear the season has started and the demand is strong. Hopefully, the weather patterns will provide decent conditions that could make this a banner year.
Vegetables will be a major driver of consumer garden spending but the real benefactors will be those companies that market the edible category much like Lowe’s is doing with the Grow Your Own (GYO) program. Some retailers will create entire departments built around the edible category. It’s not just about vegetables any more.
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.