May 19, 2009

View: The Gardening Boom Of 2009

In case you haven’t heard, according to CNBC and other media sources, we are in the middle of a gardening boom. Scares from salmonella, a return to an organic lifestyle, a way to save money on the grocery bills and gardening as an alternative to exotic, pricey vacation are some of the reasons media sources claim gardening is experiencing a surge in popularity. But as a garden center owner, I wonder, could it be more than that? Could it be something as simple as a longing to return to something easier to understand than today’s crazy world? Consider for a moment the frantic pace at which most of us live. Electronically, we are totally wired with everything from iPods to iPhones, Blackberries to laptops, Tweeting to Facebook. Does anyone even remember that a blackberry originally was something you eat, not a device on which you receive your e-mail? Maybe the […]

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May 7, 2009

Montgomery’s Los Angeles Retail Report

The weather in Southern California has been erratic and sales are slow with the exception of vegetables that are experiencing unprecedented growth. The weather Friday, May 1 was in the 50s in the morning and into the high 70s by the mid-afternoon hours–ideal weather for gardening. For a Friday, there was minimal traffic in all stores visited with the exception of Armstrong Garden Center in Claremont, Calif. Home Depot Home Depot has a different model in this market versus what I’ve observed in other parts of the country, using multiple vendors in each store compared to a single-source supply. In some stores, we counted up to three annual and three perennial vendors. This leads to lack of continuity and makes the job of managing the plan-o-grams difficult. Stores have a primary supplier for annuals and perennials with one or two backups. Lowe’s Lowe’s really excels in merchandising the outdoor aprons, […]

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May 6, 2009

Checking In With The Urban Gardener

Jennifer Kurtz, inventor of the Urban Gardener, shared a link to her product’s latest commercial, airing now through mid-June. Watch it here. You’ll get a kick out of the talking tomato. The Urban Gardener, of course, transforms patios and balconies into beautiful container gardens without taking much time or space. Learn more about it at UrbanGardener.net, and check it out on Facebook.

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May 5, 2009

Scullin: How Did Spring Play Out?

Sitting here mid-spring at the end of April, there are bits of good and bad news to report. First, spring has arrived, despite the naysayers. Birds are singing, lawns are greening and folks are in the garden centers. Despite the gloom and doom, the world did not end. Second, from many reports, people are shopping in both big box and independent garden centers. From a bedding plant perspective, items are moving at a good pace. Some regions of the United States are worse than others, but from all early indications, bedding plants are selling at or near last year’s pace in many markets. To quote from this past year’s Pack Trials: “Flat is the new up.” Depending on weather and region, I’m hearing slightly up or down 5 percent compared to last year. Third, on the expensive stuff, read “expensive” as shrubs, trees or anything with a retail price of […]

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May 4, 2009

Montgomery’s Denver Retail Report

It has been cold in Denver. On Saturday, it snowed but the temperatures were in the 70s Sunday with warming throughout the week forecasted. With the cold weather, the products currently on shelves looked remarkably good with some items like calla lilies being more adversely affected. Home Depot Home Depot had a good assortment of products. Clearly, it is prepared for the spring season to get into high gear. There were several geraniums SKUs that really looked good, including some 12-inch baskets of the new Calliope. In the perennials sector, all items are coming from out-of-state suppliers–one from Arizona and one from California. The Bonnie Plant Farms displays had been picked over, indicating consumers are preparing to plant more vegetables even with bad weather. Lowe’s Lowe’s has vastly improved its in-store merchandising with clean and well-organized displays. Additionally, all items were accurately priced. Overall, product quality was respectable, and Lowe’s […]

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April 28, 2009

A Lesson In Customer Service

If you’ve never Googled yourself, you’re in for a surprise. You’re bound to stumble onto articles or comments you’ve written, groups and organizations to which you belong and at least one old photograph you figured was long gone years ago. Having your life story available to the world is a little unsettling at first, but your information is also the key to reestablishing old friendships, promoting your work or referencing facts of your past. A Google search can be equally beneficial to your greenhouse operation, connecting Web users − potential customers–to your site. But users can only be connected if you have a site for them to visit. And in my hunt for basic information about some of our Top 100 Growers, I discovered a handful of them don’t even have websites. Even more astounding, when I tried to reach a few Top 100 Growers by phone, it was impossible […]

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April 28, 2009

Easy Product Upgrades

A collective tightening of the belts among American consumers likely means growers and retailers will have to work harder in 2009 to capture those oh-so-precious discretionary dollars. But luckily, there are plenty of easy product upgrades you can try that can help you get more bang for your buck. So, how exactly can you elevate the price of a plant without alienating customers? Tal White, general manager at White’s Nursery & Greenhouses in Chesapeake, Va., says adding value to an item by adding cost, like bundling a ceramic container with the plant, does not necessarily increase its perceived value to the customer. “We have found that it’s necessary to create a brand new item where there’s no past perceived value in place,” he says. “It creates the opportunity to increase the new item’s price in relation to existing items.” White is quick to note it’s not always an easy task, […]

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April 27, 2009

Montgomery’s Baltimore Retail Report

If anyone has been apprehensive regarding the effects of the recession on the green goods sector, you should have been in Baltimore this past weekend. Wow, were those consumers out in force and opening their wallets! What recession? Consumers were out in droves buying garden plants that included shrubs and small trees. It was so busy we had to park 500 yards away from the entrance of a number of Home Depot stores. Saturday was one of the busiest days I have seen in a long time. It was like a feeding frenzy in some stores. There seemed to be little price sensitivity with hanging baskets at $26.98 moving briskly through the cash registers. We noticed lots of shopping carts with $100 to $200 worth of garden plants. Home Depot Home Depot in the Baltimore area is serviced by Bell Nursery, arguably their premier vendor of green goods. Bell Nursery […]

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April 27, 2009

Who Will Fill Empty Box Stores?

In the last couple of decades, box stores rose dramatically in numbers across the country. With the most recent economic downturn, though, they have fallen on hard times and either closed large numbers of stores or—like Circuit City—gone out of business completely, leaving vacant boxes in their place. “This isn’t a time that big box tenants are looking for new deals,” The Chicago Tribune quotes Mike Jaffe, a managing member of the Arboretum of South Barrington in Illinois, an outdoor mall that counted Circuit City as an anchor. “Centers that will survive will need to think outside the box.” According to the recent Tribune story, more than 100 million square feet of retail space has opened up throughout the United States in the last year as retailers have gone bankrupt or shuttered unprofitable stores. The story lists retail casualties like Circuit City, which closed more than 700 stores nationwide, as […]

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April 23, 2009

New Athens Select Look Keeps Trees Happy

Does this tag catch your eye? Athens Select just created a brand new tag that is not only pleasing to the eye but is also environmentally friendly. The tag is made from a material that can be recycled, giving Athens Select a new “go green” attitude. The new tags are designed with graphics that allow the buyer to see how tolerant a plant is under certain conditions. For example, a sun pictured on the tag shows the plant surviving under hot and humid conditions. Athens Select hopes these new attractive graphics will catch the eyes of consumers. The founder of the program for the creation of these new tags is Dr. Allan Armitage. “We were looking for a fresh new look for our tags,” Armitage says, “but we also wanted to minimize the impact on the environment. So we chose an environmentally responsible option without compromising visual appeal.” The tags […]

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April 21, 2009

Montgomery’s Atlanta Retail Report

The weather was ideal for gardening last weekend with day temperatures of 75 to 80°F and nights in the 40s and 50s. As we observed in other areas, vegetables were selling like hot cakes along with T-18 Landscaper trays, 4.5-inch annuals and 10-inch baskets. As an observer, it seemed prices points above $15 were not moving well. We saw a more basic assortment in many shopping carts. Premium hanging baskets were moving well, but it is clear only if they are full and colorful. The higher the price, the more consumers look for value. I saw a lot of empty patio pots in the 10- to 12-inch sizes being sold. Home Depot Its stores were really busy, particularly between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., with lots of Bonnie vegetables in shopping carts of consumers–along with 10-inch hanging baskets (basic seed) on sale at $5. The T-18 Landscaper tray was moving […]

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