Perspective: Don Blume, The Home Depot

Perspective: Don Blume, The Home Depot

Lawn and garden continues to be a hot growth category for The Home Depot, which has nearly 2,000 stores in the United States and Canada. Divisional Merchandise Manager Don Blume has been at the helm directing live goods sales for the last five years. He works closely with a dozen merchants who are in the trenches with growers and store managers executing programs each season. Prior to coming to Home Depot, Blume worked for another large retailer, Kmart, for 28 years–14 years in the stores and then 14 years in the buying office. Seven of those years were in plant sales. In this exclusive interview, Blume shares the strides growers and the stores have made and what’s next.

GG: How have the last five years been a transformation in how growers are working with The Home Depot?

DB: Growers are utilizing our point of sale data more today than years prior.Before, they knew what they sold us, not what the customer was buying. If they wanted a 5 percent increase and sold 20,000 plants, they’d grow 22,000 the next year. Our pay-by-scan growers are receiving detailed information by store, by SKU every day. They are much smarter about what the consumer is buying in each store, when things are selling and not. The transition between seasons is better now with that information.
Another big difference today is the merchandising aspect of live goods. Before it was drop and go. Now they are more involved in the merchandising of the product. Presentation continues to improve.

GG: How have growers stepped up to assume a leading role in coordinating the full spectrum of live goods on a regional basis?

DB: We have a lot of different models in the United States, not one dictating nationally to target the whole country. We’re looking at regional models that work. We look at what’s best in a particular marketplace based on the players involved, which varies throughout the United States. There’s not one model for Home Depot. We’re often asked if Home Depot is 100 percent pay-by-scan for live goods and the answer is no. It’s whatever works for the grower and for us, whatever works for both parties.

GG: How has the narrowing of the grower vendor base heightened accountability and performance? What metrics are used to measure performance?

DB: The stronger growers have survived and gotten stronger. We look at tons of metrics. Top-line growth and market share are the top two. Quality is at the top along with frequency of delivery. It’s taking care of our customers, which are our stores and ultimately the consumers.

GG: What role has the switch to pay-by-scan/vendor managed inventory played in live goods? What are the results today compared to 10 years ago?

DB: The quality of the goods has improved at store level. The presentation has improved from where we were 10-15 years ago. We heard there were a lot of cancellations due to weather this year. With pay-by-scan, the growers have the ability to merchandise the product in our stores. It works to our advantage to move goods in different markets when supply is tight.

GG: How are leading growers continuing to raise the bar for each other?

DB: They are continuing to raise the bar on the quality of goods and the merchandising aspects. There’s a lot of competition out there on display today. Sometimes we have to be creative because we’re tight on space and need to display plants in a parking lot, in front
of the building or on the side of the buildings.

GG: What are your expectations of the growers who serve The Home Depot and where do you see things headed? What’s next for the grower base?

DB: As I said before, there’s not a specific model for the country and regional models will continue to be the way to go, whatever works in a particular area. Within this business, there are so many regional differences. Our expectation is the category continues to grow a lot. The economy has not negatively affected this category like others year after year. At Home Depot, we’ve expanded from eight merchants to 12, which demonstrates the dedication senior management has to additional resources. The future is positive. There’s a ton of market share available with so many independent retailers and chains. The opportunity for growth is unlimited.

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5 comments on “Perspective: Don Blume, The Home Depot

  1. Interesting interview, he should go out and take a look at his stores. As a plant vendor I’ve seen Home Depot become a joke, especially with there selection. Pay by scan is a dangerous premise for vendors to operate on. It only raised the cost to the consumer and Home Depot. Severaly companies have folded trying to participate in this program. In the area I’m in merchandising has actually gotten worse as well as quality and selection. Any grower participating in PBS is afraid to try anything new, so it’s basically the “top 10” plants, no selection. I’ve seen Home Depot’s competitors sales improve dramatically in my area. It’s possible to get detailed sales information without PBS, other companies are doing it even better that HD without PBS. If HD continues on the path they are on you will see even more suppliers going out of business in the near future and their competition getting stronger.

  2. Interesting interview, he should go out and take a look at his stores. As a plant vendor I’ve seen Home Depot become a joke, especially with there selection. Pay by scan is a dangerous premise for vendors to operate on. It only raised the cost to the consumer and Home Depot. Severaly companies have folded trying to participate in this program. In the area I’m in merchandising has actually gotten worse as well as quality and selection. Any grower participating in PBS is afraid to try anything new, so it’s basically the “top 10” plants, no selection. I’ve seen Home Depot’s competitors sales improve dramatically in my area. It’s possible to get detailed sales information without PBS, other companies are doing it even better that HD without PBS. If HD continues on the path they are on you will see even more suppliers going out of business in the near future and their competition getting stronger.

  3. The biggest arguements against pay by scan is higher prices to the consumer and lack of choices. Since vendors supply labor, the store has less of their people on the floor making it hard to get answers about other products in the department. I can see how this can work at K-Mart where I don't expect any employee to know anything, but tougher at a home improvement store.

  4. Succesful PBS suppliers need to be local to the market which we are seeing in parts of New England. This increases turns. Then again we're still hearing grower mark-downs from 15% to 27%. A Depot in MA had 2 tractor trailer loads of racks filled with plants removed by a CT supplier. Important: this entire practice of "consignment sale" needs to be thoroughly reviewed by trade lawyers to see if there's an "un-fair competitive advantage" being forced onto the marketplace. In addition, their exagerated container sizes in their advertisemsnts needs FTC review. Ditto for the Firelanes being used to sell merchandise

  5. The problem isn’t within the vendors ability to supply. Yes hd seems to think that since the vendors set out their product that can under staff which they do and knowledgeable associates on their staff is very rare. Cashiers associates dept. Supervisors and up all send the customer to the vendor who’s job isn’t sales associate it’s merchandising. For those of us who have vast knowledge rather have a customer purchase the right product the their sun conditions so by helping hd do their job we often waste our time on customers instead of doing our job. So if hd would help pay for this merchandising aspect they would understand the in portable of having and employing knowledgeable people. The second thing is vendors who are pbs suffer great losses because hd says they give ordinary care to sustain shelf life and to aid in the overall appearance but they don’t and who suffers the vendor. So if hd would pay for these losses strickly from lack of water They would not be apt to allow such laziness on their part (being store level) because until it comes out of their pockets they won’t change. I say accountability strick accountability is the key to vendor being sustainable. Hd put your money where your mouth is and make the stores pay for product they kill by lack of water. It won’t take but a coupke of times of running dead product through the registers before the SM gets mad and hits their bonus before his staff are doing their part which is watering everything as if it is theirs. There are only a few stores that actually step up to the plate and are aware that it takes partnership in live goods to achieve great sales and see what happens when one isn’t doing their part I say hold them accountable hand hd the bill if product isn’t sellable because of water isdues.its the only way vendors can survive being pbs so step up hd. I’ve been in this field a long time and it’s always been a battle to get stores to water. So pay for it if you kill it. Give your vendors a chance to make a profit not just you hd.

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