Store Displays, Customer Service & Pricing In Southern California Retailer Locations

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8" potted plant display

The weather was cool and overcast, recording 60s during the day and 40s at night. All retailers were well stocked and ready to handle large customer volumes. It rained on March 23, so it was not surprising to see low traffic counts in most retailers, with the exception of Armstrong Gardens at their Flower Fields location.

In paying attention to how personnel interaction affects the customer experience, it was disappointing overall to observe how few employees greeted the customers. Only 20 percent actually interacted with the customers, although a much greater percent did at Walmart. At the one Armstrong store on the tour, all the employees in the selling areas interacted with every customer they passed.

Home Depot

Home Depot has two new and interesting programs:

Bloomtastic

A program of perennials, roots and soft woody items positioned as premium items with a fairly aggressive price point of $11.98 for an 8” container. The program’s point-of-purchase (POP) materials make the following claims:

  • New and unique varieties
  • Varieties that work in containers or in the ground
  • Easy to grow
  • Fantastic color year round

The program is being produced by HG Nursery and included a logo pot, upscale label and colorful, eye-catching POP sign. The varieties were attractive and included:

  • Cordyline Purple Sensation
  • Agapanthus Summer Skies
  • Iris bearded asst.
  • Lavender Bella White & purple
  • Bougainvillea Bambino
  • Corposma Tequila Sunrise

Smart Planet

This program consists of many varieties of succulents, is really appealing at retail and puts some much-needed emphasis on this category. The program is produced by Altman Plants and consists of:

  • Logo pot
  • Descriptive label
  • POP signage
  • The largest SKU is a 1 gallon at $5.98 retail

The POP signage states these benefits:

  • Conserve water
  • Reduces time and cost of irrigation
  • Low maintenance
  • Creates and eco-friendly environment
  • Year round beauty
  • Attracts native wild life

This is a really interesting program especially for the desert climate in California.

Proven Winners was clearly commanded the most space in the brand battle, while Vigoro and Viva were less visible and not highlighted, as we have seen in the past. There were also no Wave-branded products.

Lowe’s

The store continues to focus their premium offering into the house brand Garden Club Select, and the only visible free-standing brand in annuals or perennials included small displays of Proven Winners priced below Home Depot’s offerings.

In the edible category we would estimate 70 percent of the vegetables and herbs are from Bonnie Plant Farm and 40 percent come from their house brand Grow Your Own (GYO). Their annual vendors have to love this program because of the attractive gross margins in vegetables. Altman Plants was the main vendor for the GYO brand, and it also provided the store’s cactus and succulent offerings.

Walmart

As always, Walmart had the lowest prices and the smallest inventories of green goods, but this year they are launching the Better Homes & Gardens-branded annual program. The first product is an 8” combination consisting of two petunias and one bacopa. It retails for $5.98, the same price point as the Dummen 8” Confetti. The recipe was not very colorful, and in some stores, the Petunias overgrew the Bacopa but all in all a very reasonable price point.  The container was a dark lime green with a lot of print including instructions on how to use.

 One noticeable change from last year is Bonnie Plants regaining all of the vegetable space back from the generic market Walmart ran last year. Probably a smart idea since Bonnie is so well respected and followed by the consumer.  Color Spot has a generic vegetable program with Walmart but their foot print is very small.

Costco

16” caged Tomato: $12.99

3 gallon Cordyline: $10.99

12” Double Impatiens: $18.99

5 gallon Azalea: $11.49

Sam’s Club

10” Hydrangea exceptional quality-8-12 blooms

8” Hyacinth tin: $9.98

Armstrong Gardens

As always Armstong has a huge selection in all green goods categories, is exceptionally well merchandised and provides a very active staff that tends to every customer. Pricing is very competitive with premiums on the larger baskests and mixed containers. They also boast the best patio pots we saw anywhere in California.

Summary

Prices in this market are somewhat higher than we see in the rest of the Sunbelt, but many things are priced higher in California.  The major retailers have few choices when it comes to vendor selection, with Color Spot almost totally dominating Southern California with respect to annuals and perennials.  Color Spot was the primary annual and perennial vendor in 56 percent of the stores visited, but interestingly, Altman Plants had a presence in 84 percent of those same stores (mainly through their cactus and succulent programs). Altman was the primary vendor in eight stores.

In edibles it appears that vegetables continue to be a hot sector. Bonnie Plants remains the primary vendor in all three national retailers, although Lowe’s Grow Your Own had a presence in all their stores.  La Verne Nursery and Duarte Nursery both offered berry and small fruit programs with very attractive packaging.

The only other edible brands seen on the tour were the Organix and Mighty Mato brands at Armstrong Gardens.

Jerry Montgomery (mrplug@cfl.rr.com) is a veteran of the floriculture industry who has worked for distributor companies, breeders and large growers with a focus on sales and marketing. As an industry consultant, Montgomery 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 about 2,700 stores since 2008.

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