Marketing consultant Jerry Montgomery spent last weekend touring Home Depot, Lowe’s and Walmart garden centers in Tampa, Fla., among other retailers. He shared his findings with us.
It was a perfect Saturday (March 21) for gardening and even a better day for buying plants. The temperature in the morning was in the 60s, and it was over 80°F by 3 p.m. Consumers were out in large numbers with parking lots adjacent to the garden centers full.
There was a frenzy on 4.5-inch annuals with Home Depot offering them at three for $1 and Lowe’s countering with the same SKU at $0.33 each. Each retailer had several stores where the 4.5-inch annual displays were completely empty, so the promotion obviously worked. Vegetable sales were also brisk, but annuals seem to be the hot ticket of the day.
These were the best Home Depot stores I’ve ever observed in Florida. They featured spectacular color and good plant size, making their overall quality above average. The hottest items were, of course, the 4.5-inch annuals, but T-18 Landscaper flats were moving briskly along with 10-inch basic baskets ($6.99), as well as landscape tropical foliage. Of course, the No. 1 item you see in every shopping cart is bagged soil.
The color, plant size and overall quality at Lowe’s was equal to Home Depot because it uses the same vendor. However, Lowe’s clearly has the edge in merchandising on aprons because it uses them for mostly green goods, whereas its competitors allocate more space for bagged goods and patio stone.
Lowe’s had a new SKU that was signed ‘Yellow Petunia’ in a gallon yellow container, an obvious response to the ‘Lemon Zest’ at Home Depot. It also had large displays of ‘Yellow Petunia’ in hanging baskets. The Spice of Life vegetable and herb program from Costa Farms seems to do doing very well.
|Retailers Visited In Tampa, Fla., Metro Area|
|Walmart||2740||Tampa||American Farm||American Farm||Bonnie|
|Walmart||22627||Tampa||American Farm||American Farm||Bonnie|
|Walmart||1482||Tampa||American Farm||American Farm||Bonnie|
|Walmart||2387||Brandon||American Farm||American Farm||Bonnie|
|Walmart||988||Land O Lakes||American Farm||American Farm||Bonnie|
|Sam’s Club||6401||Tampa||Sunshine Growers||n/a||Sunshine Growers|
It also had great color, good plant size and great overall quality in annuals, some of the best I’ve ever seen in Walmart stores. It uses a 209 pack to counter the T-18 offered by its competitors. In the Tampa area, it would appear the 4.5-inch annual promotion offered by others hurt Walmart’s 4.5-inch sales during this weekend.
Sam’s offered three items that were a really good value, but there was little activity in its plants sales area. The values:
- 12-inch patio pot retailing at $15
–10-inch pillar geranium retailing at $12.48
–3-gallon patio vegetables retailing at $10.52
The pillar geraniums were displayed pot to pot so it was hard to see each individual plant, and this may have hurt sales. Sales would have benefited if there was a large label showing the consumer how-to information. Consumers just don’t know this product, even though it has been on the market for years. You rarely see it at retail.
Costco seems to have more of a focus on orchids and bromeliads than outdoor garden, but it did have a few outdoor garden items.
–12-inch combination basket retailing $16.99 (good use of annuals and foliage)
–1-gallon Regal Geranium retailing at $13.79
–14-inch patio pot retailing at $25.99
–10-inch clay pot bromeliad retailing at $19.99
–1-gallon orchid single stem retailing at $20.99
–6-inch clay orchid retailing at $17.99
The season seems to be off to a great start with great weather and anxious consumers, coupled with improving quality products and growers who are creating the “WOW” effect on retailers’ shelves. Retailers are aggressively marketing large and garden products with aggressive advertising and eye-catching promotions.
The product quality in this area has dramatically increased with growers who are putting spectacular color on the shelves of the major retailers. Merchandising at store level has improved with cleaner, neater stores that are well designed with executed plan-o-grams and fewer than ever un-priced items.
One issue is re-stocking while there is heavy consumer traffic. Shelves need to be restocked, but it is highly inconvenient for the consumer. When you see consumers struggling to roll their carts over hoses and dodging grow carts, it makes you wonder if this could be accomplished with less intrusiveness.
Bonnie Plant Farm continues to be the dominant provider of vegetables and herbs to all three national retailers. It has made some interesting changes to its program:
- Improved POS signage that makes it easier to post prices
–Developed the Bonnie brand vegetable fertilizer
–Indemnified patio-type vegetables separately from its products mix
–Are now offering 2-gallon patio vegetables
–Have garnered more retail space
This program just keeps getting better with few challengers in local markets.
|Retail Prices: Tampa, Fla.|
|Drop & Grow||Flat||14.98|
|Garden Club Select||Quart||3.58|
|HB ‘Yellow Petunia’||12-inch||14.98|
|Patio Geranium-NG Impatiens||10-inch||12.98|