Garden Retail 2012: Observations In Cleveland, Ohio

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Walmart #2266, Cleveland, Ohio

The weather was warm on May 27 and 28, 2012, in the 80s, and the shoppers were out in force buying plants and a lot of related garden items. It should have been a great retail weekend for growers and retailers. This is another market where Home Depot is the most dominant, displaying good-quality green goods in conjunction with very good merchandising. Cleveland is also the home of Petitti Garden Centers, a family-owned group of nine garden centers throughout northeastern Ohio and one of the leading independents in North America. Petitti opened new locations over the past three years, an indication of how a well-managed independent garden center can survive and flourish during these times. If you want to visit garden centers that know how to sell plants, this is the place to go.

Petitti Garden Centers

I had the pleasure of visiting two Petitti stores in Mentor and in Avon where you see the WOW factor with high-quality plants, mostly produced by Petitti in their own wholesale growing operations. They display all plants under cover to enhance the consumer experience. Bedding plants, perennials and vegetables are all displayed on tables in large greenhouses with good, clear signage.

One of the best vegetable programs anywhere is called “Angelo’s Farms,” using colored pots with every pot being priced. The program uses large, locking-pot labels that make for a great look and are very informative. Talk about great shopping experiences – this place is hard to leave. It’s so interesting and there are so many things to see. I was really impressed by the hanging basket combos. This was one of the few places we visited where all of the items in a combo are blooming at the same time.

Home Depot

We saw large displays of Proven Winners and Wave, the top two consumer plant brands, along with the Home Depot brands, Viva and Vigoro. Plant quality was above average together with really good merchandising that created a clean and organized look and feel. Green Circle Growers clearly manages above average stores and provides great products and first class merchandising.

Some of the standout items were:
•    12-inch Big Red Geranium baskets $21.98
•    18-inch pulp fiber basket combo $39.98 (Awesome)
•    16-inch Tuscany planter $49.98
•    Welcome stand $26.98
•    Upside-down plant stand $19.98
•    14-inch Proven Winners coco fiber baskets $27.98

Lowe’s

Although they are supplied by a world-class operation, Metrolina Greenhouses, these stores were less impressive than we have seen in other areas of the country. The product on the shelves was of the high quality that we have come to expect from Metrolina. However, there were some real issues relative to product presentation, prices, signage and irrigation practices.

Lowe’s has some really good programs:
•    10-inch baskets of SunPatiens were fantastic
•    As usual, the Garden Club Select looked great
•    10-inch premium baskets at $8.98 were a real value
•    2-gallon vase combo $29.98
•    Nice offering of Wave in three sizes: 209, 306 and 6-inch

Walmart

A large focus on Better Homes & Gardens branded annuals that were well grown with good use of the POS materials. In this market they had a really nice array of sizes and price points in both hanging baskets and patio containers.

•    12-inch Better Homes & Gardens basket $15.98
•    10-inch premium baskets $11.98
•    4-inch accents $1.98 (nice assortment)
•    12-inch Valley patio $18.98
•    12-inch coco fiber basket $19.99
•    12-inch gerbera flex tubs $13.98, the best gerberas of the season

The main issues here were missing price signs and cyclamen and primula still on the shelves.

Costco

Great products available, led by the 14-inch pulp fiber hanging basket produced by Thorsen’s Greenhouses.

•    14-inch pulp fiber basket $18.49
•    16-inch patio pot $29.99, 12-inch patio pot $17.99
•    8-inch square patio pot $12.99
•    Eight 4-inch gerbera $19.99
•    12-inch patio vegetables caged $12.99
•    12-inch basket ferns $14.99

Sam’s Club

Some stores display plants on the inside, while more and more are creating bigger displays in their parking lot and on the aprons. This, of course, creates more space but also creates the possibility for too many items and inventories that are too large. In my years of evaluating warehouse clubs relative to bedding plants, my sense has been they do really well with large items that are great value and are not available at other retailers. It’s clear to me warehouse clubs are not a destination for planned gardening activities.

•    10-inch square patio bi-color gerbera $12.98 – outstanding product
•    14-inch square patio pot $21.98
•    11-inch fern basket $15.98
•    12-inch tomato cages $11.98
•    10-inch Senetti $15.98 were past prime because of the heat
•    12-inch premium baskets $15.98 – great quality

Summary

In the Cleveland market, clearly Home Depot and Green Circle Growers are leaders in the big box sector relative to green goods. There is a lot of high quality high color product on the shelves and this, along with above-average merchandising, clearly sets them apart.

And of course let’s not forget about Petitti Garden Center. This is clearly in the top five garden center operations in the country – or should we call them one of the best retail growers in the country who knows how to market to the consumer. Whatever it is, Angelo and his team are clearly world-class retailers.

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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