Big Box Comparison

The Walmart stores in North Carolina have upped their game with low prices and beautiful product.

From Lowe’s to Home Depot, not all big-box offerings are the same. In this side-by-side comparison, growers see which parts of the country boast the best Walmart stores.

Southern California

As always, of the big boxes and chains, Walmart had the lowest prices and the smallest inventories of green goods. This year, however, it is launching the Better Homes & Gardens-branded annual program. The first product is an 8-inch combination consisting of two petunias and one bacopa. It retails for $5.98, the same price point as the Dümmen 8-inch 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 planting instructions.

One noticeable change from last year is Bonnie Plants has regained all of the vegetable space back from the generic market Walmart ran last year. This is 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 its footprint is very small.

South Florida

The hot new program for Walmart is certainly the Better Homes and Gardens (BH&G) program that appeared on the shelves of six of the 10 stores I visited. The program consisted of the following sizes:

• Quart retail – $3.68
• 8-inch combo retail – $5.98
• 12-inch hanging basket – $15.98
• 12-inch patio combo – $15.98

Some stores merchandised the product on carts with a colorful header board, while others put it on tables or risers. This program seemed to be dominated by yellow shades with recipes that did not wow. The packaging and labeling were well done, but the label visibility would be greatly improved if the stores employed the use of a locking label.

The recognition of BH&G as a brand of leading experts in the lawn and garden category, partnered with this global retail leader, means this brand will make a positive impact.

Overall there did not seem to be much traffic in these garden centers, as evidenced by the aging inventories and a lot of missing price signs. One store was the busiest I have seen this year, with a line at the garden center register stretching back into the store. There were only two customers in the green goods area, which is probably a sign of the times.

Atlanta, Georgia

These were really impressive stores. I have not seen any Walmart stores that are comparable for a while. The merchandise was good quality, and the stores were neat and clean. Seldom did I see a missing price sign or past-prime product.

Clearly Metrolina Greenhouses knows how to work in cooperation with each store to ensure their products are well merchandised and receive the necessary post-delivery care for maximum shelf life. Metrolina also had some of the best Wave displays I have seen because they ship a mix of light and dark colors that create a very compelling color palette. Many Wave displays I observe consist of one or two colors, but these displays always had three or more.

The BH&G displays in these stores were really outstanding with every size showing a lot of color on well-grown compact plants. With this level of product quality, BH&G is bound to be a success.

Metrolina also had a very relevant generic vegetable program, which
featured a 1-gallon retailing for $4 and a 1-pint retailing for $1.15. This is a
seemingly good consumer alternative to the branded vegetables.

The one new item that really stood out was an 8-inch combo pot called Pop In that was positioned to be dropped in a larger container. It was the most attractive combo I saw during the entire trip through Atlanta; when you entered the garden center, it immediately drew your attention. And for $5.98, you have to believe it’s a home run for Walmart and Metrolina.

Charlotte, North Carolina

Walmart has some really great stores with a nice assortment of products in good color in North Carolina. Most noticeably, the stores are well-organized and showcase creative displays. Between the Atlanta stores and the Charlotte stores, Metrolina Greenhouses clearly is a first class vendor. Somehow they get things accomplished in each store that others struggle with, and whatever they do, it results in good, consistent products on the shelves with well merchandised displays. On average, I would guess these stores have much higher customer traffic than any other area I visited.

Some of the best patio pots were in the Walmart stores, most notably a 14-inch container retailing for $29.95. It was one of the most colorful combos I have seen this season. The two recipes that really stood out were Fire & Ice and Hot Pink Jazz. Another item that really looked outstanding was the Calliope geranium in a 12-inch patio pot with a retail price of $14.98. What a great value.

The BH&G program was well executed, although you wonder about the recipes consisting of mostly yellows and orchid shades. The packaging and point-of-sale materials all seem to blend together to create a separate identity for the program.

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