Garden Retail 2013: Chicago

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The weather in Chicago was perfect and the shoppers were out in huge numbers filling almost every garden center we visited on May 18 to 19, 2013. Home Depot was the most crowded, with a busy parking lot. In looking closely at a number of shopping carts, customers were buying a wide variety of items, including large patio containers and hanging baskets.

In this market, there has been seemingly no impact on the sale of Impatiens walleriana. We observed large inventories in all retail locations.

The main objective of this retail tour was to see the initial launch of the Miracle Gro Syngenta branded annuals. They were on the shelves in every Home Depot, with larger displays in the suburbs than the city stores.

Here is what we saw:

• Two SKUs: a 5-inch annual retailing for $6.98 and a 12-inch fiber hanging basket with Calliope geraniums retailing for $19.98.

• The 5-inch was offered in a Miracle Gro branded pot with a large stick-in label.

• In the 5-inch SKU, there was a mix of basic (seed) annuals and premium (vegetative) annuals with no difference in the retail price point.

• Each pot and label had a clear message: “Premium Plants.”

• All 5-inch items were offered generically (Impatiens Red etc.)

• The 12-inch hanging basket was identified by variety and had a large Miracle Gro label (‘Calliope Dark Red’).

• There were small POS signs on some displays.

• There was a consumer guarantee printed on each pot with an unconditional money back offer.

• Positioning: “Guaranteed gardening success”

Home Depot

Considering all the markets we have visited over the past six years, nowhere have we observed a better-performing retailer than Home Depot in this market, with an offering of annuals that is second to none. The elements that differentiate this retailer from others starts with high-performing vendors that provide a wide assortment of high-quality products.

Just as important, Home Depot has one of the most positive connected merchandising groups you will find anywhere. Here is what we feel makes them so dominant in this market:

• Above average product quality with a lot of wow

• Product assortments that offer more choices than their competitors

• Best assortment of patio containers we have seen anywhere

• Great assortment of premium hanging baskets

• Highly energized interactive merchandising group

• Merchandisers who make it obvious they want to help their customers

When looking around a garden center, one of the elements that is important to notice is price signs and/or pricing labels. Without a doubt, the pricing in these stores is in place more than 99 percent of the time, as well as being accurate. Many handmade price signs are impossible to miss.

Another element of good retailing is making use of the end caps with products that stand out. Clearly, these end caps were some of the best in the country. Outdoor corrals are widely used in this market in May and these vendors have very well-organized corrals that make outdoor shopping a pleasant experience.

Lowe’s

In the annuals category, the Garden Club Select brand was the most dominant branded product line. Every store offered small displays of Proven Winners and Wave. Larger packs were very evident, appearing to be positioned to minimize the impact of the OPP 606 SKU. There were displays of 209 packs retailing for $6.98 and 1201s at $9.98.

A lot of the table space in the covered greenhouse area was devoted more to shrubs this year than in the past, especially the Monrovia brand. It seems there is less emphasis on annuals and an increased emphasis on perennials and shrubs.

Walmart

This year, there is far less Better Homes & Gardens product on the shelves than we observed last year. We saw no Better Homes & Gardens point-of-purchase materials this year, whereas last year it was in every store. Walmart, as always, had more emphasis on their OPP SKUs, but each store did have nice displays of Wave petunias in the signature pink packaging.

Costco

Costco was one of the best markets, offering a really nice assortment of premium items, mostly supplied by Leider & Sons.

• 16-inch patio pot. A great value at $29.99

• 12-inch combo hanging baskets looked fantastic

• 12-inch patio geraniums for $17.99

• 12-inch caged patio veggies for $12.59

• Three 1-gallon perennials for $15.99

Sam’s Club

• Mini Rose Vintage Tin for $15.97

• 12-inch hanging basket for $12.99

• 10-inch hanging basket fern for $10.98

• 12-inch patio pot combo for $16.88

Retail Prices Chicago Market

 

Item Size Home Depot Lowe’s Walmart
Annuals Basic 508 2.98    
  606   1.48 1.78
  306 7.98   5.68
  209   6.98  
  1201   9.98  
  2401 14.98    
  4 inch 0.88   1.28
Seed Geranium 4 inch 1.48   1.28
  6 inch 2.98 2.48  
  8 inch 5.98    
Annual Premium        
Wave 306 7.88 6.98 5.88

Wave

6 inch 4.98 4.98 4.98
Viva  1 gallon      
Viva        
Proven Winners 4.5 inch 4.98  4.98   
Garden Club Select 1 pint   2.98  
Better Homes & Gardens Quart     3.68
Better Homes & Gardens 8 inch      5.68 
Confetti 8 inch     5.68
Garden Club Select  Quart     3.98  
Garden Club Select  1 gallon    5.98   
Miracle Gro  5 inch  6.98     
Sunpatiens  Quart  4.98     
Viva  Quart  4.98     
Viva  1 gallon  7.98     
Vigor  Quart 3.98     
  1 gallon  6.98     
Hanging Baskets         
Basic  10 inch  9.98  7.98  7.98 
Fuchsia  10 inch    19.98   
Premium  10 inch      10.97 
Premium  11 inch  14.98  14.98   
Proven Winners  12 inch  29.98  16.98   
  12 inch  19.98     
Miracle Gro  12 inch  19.98     
Better Homes & Gardens  12 inch      15.98 
  14 inch  39.98     
Proven Winners 16 inches  14 inch  39.99  34.98  
  20 inch  99.99     
Patio Pots         
New Guinea Impatiens  6.5 inch  6.98     
Color Bowls Better Homes & Gardens  8 inch  9.98     
  10 inch  14.98  12.98   
  12 inch  14.98  29.98   
  12 inch      15.98 
  12 inch      15.98 
  13 inch  19.98     
Proven Winners Calle  14 inch  24.98     
  14 inch   24.98  
  5.5 gallon   44.98  
  16 inch   29.98  
Two Tier  14 inch 79.98    
  20 inch 59.98    
  24 inch tall 129.98    
Urn 14 inch 79.98    
Perennials  Quart 3.98 3.98 3.78
  1 gallon 6.98 5.98 5.77
Vigoro  1 gallon 8.98    
Garden Club Select perennials  1 gallon   7.98  
Garden Club Select perennials  8 inches   10.98  

 

Summary

Chicago has to be one of the top markets in the country for Home Depot with more home centers than any competitor and high-performing vendors. You have to assume this is a great growth market. The Miracle Gro brand launch seemingly went well and it was a great choice to launch in the Chicago market where Home Depot has great vendors and store density.

Retailer Store # City Annual Perennials Vegetables
Home Depot 1908 Bedford Park Grand Flowers Hampshire Bonnie
Home Depot 1955 Oak Lawn Grand Flowers Hampshire Bonnie
Home Depot 1986 Chicago Grand Flowers Hampshire Bonnie
Home Depot 1950 Chicago Grand Flowers Hampshire Bonnie
Home Depot 1961 Chicago Grand Flowers Hampshire Bonnie
Home Depot 1903 Chicago Grand Flowers Hampshire Bonnie
Home Depot 1911 Cicero Grand Flowers Hampshire Bonnie
Home Depot 1982 Oakbrook Terrace Grand Flowers Hampshire Bonnie
Home Depot 1916 Downers Grove Masterpiece Hampshire Bonnie
Home Depot 1957 Aurora Masterpiece Hampshire Bonnie
Home Depot 1921 Batavia Masterpiece Hampshire Bonnie
Home Depot 1905 Darien Masterpiece Hampshire Bonnie
Home Depot 1918 Naperville Masterpiece Hampshire Bonnie
Home Depot 1943 Carol Stream Masterpiece Hampshire Bonnie
Lowe’s 2304 Chicago Mid American BFN Bonnie
Lowe’s 2310 Chicago Mid American BFN Bonnie
Lowe’s 1845 Chicago Mid American BFN Bonnie
Lowe’s 1711 Naperville Mid American BFN Bonnie
Lowe’s 1738 St. Charles Mid American BFN Bonnie
Lowe’s 1821 Carol Stream Mid American BFN Bonnie
Walmart 02215 Darien Mid American Sawyer Bonnie
Walmart 2204 Forest Park Mid American Sawyer Bonnie
Walmart 1848 Glen Ellyn Mid American Sawyer Bonnie
Walmart 4405 Aurora Mid American Sawyer Bonnie
Walmart 1898 St. Charles Mid American Sawyer Bonnie
Costco   Naperville Leider Hampshire Leider
Costco   St. Charles Leider Hampshire Leider
Sam’s Club   Batavia GCG GCG GCG

 

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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