Box Stores Reloaded

By most accounts, this was a pretty normal spring season. Successful sales weekends were determined mostly by the weather, which was favorable in most of the country April through early June. Independent retailers told us sales were keeping pace with the year before. While the average ticket per customer may have been down, store traffic was up enough to make up for it. Some garden centers found themselves running out of 4-inch annuals, baskets and vegetables and scrambling to restock benches. Early fears of a disastrous spring and people not being able to afford to buy plants did not come to fruition. So maybe our industry is recession proof after all.

The financial crisis made us collectively more aggressive in going after the consumer and driving sales this year, which is a good thing. But I would say the growers serving the box stores and mass merchandisers stood to gain the most. In addition to the retailers spending more than ever before on high quality, high profile television advertising, they have really upgraded their product assortment beyond commodities.

At one large growing operation, I was astonished to see so many high-end combos in black or bronze-colored designer patio pots. All the baskets were in designer shades of brown plastic, cocofiber, moss and pulp. I didn’t see the basic green or white plastic ones anywhere. Fashionable window boxes were brimming with premium annuals. Up until recently, these high-quality items could only be found at independent garden centers. Home Depot’s embrace of the Proven Winners brand has really upgraded the look and feel of the plants offered.

The execution at store level was better than ever before, due to the restructuring of the grower-vendor model, which was pretty significant this year. Walmart took its primary grower-vendor base down to 35. Home Depot has implemented the successful Bell Nursery model nationwide, with one grower being in charge of the full assortment in each store and managing inventory through pay by scan. At Lowe’s, you’ll see one grower providing annuals and one providing perennials at each store. And Bonnie Plant Farm must be making a killing at all three as the dominant vegetable supplier. 

Being the exclusive vendors at the stores has made a big difference for the growers. They aren’t wrestling with competitors for space. They can decide which products they’d like to grow for the assortment and which ones they’d rather buy in. They’ve gone from supplying 10 or 15 stock keeping units (SKUs) to 50 in just a year. One grower told me he hopes it gets to the point where growers are running the garden centers, even the cash registers, to maximize sell-through and service at the stores.

Many of the growers who are the primary vendors have plans to expand their production, but I hope they continue to buy in a significant percentage from other growers. Throughout this restructuring I keep worrying about what happens to the growers who were not chosen as the primary vendors. Many were built up by the box stores for decades. The buyers bought too much product from too many growers, which led to an oversupply industry wide. Industry suppliers built their businesses on this and are now hurting. This correction in supply was necessary, but I fear there will be many casualties. On the upside, business will be much better for those remaining.

Moving forward, I believe the new supply model with the smaller base of grower-vendors is the right one and will address problems that have plagued mass retail for decades. At Short Course, we will be having a Top 100 Growers breakfast discussion on the topic, “Serving The Market Together.” I look forward to learning more about growers doing this and hope there is a bright future for growers selling to growers.    
 

Leave a Reply

Latest Stories
Laura Drotleff

December 6, 2016

Are You Driving Young Growers Away? [Opinion]

In a time when the industry is facing a critical shortage of both labor and skilled, educated growers, it's important that grower operations don't unwittingly turn candidates off to a career at their business or in the industry in general. Take a closer look at your hiring practices to ensure you are being inclusive and not breaking any laws.

Read More

December 6, 2016

America In Bloom Moves Forward With New Management Comp…

Effective Jan. 1, 2017, management of America In Bloom will transition from AmericanHort to Second Wind Management, which is owned by long-time AIB Executive Director Laura Kunkle.

Read More
bailey-nurseries-team-feature

December 5, 2016

How Bailey Nurseries Has Found Solutions To The Labor S…

A changing seasonal workforce led this Minnesota-based company to explore new labor sources through the H-2A program and refugee organizations, and it’s working out for the better.

Read More
mycoapply-from-mycorrhizal-applications-feature

December 5, 2016

New Growing Media Advancements Giving Growers More Opti…

With innovative, sustainable growing media components, growers will be able to improve plant health, achieve consistency among crops, save money, and reduce inputs, while saving space on storage.

Read More

December 5, 2016

Benary’s Jennifer Calhoun: How We Can Make Plants…

I see one main issue facing our industry in getting more people to buy plants — we assume that the way we used to sell plants is the way millennials will want to buy them. Nothing could be further from the truth. We sell plants in small packs that you plant in a hole in your garden, with a generic label that says “blooms all season.” Millennials don’t have gardens, so they want a plant they can put on their fourth floor apartment balcony, or better yet on a shelf in their living room near a window.  We give them too little information to help them be successful under those circumstances. But what we don’t realize is that if the plant dies, they feel personally responsible for killing another living thing which is so painful that they would prefer not to take the chance a second time. If we sold […]

Read More

December 5, 2016

A Visual Guide To Garden Retail Merchandising

Antje Verstl, a German visual merchandiser who has worked with many high level garden retailers in Europe, has a lot of practical, and inspirational advice on how to transform your plant yard into an exciting place to shop. Take a look at this gallery, and enjoy a visual guide from Verstl. Her book, “Eagle & Frog!,” is now available for purchase by an American market through her website.

Read More
mikaela-hermstedt-penn-state-university

December 4, 2016

Shinoda Foundation Names Penn State Horticulture Major …

Mikaela Hermstedt, a 21-year-old senior from Lincoln, DE, plans to pursue a career in commercial greenhouse production of flowering plants.

Read More
all-america-selections-new-website-home-page

December 3, 2016

New Mobile Responsive Website From All-America Selectio…

All-America Selections has launched a newly redesigned and revamped mobile-responsive website that includes a more attractive design, enhanced search tools, and easier and simpler navigation.

Read More
Sea Breeze Catharanthus combo

December 2, 2016

Four Mixed Container Trends To Watch

Mixed containers are still one of the best-selling SKUs at retail. Pay attention to these four trends that are making their mark on multi-liner mixes and combination containers.

Read More
kelly-norris

December 2, 2016

Kelly Norris: How The “Me Too” Philosophy Affects Plant…

When you’re selling the exact same thing as everyone else, it’s unrealistic to expect customers to buy only from you.

Read More
mcconkey-plastic-shelves-feature

December 1, 2016

How Color Point Is Stopping Cart Theft With Plastic She…

Plastic shelving on carts acts as a deterrent to theft, and employees enjoy the benefits of being able to handle the racks without difficulty or injuries.

Read More
oasis-water-valve-feature

November 30, 2016

How You Can Water Plants Based On Basket Weight

The Oasis from Control Dekk is designed to reduce water use by giving baskets the exact amount of water they need.

Read More

November 29, 2016

How Changes In Plant Patent Law Could Affect Your Varie…

There is an ongoing discussion happening among plant genetics companies about the current laws and ethics of plant breeding, and what the future holds for the improved lawful protection of genetics.

Read More
foxglove-aphid

November 29, 2016

How Greenhouse Growers Can Manage The Foxglove Aphid

Recent research is shedding new light on the foxglove aphid. Understanding host plants, identification, and biology will help growers deal with this pest.

Read More
endless-summer

November 29, 2016

Endless Summer Hydrangeas Will Soon Feature New Identit…

Bailey Nurseries, which first introduced the reblooming hydrangea a decade ago, says the new identity will feature a more contemporary look to appeal to current and future gardeners.

Read More
Trays move on an overhead conveyor to the end of the production line, where workers carefully pack the cleaned, sized, graded, counted and sorted Calla tubers

November 29, 2016

Texas Judge Halts Overtime Rule; Here’s What It Means F…

According to Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort, the injunction against the overtime rule is welcome news for horticulture.

Read More

November 29, 2016

How The Industry Is Ensuring Consumer Success With Plan…

Greenhouse Grower RETAILING reached out to growers and suppliers for their ideas on how to attract and keep new plant customers. Here's what they had to say about ensuring gardening success.

Read More

November 29, 2016

Heroes To Hives Seeks Veterans For Beekeeping Training

Michigan State University is bringing together two great causes of our times — supporting vets and boosting pollinators — in its new program aimed at teaching professional beekeeping to former soldiers.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]