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
GCA Summer Tour 2017 Andersons Newport Beach

March 23, 2017

Garden Centers of America Unveils Stops on Its Summer T…

Registration for the event, which includes visits to several garden centers each with their own unique highlights, is now open.

Read More
Bee on Lavender feature

March 23, 2017

Allan Armitage: Plant Consumers Don’t Talk About …

Allan Armitage says it's time to get in touch with our true audience and market plant solutions, not plant products.

Read More
Aspabroc Broccolini Sakata Vegetables Feature

March 22, 2017

Growing Tips for Sakata Vegetables’ ‘Aspabroc’ Br…

‘Aspabroc’ resembles a broccoli raab with an asparagus stem, has a mild taste, and requires little growing space.

Read More
Spin Top Gaillardia Series (Dummen Orange)

March 22, 2017

New Perennials and Tender Perennials for 2018 from Cali…

We asked breeders to share with us pictures and information on some of the true perennials and tender perennials that you'll see at California Spring Trials 2017. Here's a sampling of some of the varieties hitting retail shelves in 2018.

Read More
National Garden Bureau New Website

March 22, 2017

National Garden Bureau’s New Website Features Mobile-Fr…

The new site is designed to serve as a home base to drive traffic from NGB’s social media community to one central location.

Read More
Emerald Coast Growers Seed RoomTight feature

March 22, 2017

An Inside Look at Emerald Coast Growers’ New Seed…

Florida-based liner producer Emerald Coast Growers custom retrofitted and expanded an existing greenhouse, with the goal of increasing production efficiency.

Read More

March 21, 2017

How Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Can Prepare for a Prod…

The United Fresh Produce Association is holding a Recall Ready Workshop in April that is designed to help growers properly manage a recall, from liability to communications.

Read More
Lemnis Oreon Lights

March 21, 2017

Lemnis Oreon, EnviroTech Cultivation Solutions to Partn…

EnviroTech’s expertise in energy and water technology fits perfectly with the water-cooling solution of Oreon Grow Lights, according to the companies.

Read More

March 20, 2017

AgBiome’s New Zio Biofungicide Receives EPA Regis…

The new biofungicide is the first product from AgBiome, and will be marketed by SePRO Corp. in the ornamentals market.

Read More
Oat Grass Banker System feature

March 20, 2017

How You Can Market the Benefits of Biocontrols

Educating retailers and end consumers about the use of biocontrols and why it’s important has helped Fessler Nursery gain new customers and profits.

Read More

March 20, 2017

Neonic Insect Control Alternative Offers Favorable Prof…

Altus, a butenolide class insecticide with the active ingredient flupyradifurone, will be available beginning May 1, and is labeled for greenhouse and nursery use on ornamental plants, vegetable transplants, and indoor vegetable production.

Read More
Brian Munchel

March 18, 2017

Brian Munchel of Ludy Greenhouse Manufacturing Dies at …

Munchel, a long-time member of the National Greenhouse Manufacturing Association, worked at Ludy Greenhouse Manufacturing for more than 30 years and was a computer-aided draftsman.

Read More
Measuring the light distribution from an LED lamp - feature

March 17, 2017

Consider Evaluating the Benefits of LED Lighting for Yo…

Despite the potentially high installation cost of LED lighting, several advantages mean it’s worth considering. Collecting information and conducting small-scale trials can help you make LED lighting profitable at your operation.

Read More
Zinnia Solmar Series (Floranova)

March 17, 2017

Phlox, Zinnias, and More for 2018 From California Sprin…

We asked breeders to share with us pictures and information on some of the great new annuals that you'll see at California Spring Trials 2017. They didn't let you down.

Read More
Greenhouse Loyal Customer

March 16, 2017

How Brand Enthusiasts Can Be Your Most Loyal Customers

A marketing expert shares three core principles that direct-to-consumer companies can follow to create brand enthusiasts.

Read More
Nexus Atrium for Prides Corner

March 15, 2017

How Tech Suppliers Are Helping Growers Find Solutions

Greenhouse structures and components manufacturers highlight some of their most recent projects.

Read More

March 14, 2017

Expanded Customer Footprint, E-Commerce, Succession Key…

Costa Farms' acquisition of indoor foliage producer Delray Plants rocked the industry, but the story behind Delray Plants' sale is the same as for many growers struggling with succession planning. For Costa Farms, the strategic purchase expands its customer footprint and also fast tracks its foray into e-commerce.

Read More
Steve Black and Bridget Behe

March 14, 2017

AmericanHort’s First-Ever CareerUP Event to Take Place …

CareerUP is a day-long workshop that is designed to provide the skills, information, and inspiration that young professionals need to advance their careers, love their jobs, and help the industry grow.

Read More