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
Luxflora Paris Trip

October 20, 2017

Luxflora Paris Trip Offers Insights on Trends Shaping H…

Each year, Luxflora hosts an international trip that allows participants to gain insights on trends and gather inspiration that ultimately will shape and support our industry in many ways. This year’s event took the group to Maison & Objet and Design Week in the City of Lights – Paris, France.

Read More
Capitol Hill_ feature

October 19, 2017

AmericanHort’s Main Priorities After Impact Washi…

Now that Impact Washington is over, AmericanHort, with industry support, is looking to continue its focus on tax reform, labor reform, and research and innovation.

Read More
BrightFarms Ohio

October 18, 2017

Leafy Greens Grower BrightFarms Building New 120,000 Sq…

The operation will provide locally grown salad greens and herbs to supermarkets in the Cincinnati, Dayton, and Columbus, OH, metropolitan areas.

Read More
Rough Brothers HopsHouse

October 18, 2017

New Greenhouse Aimed at Hydroponic Hops Producers

The new greenhouse model is the first single-solution hydroponic greenhouse for year-round hops growth, and harvests anywhere from two to five times a year.

Read More
Petal It Forward 2017

October 17, 2017

Petal It Forward Event a Hit for Both Industry Members …

Check out how this year’s Petal It Forward event brought smiling faces to people across the country, including one personal story.

Read More

October 17, 2017

14 New Shrubs With Fringe Benefits

What’s popular with shrubs? Consumers want varieties that will give them more return on their investment, in terms of long-lasting blooms and multi-season appeal that lasts from spring until fall and at times stretches into the winter months. Here are 14 new varieties of shrubs and sub-shrubs to consider for your product mix in 2018.

Read More
NatureFresh Chili Dog

October 17, 2017

NatureFresh Farms Uses Pest-Detecting Dog to Sniff out …

Knowing that many worker dogs are trained to recognize and discover scents associated with drugs or bombs, the company figured it was possible to train a dog to recognize pepper weevil.

Read More
Researchers Study Rose Varieties

October 17, 2017

Rose Rosette Update: Research into Detection and Manage…

Halfway through a five-year, $4.6 million grant to combat rose rosette disease in the U.S., a national research team is encouraged by the amount of information learned, but admits having a way to go before finding how to overcome the deadly problem.

Read More
Seville Production Line

October 17, 2017

Production Technology Conference Tour Attendees See Tec…

AmericanHort’s Production Technology Conference in Dallas, TX, kicked off on Monday, Oct. 10, with a tour of three local production facilities.

Read More
Botrytis Symptoms on Leaves

October 17, 2017

How One Grower is Battling Botrytis with a New Biologic…

CropKing in Lodi, OH, recently began using a new beneficial fungus in its fight against Botrytis in its greenhouse tomatoes. So far, the results have been promising.

Read More
TTA PackPlanter S-2

October 16, 2017

TTA Introduces New Transplanter Suited for Smaller Grow…

The PackPlanter S has 16 grippers and a capacity of 10,000 to 20,000 plugs per hour in a small frame.

Read More
Karen Reardon, RISE

October 15, 2017

Karen Reardon of RISE Honored by CropLife America

CropLife America presented Reardon with its highest staff award for her successful effort to defend against the ban of pesticide use on private property in Maryland.

Read More

October 14, 2017

PlantPeddler Hosting Poinsettia Variety Day in December

The event will feature side-by-side comparisons of more than 100 commercial and pre-released varieties from seven breeders.

Read More
Whitefly adult

October 13, 2017

Researchers Continue to Keep Close Tabs on Whitefly

Dr. Lance Osborne of the University of Florida and Dr. Cindy McKenzie of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service are evaluating insecticide efficacy and the impact of product rotations on whitefly biotype populations.

Read More
GVZ Glasshouses

October 12, 2017

How to Deal With Common Greenhouse Maintenance Issues

The most common problems often come from a lack of cleanliness and faulty equipment. Here are a number of tips you can follow in each of these areas.

Read More
Mark Schneid

October 11, 2017

Bayer’s New Head of Environmental Science Has Roots in …

Mark Schneid says one of the biggest challenges the industry faces is the constantly evolving customer — particularly among millennials.

Read More

October 10, 2017

Houston-Based TreeTown USA Acquires Village Nurseries

With the addition of the new West Coast division, which will continue to operate under its trade name of Village Nurseries, TreeTown USA will now encompass 16 farm locations throughout California, Texas, and Florida, with more than 4,000 acres in production.

Read More

October 10, 2017

Sharpen Your Skills in Cost Management and Profitabilit…

The University of Florida is offering a new online course on costing and profitability. The course will take growers through the process of how to accurately evaluate cost of production, labor efficiency, pricing, and equipment investment decisions.

Read More