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
Bee on Sunflowers

August 30, 2016

Bee Vectoring Technologies Names New President And CEO

Ashish Malik, a former Vice President of Global Marketing at Bayer CropScience, will focus on marketing Bee Vectoring Technologies’ patented proprietary tray dispenser system that uses bees to delivery organic compounds directly to crops.

Read More
Griffin Onliant Logo

August 30, 2016

Griffin Launches New Digital Greenhouse Ordering System

Onliant, which replaces Griffin’s previous e-commerce sites, provides growers and retailers with a new platform to source plants, hard goods, equipment, and retail inputs.

Read More
Phlox 'Pink Profusion' (Green Leaf Plants)

August 30, 2016

13 Cool Season Plants To Kick Off The Spring Season

These new cultivar introductions for 2016 are spring bloomers that can take the cold for early-season sales.

Read More
America In Bloom Project

August 29, 2016

Your Chance To Help America In Bloom As It Celebrates I…

America In Bloom is launching a fundraising campaign to help the group continue its mission of creating beautiful and vibrant communities across the country.

Read More

August 29, 2016

Does Point-Of-Sale (POS) Make A Difference for Plant Re…

When Greenhouse Grower RETAILING asked plant retailers about their plant pricing techniques, we also asked if they use POS or not. We decided to take a close look at where these two groups differ:

Read More
Griffin Logo

August 29, 2016

What You Should Do At The Griffin Expos, Massachusetts …

The first of the fall Griffin Expos takes place this week in West Springfield, MA, August 31 and September 1, 2016. A Lancaster, PA, Expo will take place next month. If you’re heading to this distributor show, make sure you check out these highlights: White Elephant Sale Each year, Griffin clears out its branch warehouses by holding a sale of its closeout and overstock items. The discounts are deep, and the competition for the items are fierce. “Once items are gone, they’re gone. So, that first hour or so is kind of like ‘the running of the brides’ at Filene’s,” says Tracey Gorrell, Marketing Communications Lead at Griffin. On-Site Experts Griffin offers opportunities to connect face-to-face with industry experts and get answers, tips, and advice catered to your unique needs and interests: The GGSPro team is available to field your questions; and 150 manufacturers, breeders, and young-plant producers can discuss […]

Read More

August 29, 2016

Fire Damages Swanson Nursery

Fire crews were called to Seattle-based Swanson’s Nursery in the middle of the night on August 22, the Ballard News Tribune reported. The fire, likely started by an “electrical issue,” destroyed bathrooms and a seminar room, Retail Manager Eric Nordstrom told the news outlet. Smoke damage was more extensive, however. Swanson’s President, Brian Damron says the fire also reached a storage area and utility room. A fire department spokesman says the fire broke through the greenhouse walls, and that part of a wooden wall had to be removed so the crew could reach the flames. The store’s café resides next to the damaged area, and is temporarily closed. It’s an important part of Swanson’s off season revenue strategy. The store is working with a timeline of repairs with its insurance company so it can determine when the cafe can reopen, the news outlet reports. The fire was out relatively quickly once […]

Read More
North Creek Nurseries Feature Image

August 29, 2016

North Creek Nurseries Unites Horticulture With Sustaina…

The team at North Creek Nurseries, Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Operation Of The Year, leads the way in implementing ecologically responsible practices that will sustain the future of growing.

Read More

August 28, 2016

BioWorks IPM/Sustainable Practices Scholarship Goes To …

Schaller, a senior at the University of Arizona in the Plant Sciences Department, is interested in ornamental and floriculture crop breeding and crop physiology.

Read More
Next Generation

August 27, 2016

Australia Launches Initiative To Ignite A New Generatio…

Hort Innovation Chief Executive John Lloyd says the goal is to identify and build future industry leaders at all stages of their career through investment in a host of new initiatives.

Read More
Penn State University Trial Day

August 26, 2016

How Greenhouse Growers Can Broaden Their Horizons

Allan Armitage says you can learn new ideas to help your business when you get out to visit plant trials and other growers.

Read More
Albert Grimm, Jefferys Greenhouses

August 25, 2016

7 Ways Albert Grimm Strives To Be An Effective Leader

Grimm, Greenhouse Grower's 2016 Head Grower Of The Year, tries to live by the "Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People” from author Stephen R. Covey.

Read More
Tidal Creek Growers

August 25, 2016

Maryland-Based SunMed Growers Nabs Cannabis License

The company was one of 15 licensees selected by the commission out of a pool of 145 grower applicants to receive one of the license pre-approvals.

Read More
GrowSpan Light Deprivation Greenhouse

August 25, 2016

New Light Deprivation Greenhouses Help With Light Manag…

The GrowSpan light deprivation greenhouse from Growers Supply is outfitted with a blackout system that provides growers with control over the light cycle.

Read More
Albert Grimm GOY feature

August 25, 2016

Up Close And Personal With Head Grower Of The Year Albe…

According to Grimm, Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Head Grower Of The Year, the key to being a successful grower is educating and inspiring yourself, your staff, your customers, and the next generation of growers.

Read More
To offer consumers an attractive crop, Local Appetite uses high tunnels to grow cherry tomatoes

August 24, 2016

New Food Safety Compliance Resource Available For Green…

The FSMA Wizard from Registrar Corp makes it easy for food producers, including greenhouse vegetable growers, to determine their possible requirements under the Food Safety Modernization Act.

Read More
Cannabis Structure

August 23, 2016

5 Factors To Consider In Your Cannabis Structure

Along with the size and specs of your greenhouse, it's also important to focus on ventilation, light deprivation, benching, irrigation, and odor control.

Read More
Penn State Plant Bud

August 23, 2016

AmericanHort Is Helping Plant Importers Adjust To New R…

A report from Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort says the government is implementing a streamlined system for imports, in which all required data will be submitted electronically through a single window.

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