Retail Report: Big Changes At Box Stores

Marketing consultant Jerry Montgomery visited big box garden centers Sunday, March 21 throughout Tampa, Fla. Below are his findings:

It was a cool wet day Sunday (March 21) with extremely heavy afternoon rains. The temperature was in the 60s. In the morning, there was fairly good store traffic until the rains came and, of course, everything came to a standstill.

It was apparent looking at the shelves that Saturday was a huge day. Many shelves were empty and a few stores had little inventory. Although it was not an ideal day for gathering information, I visited 21 stores including, seven Walmarts, six Lowe’s, six Home Depot and a Costco and Sam’s Club.

Walmart

Walmart has had some of the better stores I have seen in the last two spring seasons. It has good quality products that are well merchandised and a simplified product portfolio. Last year, Walmart offered the Calliope geranium in 12-inch hanging baskets for $20. This year that same size is $13.

Walmart had a new SKU – the Confetti Garden, a Dümmen concept in an 8-inch Confetti logo pot – retailing for $5.75.  Between the packaging and the well-grown plants with a lot of flowers, this SKU was more eye-catching than anything I have seen this year.

Another notable Walmart item was a generic 4-inch vegetable program with staked tomatoes displayed in a tray with a large flat talker sign on each tray. Vegetables were selling for $0.95, arguably the best vegetable value of the season

Lowe’s

At Lowe’s there were some notable changes in its “Grow Your Own” (GYO) edibles program:

• The quart price is now $3.48 versus the $2.48 price point I saw in South Florida two weeks ago. This puts them at parity with the Bonnie Plants 5-inch plants.
• The 1-gallon tomato program offers only the Beefsteak variety.
• Cabbage has been added to the quart program and was on sale at $2.48.

Two stores had the GYO quart herbs on sale at $1.74, versus $3.48. Two stores had 1-gallon GYO tomatoes on sale at $2.99, versus the standard price of $5.98. It appeared as though the Bonnie Plant vegetables had a much higher sales velocity than the GYO program, possibly because it is a new program the consumer is unfamiliar with.

Home Depot

Bonnie Plants remains the sole supplier of vegetables and herbs, and it appears as though sales velocity is strong. Its “Black Friday is Back” promotion must have been a success, because the 606-pack promotion cleared many tables and carts. The Proven Winners promotion must have been successful, as well, because there were very low inventories in all stores. The 12-inch premium basket promotion seems to be effective again with very low inventories.

The 10-inch hanging basket SKU was gone in some stores after being promoted at $4.98. There were still good inventories of Viva and Vigor items. 

Costco

Costco offered a nice array of spring items along with an early Easter lily SKU. All items would be considered good consumer values:

• A gorgeous premium orchid retailing at $22.99, from Kerry’s.
• 14-inch patio combos retailing at $24, from Sunshine Growers.
• 10-inch patio pots at $13.99 from Sunshine Growers.
• 6-inch Calla lilies in an attractive sandstone ceramic retailing at $14.99.
• 10-inch Easter lilies, 3 ppp, retailing at $15.99. Also included some Asiatic lilies.

Sam’s Club

Sam’s was getting prepared for Easter with a nice selection of high-quality bulb products:

• 8-inch attractive fluted ceramic bowls with 12 tulips retailing at $19.26
• 10 tulips in a tin container with Spanish moss at $18.83
• 11-inch patio pot squares with 10 hyacinths retailing at $15.38
• 3-pack of 6-inch Easter lilies retailing at $16.88

Summary

Although Sunday was wet and cool, the previous Friday and Saturday were seemingly very busy at retail. There is more space devoted to edibles and I am seeing an overall expansion of the category, with many more herbs and lots of berries on the shelves. Promotion like Home Depot’s buy-one, get-one-free 606 promotion is very effective at driving store traffic.

Also noticeable this year is growers are shipping more items with fuller color than ever before. This speaks well for driving increased sales. Growers I talk to indicate there is a pent-up demand because of the rugged winter many parts of the country faced this year. We agree once the weather is right, this may be one of the better seasons in the past five years.

Retail Prices: Tampa, Fla.
 

Item Size Home Depot Lowe’s Walmart
Annuals Basic 606 1.49 0.74  
  209     5.50
  T-18 9.96 9.98  
  4 inch 0.89-0.99 0.99 0.95
  6 inch 2.97 2.97 2.50
Premium annuals        
Geraniums 6 inch 3.97 4.48 3.50
Confetti Garden 8 inch     5.75
  Quart     3.00
  6 inch 4.97   3.50
GCS annuals Quart   3.48  
GCS annuals 1 G   5.48  
GCS annuals 8 inch   7.98  
GCS perennials 1 G   5.48  
Wave 4 inch   2.00  
Wave 6 inch   3.98  
Proven Winners 4.25 inch 3.97    
Viva 1 G 3.97    
Vigoro Quart 2.97    
Vigoro 1G 3.97    
Hanging baskets        
Basic 10 inch 4.98 6.98 7.00
Premium 10 inch   10.98 9.00
Strawberry-fiber 11 inch   17.98  
Item Size Home Depot Lowe’s Walmart
Premium 12 inch 9.98   13.00
Calliope Geranium GCS 12 inch   19.98 13.00
Coco fiber 14 inch   22.98  
Patio pots 10 inch   11.98-12.98 11.50
Fiber pot 12 inch 19.98    
Color bowl 12 inch   11.98  
Pillar geranium 13 inch   22.98  
Color bowl 14 inch 9.98    
Window box 20 inch     11.00
Vegetables 4 inch     0.95
Bonnie vegetables 9 pack 3.48 3.48 3.00
" 3 inch 1.98    
" 4 inch 2.98 2.98 3.00
" 5 inch 3.48 3.48 3.25
" 1 G 5.98 5.98 5.00
Tomatoes caged 10 inch   12.89 10.00
Grow Your Own Quart   3.48  
GYO 1G   5.98  
GYO berries 8 inch   9.98  
Herb bowl 12 inch   9.98  

 

About the author: Jerry Montgomery is a 40-year veteran of the floriculture industry and has worked for distributor companies, breeders and large growers specializing with a focus on sales and marketing. As an industry consultant, he 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 almost 1,500 stores since January 2008.

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