Lowe’s Edibles Program To Challenge Bonnie Plants

Lowe's Edibles Program To Challenge Bonnie Plants

.

Marketing consultant Jerry Montgomery visited 28 garden center retail locations in Southwest Florida over the weekend (February 20-21) and offers his assessment.

South Florida sells bedding plants year-round with February and March being the spring peak times. The weather was ideal for our 1 ½ -day look at this market with day temperatures in the mid-70s and night temperatures in the 50s. Consumer traffic was not what you would expect for this period, especially after severe losses of landscape plants during the past record winter.

Our tour included 28 retailers–nine Walmarts, eight Home Depots, six Lowe’s, three Costcos and two Sam’s Clubs. Lowe’s and Home Depot are served by the same bedding plant vendor, so there was not much of a difference in product quality or product mix but a substantial difference in other elements of retailing.

Walmart

Its garden centers just keep getting better with increasing product quality and vastly improved merchandising. There was some new POS signage with a vegetable focus. One theme was “Tomato Time” with the size of signage at 42 x 30 inches. Walmart was the only retailer that had accurate price signs in all the displays I inspected. From my perspective, Walmart in this market has a far greater emphasis on foliage. That is the core product group in the outdoor landscape business.

With the massive losses sustained by consumers this winter, it appears Walmart is on the right track. The annuals it did have were good quality and most items displayed good color. Clearly, the Walmart vendors in this area are above average performers.

Home Depot

Home Depot offered a well-rounded product mix with an array of generic and branded products. Much more space was devoted to Scott’s bagged soils than I’ve seen in the past. Scott’s products were merchandised on end caps formerly used for bedding plants and perennials, and the outside aprons had more space allocated to Scott’s bagged media.

On the branded plant side, I observed Vigoro that’s used for the mid-range price points, along with Viva, Proven Winners and Bonnie Plant. Viva had two new items–’Orange Zest’ petunia pairing up with ‘Lemon Zest’ and ‘Rhythm and Blues’ petunia. ‘Orange Zest’ looked like a compelling color and matched the size of its Lemon counterpart. ‘Rhythm and Blues’ had a decent picotee effect but the centers were open and lacked flowers because of its spreading habit–not a winner for the grower.

Lowe’s

The only new item that really stood out at Lowe’s was its new “Grow Your Own” vegetables and herb program that goes head to head with Bonnie Plants. The line consisted of two sizes–a quart herb program and a 1-gallon vegetable line. Both sizes were offered in a 100 percent biodegradable coconut fiber container with a large descriptive label. The container had a plastic collar similar to Bonnie’s that was printed with consumer messages, a UPC and planting instructions. The label had recipes on the reverse side.

The 1-gallon tomatoes had no variety designation on the label. A separate white sticker was used, but in some cases plants arrived at the store without variety ID. The quart herbs were retailed at $2.48 compared to a 5-inch Bonnie Plant at $3.48. The 1-gallon tomatoes were at $5.98 retail, similar to the Bonnie SKU.

It appears Lowe’s is offering an alternative to the Bonnie Plant line–and in the case of herbs at a much lower retail price. The real story may be in the merchandising because Bonnie has much better placement and is merchandised on risers with nice POS signage, whereas the “Grow Your Own” program has no POS materials and is scattered around the garden center, sometimes in low-traffic areas.

Sam’s Club

Sam’s Club only offered two bedding plant items: a 14-inch fiber hanging basket retailing for $23.62 and a 14-inch patio pot at $25.02.

Costco

Costco was offering the following this past weekend:

–10-inch patio at $10.98
–3 to 6-inch cyclamen at $9.99
–10-inch lilies at $11.68
–4- to 4.5-inch kalanchoes at $8.99

Summary

The spring season in Southwest Florida is so long, starting as early as January and peaking in late March, that it’s hard to determine the growth or decline. Still, in talking to several garden center mangers, they all commented they were up significantly for the year.

What was most surprising was how little focus there was on the vegetables category except for the “Grow Your Own” program at Lowe’s. The other retailers have done nothing different to exploit the opportunities in this high growth category.

In stores, I did not see one Wave SKU–the most recognized plant brand. I observed only a handful of the hottest geranium on the planet, Calliope, and they were in Lowe’s and not identified by variety.

Outside of vegetables, I saw very little you would consider new and exciting. For the most part, there was little difference from Spring 2009.

Florida, in my opinion, has fewer independent garden centers than far less populated states, so the consumer is more reliant on the national retailers for information and recommendations. Unfortunately, there appears to be much less information available than one would find at most independents. The home centers have a huge opportunity to capture the loyalty of the consumer but history says we will not see much change. It will continue to be a battle based on pricing.

Table 1. Retail Prices: Southwest Florida

Item
Size Home Depot Lowe’s Walmart
Annuals Basic 4.5 inch 0.99 0.98 0.95
  6 inch 1.97 2.58 2.50
  T-18 9.96 9.98  
  209     5.50
Proven Winners 4.25 3.97    
Vigoro 1 gallon 3.97    
Viva Sunpatiens Quart 2.97    
Viva 1 gallon 3.97    
Viva Asiatic lily 1 gallon 4.97    
Premium Annuals 1 gallon 4.97   3.50
Geraniums 6 nch 3.97 4.48  
Garden Club Select Quart   3.48  
Garden Club Select 1 gallon   5.48  
GCS perennials 8 inch   7.98  
Perennials 1 gallon 3.49 3.48  
Perennials 8 inch   5.48  
Hanging Baskets        
Basic 10 inch 6.99 6.98 7.00
Premium 10 inch NA 10.98 9.00
  12 inch 12.97 19.98 13.00
Coco fiber 14 inch 19.97    
HB ferns 10 inch 8.97    
Patio Pots 8 inch 7.97 7.98 7.00
  10 inch 10.97 12.98-15.98 10.50
Window box 16 inch   10.98  
Color bowl square 12 inch   11.98  
Vegetables Bonnie 9-pack 3.48 3.48 3.00
  4 inch 2.98 3.00 3.00
  5 inch 3.48 3.48 3.25
  1 gallon 5.98 5.98 5.00
Grow Your Own Quart   2.48  
  1 gallon   5.98  
Herb garden 10 inch   12.98  

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.

Leave a Reply

12 comments on “Lowe’s Edibles Program To Challenge Bonnie Plants

  1. We tried the Calliope Geraniums last year and while customers really went for the color their habit leaves a lot to be desired… not upright sort of a spreader. We don’t like them for that reason.

  2. The Lowes store I visited in SW Florida this past week had the new vegetable/herb program in it as well. The huge problem I saw is that both the quart and gallon tomatoes had tags which said “tomato” and did not identify the variety. While this may have been a tagging mistake and I do not know if it was wide spread (I was only in 1 store), I can not believe a customer would buy a tomato without knowing what the actual variety is. The bench I was looking at also did not appear to have sold any either.

  3. We have had the worst extended cold and freezing weather since 1896 and it started in November! This is not a fair assessment of our plants and market as nothing is turning yet. Freezing weather from West Palm Beach north again tonight and rain predicted Saturday. Garden centers in Florida are down 35% so you recorded some hopeful managers comments even for the southwest quadrant you walked. El Nino’s in 93 and 98 killed March business and we all hope it wanes soon. Waves and Supertunias are long day plants and Florida petunia season is short day – winter ending in April. Even the Rhythm and Blues will be better as days lengthen. Calliope Geraniums are a winner in Florida where everything needs Bonzi. You will see them soon.

  4. I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Brown’s assessment of the Florida market and of the products mentioned. With the extended cold period that we’ve experienced for the past few months, and yet again another frost this morning, we feel strongly that the market has yet to hit it’s stride. But once we are through with the unseasonably cool weather we think things will pick up very quickly as much of the landscape plantings have been severly impacted by the freezes. I believe most of the Florida growers are well poised to fufill the anticipated demand.

  5. We just moved to SW Florida this past July. We are looking for somewhere other then large chain stores to purchase vegetable/herb plants. Perhaps a privately owned Nursery or private grower? Have any suggestions?

  6. We tried the Calliope Geraniums last year and while customers really went for the color their habit leaves a lot to be desired… not upright sort of a spreader. We don’t like them for that reason.

  7. The Lowes store I visited in SW Florida this past week had the new vegetable/herb program in it as well. The huge problem I saw is that both the quart and gallon tomatoes had tags which said “tomato” and did not identify the variety. While this may have been a tagging mistake and I do not know if it was wide spread (I was only in 1 store), I can not believe a customer would buy a tomato without knowing what the actual variety is. The bench I was looking at also did not appear to have sold any either.

  8. We have had the worst extended cold and freezing weather since 1896 and it started in November! This is not a fair assessment of our plants and market as nothing is turning yet. Freezing weather from West Palm Beach north again tonight and rain predicted Saturday. Garden centers in Florida are down 35% so you recorded some hopeful managers comments even for the southwest quadrant you walked. El Nino’s in 93 and 98 killed March business and we all hope it wanes soon. Waves and Supertunias are long day plants and Florida petunia season is short day – winter ending in April. Even the Rhythm and Blues will be better as days lengthen. Calliope Geraniums are a winner in Florida where everything needs Bonzi. You will see them soon.

  9. I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Brown’s assessment of the Florida market and of the products mentioned. With the extended cold period that we’ve experienced for the past few months, and yet again another frost this morning, we feel strongly that the market has yet to hit it’s stride. But once we are through with the unseasonably cool weather we think things will pick up very quickly as much of the landscape plantings have been severly impacted by the freezes. I believe most of the Florida growers are well poised to fufill the anticipated demand.

  10. We just moved to SW Florida this past July. We are looking for somewhere other then large chain stores to purchase vegetable/herb plants. Perhaps a privately owned Nursery or private grower? Have any suggestions?

More From Varieties...

May 25, 2017

Genetically Modified Petunia Update: Breeders Take Swift Action, USDA Requires Import Authorization

Now that the initial shock of genetically engineered petunias is wearing off, breeders continue testing for tainted stock and look toward the future. On the consumer side, uncertainties remain.  

Read More

May 23, 2017

USDA-APHIS Bulletin on Unauthorized Distribution of Genetically Engineered Petunias

On May 2, 2017, USDA-APHIS was informed that an orange petunia variety was potentially genetically engineered and had been imported and moved interstate without required authorization by APHIS. This led to testing of numerous petunia varieties, which confirmed this particular variety and several others are genetically engineered, and meet the regulatory definition of a regulated article under APHIS regulations. APHIS continues to work with the industry to ensure unauthorized GE petunias are not distributed in the United States.

Read More
Petunia F1 African Sunset from American Takii

May 22, 2017

Genetically Modified Petunia Update: Question and Answer with AmericanHort’s Craig Regelbrugge

AmericanHort’s key role interfacing with the USDA on the recall of genetically modified petunias has helped the horticulture industry rapidly address the problem. Senior Vice President Craig Regelbrugge talks about recent updates, the impact on the industry, and where it goes from here.

Read More
Latest Stories

May 25, 2017

Genetically Modified Petunia Update: Breeders Take Swif…

Now that the initial shock of genetically engineered petunias is wearing off, breeders continue testing for tainted stock and look toward the future. On the consumer side, uncertainties remain.  

Read More

May 23, 2017

USDA-APHIS Bulletin on Unauthorized Distribution of Gen…

On May 2, 2017, USDA-APHIS was informed that an orange petunia variety was potentially genetically engineered and had been imported and moved interstate without required authorization by APHIS. This led to testing of numerous petunia varieties, which confirmed this particular variety and several others are genetically engineered, and meet the regulatory definition of a regulated article under APHIS regulations. APHIS continues to work with the industry to ensure unauthorized GE petunias are not distributed in the United States.

Read More
Petunia F1 African Sunset from American Takii

May 22, 2017

Genetically Modified Petunia Update: Question and Answe…

AmericanHort’s key role interfacing with the USDA on the recall of genetically modified petunias has helped the horticulture industry rapidly address the problem. Senior Vice President Craig Regelbrugge talks about recent updates, the impact on the industry, and where it goes from here.

Read More
Eason 2017 spring trials report

May 16, 2017

New California Spring Trials Report Now Available From …

The report features genetics from 21 different breeding companies and information gathered from the 15 different stops on this year’s tour.

Read More
Schizachyrium scoparium The Blues

May 13, 2017

How Ornamental Grasses and Sedges Can Play a Role in Po…

Grasses and sedges provide food, shelter, and support for pollinators and the birds and mammals that keep insect populations in balance.

Read More
Asclepias with a bumblebee

May 8, 2017

How to Choose the Best Native Plants for Pollinator Gar…

The popularity of native plants is rising as gardeners become conscious of the need to plant more pollinator gardens. The challenge is to select the right plants to put in them.

Read More
Allan Armitage Of Naked Ladies and Forget Me Nots

May 2, 2017

Allan Armitage: How Growers Can Be Creative to Take Gar…

Our industry does a good job of making things convenient for our customers. It’s time to take it a step further.

Read More
Asclepias tuberosa

April 29, 2017

Greenhouse Growing Tips for Asclepias tuberosa

Madeline Maynor, Growing Operations Manager for Landenberg, PA-based North Creek Nurseries, shares greenhouse growing tips for Asclepias tuberosa, the 2017 Perennial Plant of the Year.

Read More
Andropogon gerardii Blackhawks (Intrinsic Perennial Gardens)

April 25, 2017

Kelly Norris: Diversity is the Key to Growing the Ornam…

Offering a selection of ornamental grasses that cater to customer needs will keep sales from stagnating.

Read More

April 25, 2017

41 New Vegetative Petunias From California Spring Trial…

With the abundance of new introductions for the 2018 retail season, we’ve made it easier for you to sift through them by separating out the vegetative petunias from the Northern sites, which includes selections from Westhoff Flowers, Sakata Ornamentals, Danziger, Proven Winners, and Syngenta flowers.

Read More
Begonia Spectre Silver Terra Nova Nurseries

April 20, 2017

Terra Nova Nurseries Releases Two New, Attractive Begon…

Stardust is the latest addition to Terra Nova Nurseries’ existing T Rex Begonia series, and Silver is the first introduction to the company’s new Spectre Begonia series.

Read More

April 18, 2017

Cool Combos From CAST 2017 – Editor’s Choic…

With container gardening becoming more of a lifestyle among consumers than a trend, and breeders continuing to put more effort in container mixes and components, I feel I would be remiss if I didn't share some of the special combinations that not only caught my eye at California Spring Trials, but absolutely took my breath away and made me want to immediately get started gardening.

Read More
Danziger New Hires

April 16, 2017

Danziger Invests in Continued North American Business G…

As part of a new business structure for its North American market, Mike Fernandez has been appointed Market Manager North America for Bedding Plants and Perennials, and Kate Zvara was named as Key Account Manager and Retail Specialist.

Read More
Florida Flower Trials

April 12, 2017

Looking for Info on New Varieties for Hot Climates? Che…

The Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association’s Florida Flower Trials, which are focused on new and improved varieties able to thrive in the extremes of Florida’s climate, are a great opportunity to connect with national breeders.

Read More
Lupinus Staircase Series (Green Fuse Botanicals)

April 11, 2017

Begonias, Celosias Among Dr. Allan Armitage’s Favorites…

Check out some of Allan’s top picks from his final day at CAST 2017, which included visits to Green Fuse Botanicals and Floranova.

Read More
Rex Begonia container mix at Green Fuse Botanicals

April 11, 2017

Green Fuse Botanicals’ Rex Begonias and First Looks; Fl…

Here are the highlights from Green Fuse Botanicals and Floranova on the last day of CAST 2017.

Read More

April 7, 2017

Hort Couture Wows With Farm to Table; Florist Holland R…

On the last day for GroLink and the second to last for the Greenhouse Grower team, the wealth of genetics, marketing programs, and announcements were pleasing to our eyes, ears, and hearts.

Read More

April 7, 2017

California Spring Trials Day Five: Notable New Plant Va…

See some of the new varieties for 2018 displayed at Ball Horticultural and GroLink Plant Company on day five of California Spring Trials 2017.

Read More