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...

March 4, 2015

Nexus Corporation’s Cheryl Longtin Encourages Women To Seek Volunteer Leadership Opportunities

When Cheryl Longtin came to the horticulture business in 1994, she applied her experience in the automotive industry to promote the adoption of more technology in greenhouse production. Longtin says horticulture, with its rich family tradition, has long promoted women in the industry compared to other industries, but women in horticulture must continue to seek out opportunities to provide volunteer leadership in organizations that shape the future of the business.

Read More

March 4, 2015

Second Annual GreenhouseConnect Will Bring Growers and Suppliers Together in San Diego This October

Following a successful inaugural event in Tampa last fall, Greenhouse Grower has announced the dates of its second annual GreenhouseConnect: October 26-29, 2015. Representatives of an expected two dozen leading greenhouse operations from across the U.S. will join senior-level suppliers at Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego for several days of one-on-one strategic meetings, a growers-only roundtable, informational sessions and a variety of networking events.

Read More
cultivate'15 logo

March 4, 2015

Cultivate’15: AmericanHort Announces What’s New

In an industry that has seen major changes occurring at a fast pace, many industry professionals leave Cultivate with their heads spinning and no clear idea of how to regroup and strategize. Cultivate’15 is “Changing the Game.” As this year’s focus, Changing the Game will call your attention to the ways in which our industry has changed and your opportunities to compete successfully.

Read More
Latest Stories

March 4, 2015

California Spring Trials Preview: 32 New Perennials For…

Perennials are hot and if this preview of the 2015 California Spring Trials is any indication, there are going to be some great new perennial introductions for 2016. We contacted the breeders who will be displaying their new varieties in California in April, and they gave us a sneak peek. Check out the slideshow to see some of the new perennials making their debut to the trade this spring.

Read More
Lavandula 'Meerlo' (Sunset Western Garden Collection)

March 3, 2015

Why You Will Still Grow Today’s Big Perennial 10 Years …

What will be the next big perennial? Breeders say it takes more than a splashy plant to distinguish itself in the market. Therefore, the question is not what will be the next big perennial, but rather what perennial performs well enough in the garden to have staying power in the market for years to come.

Read More
Heuch Pink Fizz_featured

March 2, 2015

Intergeneric Crosses Are A New Perennial Trend

Intergeneric crosses, oddities some botanists say are an impossibility, have made serious inroads in the perennial world.

Read More
Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Arizona Apricot'

February 25, 2015

National Garden Bureau Designates 2015 As Year Of The G…

Gaillardia, also known as the blanket flower, is a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae) and a long-blooming pollinator plant. It is fitting that the National Garden Bureau has specified 2015 as The Year of the Gaillardia.

Read More

February 18, 2015

California Spring Trials Sneak Peek: New Annuals For 20…

If you're like us and you can't wait until the 2015 California Spring Trials to see some of the new genetics that will be hitting the market in 2016, never fear. We contacted the breeders who will be displaying their new varieties in California in April, and they gave us a sneak peek. Check out our slideshow to see some of the new annuals making their debut to the trade this spring.

Read More
Athena Brazil Salvia 'Brazilian Purple'

February 18, 2015

ForemostCo And Athena Brazil Unite To Supply Unrooted P…

ForemostCo, Inc. and Athena Brazil have forged a working relationship to support each other in the unrooted perennial cuttings market for North America. The partnership, geared toward accommodating increasing demand for unrooted perennial cuttings in North America, adds diversity to a recently consolidated market.

Read More

February 17, 2015

Poinsettias Had Their Best Year In Many In 2014

Poinsettia growers report a strong year in 2014, thanks to a few conditions. Growers were encouraged by high plant quality, enthusiastic shoppers and a stronger, less saturated market for poinsettias throughout the selling season. Seasonal cold at just the right time put consumers in a festive mood to buy early and often, and with no big snowstorms to hold up shipments and a reduction of supply available in the market, the season was strong from start to finish.

Read More
Geranium x cantabrigiense 'Biokovo'

February 17, 2015

Geranium Hybrid ‘Biokovo’ Dubbed 2015 Peren…

Geranium xcantabrigiense ‘Biokovo,' a naturally occurring hybrid of G. dalmaticum and G. macrorrhizum, is the Perennial Plant Association's top pick for 2015 Perennial of the Year. Learn why this tough, landscape geranium took home the prize.

Read More
Costa Farms' Season Premier 2015

February 4, 2015

Costa Farms’ 2015 Season Premier Reveals Newest V…

The annual Season Premier at Costa Farms in Miami, Fla., is the industry's very first peek at new varieties for debut the following year, even before the California Spring Trials, heralded widely as the jumping off point for new varieties. This year's event revealed breeders' best and brightest new varieties for 2016, shown in field trials, landscape trials and containers at Costa Farms tropical trial gardens. Plant breeders presented their new varieties to buyers and members of Lowe’s grower panel. Growers, brokers and other allied industry members, including Home Depot growers and buyers, were also able to peruse the grounds to see how the new varieties fared in the winter trials. Later this season, the hot and humid conditions at Costa’s summer trials will help identify the true performers.

Read More

January 28, 2015

All-America Selections Introduces Additional 2015 Winne…

All-America Selections has announced more 2015 AAS Winners, bringing the grand total of introductions for the 2015 gardening year to 25. The seven winners join the 12 announced last November and six announced last July. This year, AAS has had the most winners in one year since 1939.

Read More

January 28, 2015

Holiday Plant Trends And New Varieties

Growers had mixed feelings about the 2014 poinsettia season according to Greenhouse Grower's 2014 Poinsettia Survey. Read about their plans for 2015 and stay up to date on 14 of the newest cyclamen and poinsettia varieties on the market.

Read More

January 21, 2015

Pantone Marsala Plants To Grow In 2015 [Slideshow]

Marsala, an earthy wine-red color, is the Pantone Color of the Year for 2015, and it presents a great marketing opportunity to showcase Marsala-colored plants for outdoor and indoor decorating. Enjoy this round-up of plants with Marsala hues.

Read More

January 14, 2015

Liven Up Indoor And Outdoor Living With 24 New Tropical…

Uniquely colored foliage and vivid blooms are just two of the great features new tropicals and foliage plants add to energize indoor and outdoor spaces.

Read More

January 13, 2015

Take Purdue University’s Survey On Vegetatively P…

Do you have problems callusing or rooting vegetatively propagated perennials? The Purdue University Floriculture Lab would like to help you with these problems, but first the research team there needs your help.

Read More
Poinsettia 'Charon Red'

January 6, 2015

Dan Schantz Farm 2014 Poinsettia Trial Recap And 2015 D…

The 2014 Dan Schantz Poinsettia trials featured more than 170 poinsettia varieties. Here's a summary of the event, as well as a 2015 date for your calendar.

Read More

December 31, 2014

Engage Busy Consumers With Modern-Day Tropical And Foli…

Contemporary tropical and foliage plants fit right in with the hustle and bustle of the twenty-first century. Their versatility lends itself to countless uses both inside the house and out on the patio.

Read More

December 30, 2014

2015 California Spring Trials Are Just Around The Corn…

Are the California Spring Trials on your schedule for 2015? Before the busy growing season sidelines your plans, use this handy resource to get a jumpstart on registering for your trip.

Read More

December 29, 2014

Top 5 Slideshows Of 2014

These popular slideshows from 2014 highlight everything from new perennials, to new veggies, to California Spring Trials.

Read More