Are You Bar Coding Your Plants Like Other Garden Retailers?

Are You Bar Coding Your Plants Like Other Garden Retailers?

Chef Jeff's Broccoli for sale at Lowe's Greenhouses FEATURE

The most common way to track vegetable sales is to assign a single barcode for all vegetables in the same size pot.

Editor’s note: Greenhouse Grower RETAILING asked growers and retailers to share their pricing methods in a survey sent out in mid June 2016. Of the 360 responses, 201 were from those whose primary business is garden retail. We will be sharing the results of what we learned throughout July, August, and September 2016. The survey is the first step of a larger project to learn how growers and garden retailers can improve their pricing methods to be both fair to their customers and to ensure they make a profit. 


Using barcodes to track the sales of plants has been widely available since the 1990s, and since the mid 2000s, the majority of garden retailers have used POS systems. So when Greenhouse Grower RETAILING decided to conduct a survey study about how the industry prices its plants, we included questions about how everyone barcodes each plant.

Among those garden retailers who barcode their plants, we saw some distinct trends.

Chart, how retailers use bar codes on their plants


Notice how much variation there is in the barcode methods. The same retailer is likely to use several different barcode methods. Because of that, we see different plant categories on the list of each barcoding method, with the lone exception of succulents. This fast-growing category is just as likely to have one barcode given to each pot size as it is to have two or three. And only a little less likely to have every variety barcoded (the statistics, if you’re interested, are 34%, 31%, and 27%, respectively).

Plants most likely to have every variety barcoded:
1. Trees (85%)
2. Shrubs (83%)
3. Large perennials (65%)
4. Tropical and/or house plants (54%)

Most likely to have only one barcode per size:
1. Vegetables (44%)
2. Herbs (43%)
3. Miniature plants (39%)
4. Succulents (34%)

Most likely to have two or three barcodes per size:
1. Small annuals (45%)
2. Container gardens (40%)
3. Large annuals (38%)
4. Succulents (31%)

Barcoding by genus is not a common practice. Tropical and/or house plants is the category that is most likely to be barcoded this way at 18%. But of the four options given, barcoding by genus ranked as the third most common method, after every variety, and having two or three different barcodes per size.

Many Are Not Barcoding At All

The above statistics represent only those who are currently using barcodes on their plants. Many are not.

We found that although only 36.9% of retailers do not use a POS system, the percentage of those not using barcodes on their plants were consistently higher than that.

A whopping 57% of retailers do not use a barcode at all on small annuals. Shrubs, the category most likely to be barcoded, are not barcoded by 44% of garden retailers, well above the percentage of those who do not own a POS system.

Unfortunately, we did not ask a follow up question about why retailers would invest in a POS system and choose to not use barcodes as a way to input inventory sales numbers.

If you are one of those retailers, please let us know how you are tracking inventory. An updated tracking system like RFID? You prefer manual inventory control? Your answers will be a tremendous help to understanding how you track plant sales.