Baltimore Retail Report

Baltimore Retail Report

If anyone has been apprehensive regarding the effects of the recession on the green goods sector, you should have been in Baltimore this past weekend. Wow, were those consumers out in force and opening their wallets! What recession?

Consumers were out in droves buying garden plants that included shrubs and small trees. It was so busy we had to park 500 yards away from the entrance of a number of Home Depot stores.

Saturday was one of the busiest days I have seen in a long time. It was like a feeding frenzy in some stores. There seemed to be little price sensitivity with hanging baskets at $26.98 moving briskly through the cash registers. We noticed lots of shopping carts with $100 to $200 worth of garden plants.

Home Depot

Home Depot in the Baltimore area is serviced by Bell Nursery, arguably their premier vendor of green goods. Bell Nursery is managing the entire green goods category with great success. It has learned how to integrate shrubs, trees, indoor flowering and foliage, and it has created the finest total merchandising package you will see at any of the national retailers.

When you walk into a Bell store, the Bell merchandising team always greets consumers and answers any questions they have. I have seen them walk customers to a particular product area and explain in detail what the person wants to know. You can tell they hire the best people and somehow find people who love what they are doing. It’s people first and plants second, and that is the hallmark of the Bell success story.

I don’t have access to any of Bell’s statistics, but from looking at how it merchandises stores and the superior product quality it sells, it would be a safe bet that they are experiencing a huge up-tick in same-store sales. Bell’s year-over-year comps have to be strong. The amount of color in their displays is so compelling consumers obviously can’t resist.

It appears Bell is not so interested in selling packs – 4-inch annuals – but rather has a focus on premium products. You see very few seed-grown items in less than 6-inch pots, and its premium lines start at the pint size ($3.98). Home Depot sells only premium baskets, starting with a 10-inch size retailing at $11.98, 11-inch fiber at $19.97 and then moves to 12-inch coco fiber at $26.98. 

All baskets are full and have more color at retail than most other retail outlets. Bell understands the little nuances of merchandising, like making sure high-impact items are close to entrances. Home Depot had awesome baskets of Calliope geranium retailing at $19.98, a really outstanding value.

Bell offers Home Depot a very interesting product portfolio that includes brands such as Wave, Proven Winners, VIVA!, Vigoro, Bonnie Plants and the new Burpee Home Garden brand. It has a really interesting 6-inch Bio Pot line of annuals that is selling at a rapid rate. There is a house brand called Exotic Annuals in a 6-inch pot at $4.48 retail, a mix of vegetative and high-value seed items.

One of the most impressive lines is the geranium offering, because Bell does not put geraniums on the shelves that are not loaded with buds and blooms. One example is the new Calliope that really stood out at retail.

Lowe’s

Lowe’s in this area does not have the customer count in their garden centers you see at Home Depot. It does have a wide variety of products and price points, and for the most part, it offers decent quality.

Brands visible at Lowe’s are Wave, Proven Winners and Garden Club Select, as well as Bonnie vegetables and herbs. There are several other interesting programs, like the Color of Coleus, Yellow Petunia, Strawberry Petunia, and Tropical Accents.

Wal-Mart

Most of the stores in the area are the original concept stores, and there are far fewer super centers than in other areas. Consequently, the garden center footprint is, on average, very small. Wal-Mart does offer outdoor garden plants but doesn’t seem to emphasize them as it does in, say, Atlanta. The stores we walked seemed to be challenged on how to keep pricing visible to the public.

Sam’s Club

Sam’s had a nice outdoor display of garden plants, which were all excellent values.

  • 12-inch color bowl retailing at $7.88
  • Flat of 606 packs (36 plants) retailing at $8.53
  • 12-inch fiber hanging basket retailing at $17.62
  • 10-inch mandevillas retailing at $26.88
  • 3- to 5-inch premium annuals retailing at $9.74

Valley View Garden Center

Valley View is a great garden center that has been in the Baltimore suburbs for probably 35-40 years. It is very modern in its approach to selling lawn and garden products. Valley View knows how to sell plants and is more focused on green goods than hard lines. It was a real pleasure to visit Valley View. I’m sorry there was limited time, but I will definitely return.

Eco-Products

Lowe’s offered a line of 6-inch annuals called Eco-Ease in a biodegradable container. Bell offered 6-inch plantable biodegradable pots they call Bio Pots along with biodegradable trays. Bell and Home Depot offered the Burpee Home Garden vegetable brand in biodegradable net pots. All three national retailers offered the Bonnie Plant Farms vegetable brand.

Eco marketing is slowly but surely making its way into this industry, and we will see much more in the near future. We just have to be sure there is real consumer value attached to each offer or they will not open their wallets.

Vegetables

The biggest news was the test market of the Burpee Home Garden vegetable brand that is being offered by Home Depot. Burpee vegetables are, of course, available in biodegradable pots and come in two sizes – a 3-inch pot retailing at $1.98 and a 6-inch retailing at $4.67.

The brand has developed a line of attractive tags and has POS signs that fit on the end of a grow cart that commands attention. From the stores we visited, the Burpee brand was achieving very high levels of sell though.

For the first time, it looks as though there is a real contender in the vegetables category. In the past, we’ve seen 95 percent of the vegetable offerings produced solely by Bonnie Plant Farm.

Flowering Tropical

Over the past several years we have observed a steady increase in the availability and popularity of flowering tropicals, especially hibiscus, both as garden plants in the South and used in containers and as patio plants in the North.

Currently, we see a tremendous increase in mandevillas. The increase is driven by the introduction of the Suntory genetics and the Sun Parasol series. In Baltimore, I saw hundreds of plants in both Home Depot and Lowe’s, and they all looked fantastic. They’re selling at premium prices. It seemed as though almost every other shopping cart had a least one mandevilla.

Suntory has reinvented the mandevilla category, and everyone is benefiting. From our observations, nothing looked better at retail than the Suntory mandevilla. This may be one of the largest growth categories for the spring of 2009, thanks to great genetics from Suntory and outstanding producers like Costa Farms.

People Before Products

It is clear the renewed effort of The Home Depot to be more friendly and outgoing to everyone that enters the store is paying off. When you enter a Home Depot store, you actually feel like you are welcome – unlike in the past, when the perception was you were a bother to the associates.

This new upbeat attitude is no more visible than in the Baltimore market, where I visited 14 stores this past weekend and was amazed at how many friendly employees we encountered. Maybe some other retailers should follow suit. There is nothing like a positive shopping experience and from the look of The Home Depot this weekend, smiles count.

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “Baltimore Retail Report

  1. I’m so proud to be part of your family – your Mom and Dad would be so proud too !!!
    I printed the report and will show it to all my friends – are you doing business in Alabama yet ???Love ya all !!!

  2. I’m so proud to be part of your family – your Mom and Dad would be so proud too !!!
    I printed the report and will show it to all my friends – are you doing business in Alabama yet ???Love ya all !!!

More From Varieties...
GCA Bathroom Awards 2015 Altums

September 1, 2015

Garden Centers Of America Best Bathroom Awards Announced At IGC Chicago

During IGC Chicago, Garden Centers of America (GCA) recognized a group of independent garden centers for their store restroom designs with the 2015 GCA Best Garden Center Bathroom Awards.

Read More
Growing Solutions Farm Native Plant

August 31, 2015

Growing Solutions Farm Gains New Native Plant Garden

The National Garden Bureau, American Beauties and Midwest Groundcovers have teamed up to provide more than 200 pollinator-friendly native plants to the Chicago-based vocational therapeutic garden for young adults with autism.

Read More
Danish Garden Center

August 31, 2015

How Danish Garden Centers Are Revamping Their Plant Departments

Danish retailers are improving nursery stock and houseplants by altering their growth habits to provide products with unusual or manicured shapes to pique the interest of consumers.

Read More
Latest Stories
GCA Bathroom Awards 2015 Altums

September 1, 2015

Garden Centers Of America Best Bathroom Awards Announce…

During IGC Chicago, Garden Centers of America (GCA) recognized a group of independent garden centers for their store restroom designs with the 2015 GCA Best Garden Center Bathroom Awards.

Read More
Growing Solutions Farm Native Plant

August 31, 2015

Growing Solutions Farm Gains New Native Plant Garden

The National Garden Bureau, American Beauties and Midwest Groundcovers have teamed up to provide more than 200 pollinator-friendly native plants to the Chicago-based vocational therapeutic garden for young adults with autism.

Read More
Danish Garden Center

August 31, 2015

How Danish Garden Centers Are Revamping Their Plant Dep…

Danish retailers are improving nursery stock and houseplants by altering their growth habits to provide products with unusual or manicured shapes to pique the interest of consumers.

Read More
Garden Design Magazine

August 28, 2015

Garden Design Magazine Now Available For Sale At Indepe…

The upscale magazine, which was previously available only through the publisher’s website, focuses on high-end outdoor design and lifestyle trends.

Read More
Steve Bailey

August 27, 2015

How To Set An Attained Margin Percentage Goal At Your S…

One retailer asked this question: Is there an attained margin percentage that is considered a good goal for garden centers and their various product lines? Check out financial consultant Steve Bailey's advice.

Read More
Viola ‘Sorbet XP Coconut Swirl’ (PanAmerican Seed)

August 26, 2015

19 Versatile Cool-Weather Annuals For Beds, Borders And…

Annuals can be versatile not just in their suitability for cool conditions, but in their adaptable use in beds, borders and containers. Here are breeders' recommendations on their top new selections.

Read More
Holly Wilson Wilson’s Garden Center

August 25, 2015

How To Make Your Newsletter More Interesting [Solve My …

A retailer recently asked how to come up with fresh ideas for your store’s eNewsletter, so that it does not become redundant. Here's some great advice the retailer received.

Read More
Farwest Nursery Tour

August 25, 2015

Farwest Show Will Include A Retail-Focused Idea Sharing…

The 2015 Farwest Show, taking place this week in Portland, Ore., will include an Idea Center For Retailers, a comprehensive learning experience focused on garden retail. Located on the main show floor, garden center owners and employees can participate in many sessions as industry experts share advice and how-to information.

Read More

August 24, 2015

Let Us Know About Your Greatest New Idea!

October is "Steal This Idea" month at Today's Garden Center. We're looking for the latest, greatest and most successful new ideas that you've incorporated at your store and are willing to share with your industry peers.

Read More

August 24, 2015

PANTS Show In Philadelphia Canceled For 2015

The Pennsylvania Landscape & Nursery Association (PNLA) was informed by the PANTS Show producer that this year’s show, planned for early November, has been canceled. PNLA is reviewing its options for the future.

Read More

August 24, 2015

Mark Your Calendar For These Gift Shows

Want to enhance your gift department? Here's a look at some of the major gift shows taking place later this year and early next year.

Read More
Ingenico EMV

August 24, 2015

Small Retailers May Face Big Challenges In Complying Wi…

The National Retail Federation’s J. Craig Shearman says it may take a couple years for credit cards with EMV chips to become the norm, but retailers should still begin preparing, or face increased liability.

Read More
Helleborus ‘Winter Jewels Painted Doubles’ (Terra Nova Nurseries) FEATURED IMAGE

August 21, 2015

12 Cold-Hardy Perennials For 2016 [Slideshow]

Your customers are likely looking for plants that can withstand cold temperatures. Here's a look at breeders' suggestions for some of their favorite cool-weather perennials.

Read More
USA flowers

August 18, 2015

Gift Shows Are Focusing On Local Products

Hoping to change the buying experience for attendees, gift show organizers are adapting through technology and a focus on locally produced items.

Read More

August 18, 2015

6 Super Ideas From Product Express

Take a look at some innovative new products that will add a spark to your business!

Read More
IGC East Martha Stewart

August 18, 2015

Eight Insights From Martha Stewart’s Keynote Pres…

Martha Stewart's Q&A presentation with Jeff Morey at IGC East in early August yielded some revealing information about her branding, and how the independent garden center industry can stay relevant in a changing market.

Read More
Geary-Michael

August 18, 2015

Michael Geary Is Leaving AmericanHort

AmericanHort president and CEO Michael Geary announced last Wednesday that he will be leaving his position at the end of September to serve as CEO of the Society for Marketing Professional Services. “I am writing to share with you that on October 8 I will begin a new professional chapter as CEO of the Society for Marketing Professional Services, an organization dedicated to creating business opportunities in the architecture, engineering and construction industries,” Geary said in an email. His last day with AmericanHort will be Sept. 30, 2015. “As some of you know, I grew up connected to the horticulture industry so this was not an easy decision for me,” he said. “I have loved working with our organizations and our talented members, staff and partners. However, my choice to return full time to Washington, D.C. will allow me to be closer to my family and aging parents and to re-engage with another industry […]

Read More
Mother and Daughter gardening

August 17, 2015

5 Things You Need To Know About Young Plant Consumers […

Younger garden consumers think it’s important for children to learn how to grow plants, even though they themselves see gardening as a time-consuming and expensive hobby, our latest research shows. This insight was just one of many unearthed by Today’s Garden Center’s 10% Project as it seeks ways to increase consumer interest in plants and local garden centers. We conducted three focus groups made up of consumers under 50 years old during the late winter this year. These focus groups took place over three days. The first focus group was made up of 18-29 year olds, the second of 30-49 year olds and the third of parents with children between 2 and 12. Our next steps are to develop marketing campaigns based on issues our research revealed, then work with garden centers to use the marketing during the spring of 2016 and measure the results. You may recall Today’s Garden […]

Read More