Knowing that most people have more important things to do than to read blogs at this time of year, I will keep this brief (who cheered at the back?!).
PLEASE, PLEASE take the time to visit* your big box competitors to look at the pricing of their key items. Some owners and managers do this as a routine strategy but if, like many Local Garden Centers (LGCs) that I see on my travels, you are underpricing the competition – read on!
Two years ago I raised a flag for those clients who were unaware that the Bonnie Plants brand of 4 inch veggies at both Home Depot and Lowe’s had broken the $3 barrier – a barrier many LGC owners and buyers were afraid to cross. In 2013 Bonnie prices were around $3.48, last year they went to $3.68 which also looks like the national price this year too.
Yet I still see many LGCs asking under $3, often well under $3. When I ask why they would underprice Home Depot with such a hot item the usual reply is a lack of awareness of big box prices. Others say that the landed cost to them is just over a $1 so they were getting plenty of margin or the staff didn’t like to charge such a high price on such a low-cost item. (Hmmm, do they know the cost of the actual coffee in that $4.50 morning cuppa?)
The Bonnie Plants brand is probably in over 6000 home improvement stores nationwide and has done an outstanding job to raise the price expectation on a product many viewed as an incidental. (One retailer told me a few years ago that his entire veggy department was less in sales than his Geraniums.) Then along comes the Grow Your Own boom and the TV Food Channels and suddenly that “incidental” is in demand. And big companies know a thing or two about demand curves. They have actually increased a product’s “Known Value”! How rare is that in this trade? Thank you!
So, thanks to these retail giants the American consumer is now conditioned to pay not less than $3.50 for a small veggie or herb plant. Why would any garden retailer miss out on meeting that customer expectation?
No part of this discussion takes into consideration the assumed better plant quality in LGCs (sadly not always the case) or the LGC superior service, often quoted to justify a higher price in other plant material. This is “Opportunity Cost” thinking.
When the market leaders, with more than 30% of the business, put up their prices, improve their fixtures/merchandising and use national ad campaigns to support that brand, why wouldn’t everyone else in that line of business ride along? How many Gross Margin dollars are LGCs leaving on the table?
That’s the Opportunity Cost and any shortfalls should be mentioned by owners at “review time”….
Few LGCs would try to undercut a big box store price in garden supplies, grills or Christmas trees so to do it in the hottest green goods makes no sense to me. Ride the wave and bank the Gross Margin dollars, there are plenty of other products to lose money on!
Have a great spring!
*Editorial Note: I used the word “visit” (vs. looking online) because at time of writing the online price for those 4” veggies on the Home Depot website (for three zip codes across U.S.) is $4.98 – go figure!