Sickles Outdoor Living

Raising Those Prices: The Follow Up!

Apr 17, 2017 8 Comments

If you are reading this, it must be raining or you just need some light relief, time is valuable for companies receiving 50% of the year’s sales in 10 weeks!  When I said the next blog would about quick-fix increases, little did I know that some of our blog readers would weigh in with such great examples. Thank you for sharing from the trenches:

1.       A Little Can Go A Long Way

For starters, think of easy small increases on big volumes. Adding 25 – 50 cents to something that sells thousands of units in a few weeks, like 3.5 inch vegetables or annuals yields significant extra margin dollars, without raising a flag to customers. Even though it requires extra labor hours to adjust the POS, the work is a good investment. Another advantage of this tactic is that most of these increases can be covered by simply changing the price on a shelf or bed-talker rather than individual item pricing. Just remember to keep those few Known Value items competitive!

2.       Affordable Luxury

Now, think of substantial increases on high ticket lines, which move slower but impact sales when they do. Identify specialty lines such as finished custom-planters, large individual specimen plants, “hot” or unique lines in your area. The things that consumers buy infrequently, such as patio furniture (hot after a recession lull), high-end-grills, upscale yard-art, statues (also hot this year), fountains (ditto), plus high-end or larger pottery: things that often have a value perception based on pride, ego, status or self-indulgence.

Larger increases of $25 to $100 on these less-frequent purchases in the $250 to $2500 range would certainly cover the cost of changing the price. Think of your “outdoor living” décor items that people have gone without for the last few years such as arbors, trellises, shade structures, lighting and benching. Specimen plants have higher value perception. Things like Japanese maples, multi-stemmed birch, flowering dogwoods, trellised fruit or larger trees for shade and privacy also fall into this category. Look at larger plant sizes in the more basic lines that tell a story such as “Hide the neighbors for $300” and sell the emotional benefit.

3.       Convenience Has a Value

A 3-gallon heirloom tomato showing fruit turning color is worth $40+ to many consumers. A pot of fresh, still-growing herbs is worth double those wilting bundles from who-knows-where in a grocery store. Pre-planted pots to “Grow Your Own Salsa” have a higher value-perception as do roses in gorgeous fragrant flower or ready-to-eat snap-peas on a mini-trellis – never mind what the landed price was!

Finally: D.I.N. – Do It Now

Although it might seem too late to change this year, read Ron Vanderhoff’s comment on my last blog (March 28th 2017). Do not wait until the next receiving cycle to enact these new strategies – that could be a whole year away and business costs are rising daily. As product is received, inventoried and put into retail, ask yourself, “what could I get for this item?” Then ask yourself if the total extra cost of changing the price is more than made up by the extra dollars gained. If the answer is “Yes,” Do It Now!

In closing, if you click through the link up there, you’ll see that the interaction “in the comments section” is as valuable and thought-provoking as the original post! So we’d love to hear from you:  what is one item or category you have changed the price on this season, or one surprise you found as you started to investigate pricing?


photo credit: by Ian, taken at Sickles Market

  1. John Heaton
    Apr 18, 2017 at 4:33 pm

    Would you like more money. Just ask for it Raise your prices. If a plant comes into Knupper’s and it is busy and the price tags are already printed, guess what happens. New tags are printed at a higher price. If you figure how long it took and the cost of tags we just made well over $100. or in some cases over $400. per hour. That is a good investment of your time.

    Don’t tell me customers will complain things are to expensive. Of course they will. If you don’t get a few customers complaining about you prices they are way to low. Provide value and you deserve a fair (higher) price.

    I like to disagree with folks who tell us how to do what we are doing. I do agree with all this blog but just because is correct and things actually work as stated above..

    1. Ian Baldwin
      Apr 19, 2017 at 11:52 am

      John, as always thank you for taking the time in spring to lead the discussion. Can I quote you: “If you don’t get a few customers complaining about you prices they are way to low”? Love that one.

      I know we didn’t always agree on this subject in the depths of the recession but 2017 is a very different year to 2010 and retailers must be nimble to recognize that and adjust strategies. Economically we are due for a mild cyclical recession next year, so this is the year to make some money (at last!). Best wishes for spring.

  2. Frank
    Apr 19, 2017 at 5:12 am


    Breaking the initiative, into quickly digestible bites can be a good place to start (pick a grower, category, sub category). We took a look at grower/vendor $/% margins a few months ago and raised prices to address the cost of goods increases, money that we believed that we were leaving on the shelf and jumps in wages/benefits/rent. We will take measure later this year.

    There are plenty of hard goods that rarely does a customer price shop or even think about the price (e.g. plastic saucers, small terra-cotta, etc. – perhaps not high volume/high dollar margin and yet they take space on the shelf, take time to manage/clean etc. and are an important ingredient for the customer.

    Making a pricing move on stunning/floral quality blooming plants that “arrive for the weekend” is one that we have yet to tackle… sounds like fun though

    1. Ian Baldwin
      Apr 20, 2017 at 12:06 pm

      Frank (BTW: that’s Frank Benzing from SummerWinds Nurseries), many thanks for your comments in a busy CA spring week!

      I really like your thought about there being so many small things in a typical GC that the customer doesn’t know exist (e.g. frames to stop perennials falling over) or have any price expectation if and when they find them. That’s the money left on the table, right there. We should be selling solutions to known challenges (we all know that perennials fall over!), not just “stuff.”

      Your next one to tackle is a big category for SummerWinds, “Blooming and color” – good luck!

  3. Angela
    Apr 23, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    We were urged to raise prices, by someone who took a look at our numbers, just before Spring hit. Turns out we were under-priced on a lot of items, and hadn’t come up with a consistent method for absorbing freight costs. As a new proprietor (1.5 years), I was a bit apprehensive about raising prices, but customers didn’t even blink! We’re still chipping away at the increases and are creating a database for tracking it all, but I’m so glad we are doing this, just as we are hitting our stride.

    1. Ian Baldwin
      Apr 24, 2017 at 9:36 am

      Angela: thanks for your note in which you raise a very valid point about freight costs.

      Those “temporary” surcharges applied when gas was almost $4 a gallon didn’t all go away did they?!

      Many buyers still don’t think of landed price, just “show” price or order price and if they do they just add it on after cost mark-ups. In fact freight is just as much a cost of goods as the goods themselves and should be included before margin considerations.

      It’s not easy as an owner to get a feel for price sensitivities, so I am glad you took the steps you did and that it’s paying off. Best wishes for a stellar spring!! Thanks again.

  4. Geoff Olmstead
    Apr 26, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    When I took over the Dry Goods dept of our nursery 3 years ago, I immediately looked at prices and increased soils $1 per bag. I did it against the common thought of everyone in management that customers would balk at the prices, and sales would drop. Did it? A resounding NO!! In fact, our soil sales have increased dramatically over the past few years! All that money just walking out the door.
    Now that I am the Green Goods buyer, I am doing the same thing. We haven’t had price increases in the plant category for a VERY LONG TIME. All the freight charges that you mentioned above were not even considered! Freight has been going up, and not coming down. Wholesale prices generally go up 2%-4% a year. With the minimum wage going up as well, I needed to look not only at raising prices, but increasing efficiency, and reducing labor by reducing handling. So far, everything is working like a charm! Even with a very wet spring, our sales have increased over last year. The average ticket jumped about $4, Gross sales and Net Profit have increased even with a decrease in number of tickets due to the rain.
    I do keep products such as Roundup and Miracle Gro at a lesser margin because they can be found at a Box Store. Thank you Ian for pointing that out to me a few years ago!!
    I have never been afraid to raise prices. And the payoff is undeniable.

    1. Ian Baldwin
      May 1, 2017 at 8:10 am


      Thanks for your great input! Knowing you and the company for a long time, I know it was a tough sell for you to convince everyone at first, but the proof is in the numbers as you point out.

      Your company serves an upscale demographic with a very strong green goods offer, so there is much potential for your increase in margin dollars goal. You carry a wide selection of top quality plant material and as long as you keep those Known Value lines close to the perceived value set by the big guys, you should have no problem.

      Many managers/owners are too near to their product or company to stand back and see the price potential, so when a “new” perspective comes into green goods from hard goods it can be a breath of fresh air.

      Once again Geoff, thanks for your comments validating these blog suggestions. It’s always much more valuable coming from someone who actually does this for a living! Keep up the good work!

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