By working with Netherland Bulb Company and taking a close look at the data from previous sales, Mark Malaguerra, buyer for Pike Nurseries, has helped increase the profitability of bulb sales for the company’s 18 locations.

Merchandising and understanding what works best for each store are the keys to reducing throwaway at the end of the planting season for the Atlanta area and Charlotte, N.C.-based nurseries.

“[Bulbs have] been kind of a declining category for a while, but what we were trying to do is make sure that we were able to optimize our margins by not throwing out [excess bulbs] at the end of the season,” Malaguerra says.

Pike Nurseries has been selling Netherland Bulb Company’s bulbs for two years, but sister retailer Armstrong Garden Centers, which operates 32 locations throughout California, had been a Netherland Bulb customer for years prior, and it was time for a change in approach to the bulbs category at Pike.

“The other half of our company is located in south and central California, and they had been using them for a while, and I was looking to change direction in our bulb program,” Malaguerra says. “I approached them and we came up with a new program.”

Netherland Bulb Company was able to analyze the history of bulb sales Malaguerra had given them and personalize a menu for the garden center.

“They were willing to dive deeper from the data I gave them. I gave them the history, and they were able to tailor a program that ensured that we had better sales at the end of the season [and] had [fewer] left over; therefore, increasing profitability.”

Malaguerra says Pike Nurseries cooperates well with Netherland Bulb Co., thanks to the supplier’s strong customer service.

“They have a rep who comes down two or three times in the season just to make sure that the sets are still looking good and the racks are well merchandised,” he says.

Merchandising the bulbs is just as important as having an appropriate supply. Pike Nurseries personalizes the displays for the bulbs to fit their stores by painting the racks provided or using their own products.

“We pride ourselves on having really nice visual merchandising,” Malaguerra says. “Instead of just putting them in a box or something, we’ll get a nice ceramic pot and put them in.”

Malaguerra says he is pleased with the quality of the bulbs but is even more impressed with the Netherland Bulb Company’s methods.

“Overall, the quality [of the bulbs] is really good,” he says. “I think that their biggest advantage is taking a more analytical approach to placing the orders rather than just kind of doing it more by the seed or plants.”