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Know What to Grow & Sell in 2015

Take the guesswork out of 2015 crop planning by growing what consumers are actually buying.  Four Star’s bar code sales data from retail shows the most popular plants and combinations sold this year.

Bar code tracking data of actual 2014 sales can help you plan and select the crops to grow in 2015.


Top Sellers for 2014

The listings below are only a glimpse at the complete results of the 2014 bar code program, which is available for Four Star customers.  Here are some of the highlights:

Top 10 Grandes™
1. Diamond Frost® Euphorbia
2. Snowstorm® Giant Snowflake® Sutera
3. Snow Princess® Lobularia
4. Supertunia® Royal Velvet Petunia
5. Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum Petunia
6. ‘Sweet Caroline Sweetheart Light Green’ Ipomoea
7. Supertunia® Bordeaux Petunia
8. Superbells® Blue Calibrachoa
9. Superbells® Lemon Slice Calibrachoa
10. ‘Sweet Caroline Light Green’ Ipomoea

Top 10 Royales™
1. Graceful Grasses® King Tut® Cyperus
2. Graceful Grasses® Purple Fountain Grass Pennisetum
3. Señorita Rosalita® Cleome
4. Superbells® Lemon Slice Calibrachoa
5. Diamond Frost® Euphorbia
6. Graceful Grasses® ‘Fireworks’ Cyperus
7. Supertunia® Bordeaux Petunia
8. Lucia® Dark Blue Lobelia
9. Angelface® Wedgwood Blue Angelonia
10. Superbells® Blue Calibrachoa

Top 5 Hanging Basket Combinations
1. Bahama Beach
2. Party Time
3. Candyland
4. Northern Lights
5. Bermuda Skies

Top 5 Perennials
1. ‘Hudson Bay’ Hosta
2. ‘Empress Wu’ Hosta
3. ‘Hocus Pocus’ Veronica
4. Dolce® Blackcurrant Heuchera
5. ‘Seducer’ Hosta 

Top 5 ColorChoice® Shrubs
1. Tuff Stuff™ Hydrangea serrata
2. Bloomerang® Dark Purple Syringa
3. Invincibelle® Spirit Hydrangea arborescens
4. Spilled Wine® Weigela
5. Inspired™ Pink Buddleia

By tracking actual retail sales of annuals, perennials, shrubs and combinations, Four Star and five retail garden centers are generating a mountain of useful information that can help growers plan crops for next year.  This program, which we outlined in 2013, has tracked bar codes of individual plant stock-keeping units (SKUs) for three years, expanding coverage every year.

“We now measure everything we sell,” says Amber Coch, Garden Ready Sales Supervisor.  “For 2014, we extended the line that some of the five participating retailers carried.” 

The goal of each year’s tracking program is to help growers select crops that are proven sellers, and help retailers carry the right product mix.  The retail and retail/growing companies participating in the program include data from many different locations (one retailer has as many as 50 stores). 

As a result, many of them are focusing on the products that actually sell in their stores.  This information can be critical for growers’ bottom line, notes Coch.  “Some growers have the same crops from year to year, then find themselves with extra flats of unsold plants.  We’re changing the model and offering information to help growers switch production to products that are truly in demand.”

Changes in the Greenhouses

Four Star, too, has changed its production in response to this sales data.  “We’ve changed our structure for finished plants based off the bar code sales data, as well as ample feedback from garden centers in several markets around the country,” explains Coch.  “We want to hear from both retailers and growers on what is selling, and what new products do they want.”

Four Star recently reduced the number of combinations in the 10-inch size, focusing on producing combinations for both shade and sun, and providing consumer-friendly tags that give clear growing directions.

Bahama Beach is the Proven Winners® 2015 National Combination and one of several bright colored combinations that sold well in 2014.


2014 Surprises

Each year’s sales results offer new surprises, such as a growing consumer interest in shade plants and combinations.  Brightly colored combinations came on strong, as did the Proven Winners® 2015 National Combination Bahama Beach.   “Based off our bar coding data, Bahama Beach has been our top-selling basket for the last two years.  This combo was also selected to be the 2015 Proven Winner National Combination based off consumer buying trends,” she says.

Another trend showing in the data is that consumers are still buying heavily later in the season, notes Coch.  “We see this as a huge potential market that many retailers can miss because they close early.  Most big box stores will keep product on the shelves until they have to close them down. The data clearly show that sales continue strong.”

She offered a few tips on selling later in the season:

  • While it isn’t necessary to carry as many plants, it is important to keep them fresh.  Consumers are looking for fresh plants well into the summer.
  • Narrow the selection to focus on popular items.
  • Space plants to get good air flow and keep them looking good.
  • Offer new containers that are different and ‘upscale’ to attract buyers.
  • Market, market, market!

Bar Code Tracking — Retail Game Changer

Jerry Schmitt

Stein Gardens & Gifts operates 16 stores in the Wisconsin market and has used bar code tracking at point of sale for several years.  Stein shares this information with many of its vendors including with Four Star.  According to Jerry Schmitt, Annual and Perennial Buyer, this type of information is key to getting the right product mix across all their locations.  “Without the vast amount of sales data that we get from our POS (point of sale system), it would be nearly impossible to order and maintain any sort of on-hand product levels at each of the locations from our corporate buying office.”

This tracking has helped Stein grow several product lines: “Our extensive Chef Jeff vegetable program and our Garden Stars perennial programs (to name a few) have all grown as result of being able to track the sales of specific varieties and allowing us to share that data with our growers. This helps us ensure that we are purchasing the right proportions of plant material by variety, allowing us to do the best possible job in making sure the product the consumer is looking for is at the garden center.   When we combine that data with what Four Star has shipped us, we can see just which plants the consumer is purchasing — and to the level that Four Star can adjust the liner product.  And to both of our surprise, plant varieties one might not pick up on as some of the most popular were more popular than we would have thought.”

Stein Gardens & Gifts uses bar code tracking to plan inventory for its 16 stores in the Wisconsin market.

 This has dramatically changed Stein’s approach to selling, Schmitt explains. “Before this, we could only guess what was selling from visual observation and feedback, but with no good, solid data to support (% of sell-through, number sold, etc.).”
Real sales data really can be surprising, he notes.  “We learned just how popular the Supertunia® Bubblegum Vista, Superbells® Tequila Sunrise, Surefire™ Begonias and Lemon Coral™ Sedum were in comparison to other varieties.  We knew they were good sellers – now we know just how strong they really are. Add to that some of the new 2015 varieties were really popular with customers this summer, so we know they will be even bigger hits next year.

Schmitt recommends that growers and retailers with systems that support large databases of unique product codes (bar codes) take the time “on the front end” to enter as much unique information as possible. “Work with your vendors and growers towards unique UPC tagging by variety. The time you spend and the information you gain (which can be overwhelming sometimes) will be invaluable going forward.  You will not just have plants on the bench, but you will have the plants that your customer is looking for.”

For more information about the results of Four Star’s bar code tracking program, please contact us at 734-654-6420 or

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