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Hey Grinderguy: Should I sell bagged materials at my landscape supply yard?

This question obviously came from a landscape supply yard owner, but it could basically be any soil or mulch yard. Like many others of the same business, this yard sold various mulches, pine bark, soils and many aggregate materials. While it is easy to say yes — space, cost of inventory and ability to load bagged material individually or by the pallet are issues.

While most yards have materials hauled in by bulk truckload, others produce some of their own materials. Different areas of the country use more bulk while others use more bagged material.

Here are a few things to consider:
• With a large landscape customer base, sales can increase by offering the larger, three cubic ft. landscaper bags of mulch or pine bark that enable the smaller landscape companies to purchase and transport materials to the jobsites without needing additional truck purchases
• Most Residential Customers have no way to transport bulk materials.
• Bagged soils and aggregates will increase sales volumes.
• Buying bagged mulch material will generate mostly pennies per bag sold
• You do not want to compete with the Big Box Stores
What about purchasing a bagger?
• Capital costs are low and similar to a pickup truck purchase
• There are few wear parts on bagging units so the cost of operation is low
• Bags cost $0.35 cents or so for clear to $0.60 or more for larger multicolor print:
Volume determines cost. Colors increase cost. Print increases cost as does size and UV protection.
• Clear bags can be used for all products:
The 40lb size is generally used for soil and compost, while the two – three cu foot size is for mulches and pine barks.

Will you generate a better return by bagging?
After purchasing bags, probably not, but sales volumes will increase. Your ability to service all customers also increases. More volume may lead to additional discounts from your suppliers.

Labor
• Bagging can be done during the off-season or slower times of the year
• Two – three laborers can bag about 250 bags an hour
• Palletizing material takes time to stack neatly
So does it make sense for you to buy bagged or buy a bagger?
• Price the bagged material you would purchase
• Ask the smaller landscapers if they would purchase the three-foot bags
• Ask your staff how many residential customers ask about bags for soil, compost and aggregate
• Is your location or store nearer to residential or commercial properties?
• Estimate the cost of purchasing a bagger and production of your own bagged material

Decide what other options you have to grow your business — none would probably be as cheap as owning your own bagging unit.

While I have been in this business a long time, I see new ideas quite often — but not necessarily new products that often. This is a photo of Pine straw, used mostly in the south that I ground and colored during a demonstration last month. The material was colored surprisingly well, ground to the right size and looked great.
Anyone interested in getting a pallet or more shipped to their location just let me know. I will put you in touch with the producers. Retail stores sell for almost $10 a bag and the coverage is almost double that of a bag of mulch. Plus it is a new look and aesthetically pleasing while staying in place when spread. Something new your competitor may not have.

Need help or have more bagging questions?
Dave Whitelaw, The GrinderGuy. grinderguy@askthegrinderguy.com

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