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Serving the convenience-driven customer
Written by Amanda Ryder   
The days of heading out to the mall for an afternoon of shopping may someday be a thing of the past. A recent article written by David Friend for The Canadian Press reveals that both the shopping mall and outdoor strip mall are declining in favour of the all-in-one customer experience. Big box malls and warehouse clubs have allowed customers to become accustomed to the one-stop shopping experience where they can find all the products they need under one roof. Customers appreciate that they can walk into one store with a list and check each item off, without ever having to leave the store. Retailers are jumping on this trend to deliver convenience and to keep shoppers in their stores longer, instead of just popping in for one or two products.

The latest example is the new small-concept store being introduced by Canadian Tire. In July, the company opened two of these smaller-style test locations in northern Ontario. The stores house a Mark’s Work Wearhouse, an indoor and outdoor garden centre, an outdoor compound as well as an onsite gas bar. The new layout will make the store more family friendly – now when Dad runs in for a new brake pad, instead of waiting in the car, Mom can tour the garden centre or browse the clothing racks. Maybe she’ll also walk away with a new renovation project for Dad, and a cart filled with all the necessary tools. Loblaws and Wal-Mart are two other retailers that have been working over the past few years to bring an array of products (groceries, garden products, home decor, electronics, clothing, etc.) to their customers via a Superstore format.

Retailers outside of the garden centre industry are also making big changes to keep up with the changing retail environment. In August, Future Shop premiered its new concept store in Vancouver. The store was created to represent customers’ lifestyles and is divided into four quadrants: living, playing, working and on the go. The store will feature more in-store demos and home and lifestyle vignettes to show how technology will not only work, but also demonstrate how it will look in the home. It’s just another example of how retailers are trying to reinvent themselves in a tough economic climate.

So what does all this mean for your garden centre? It’s already convenient for today’s busy shopper to pick up a flat of plants when they swing by their local grocery store for milk and bread. You have to make the trip to your garden centre worth their time and provide your customers with a fresh experience. One great example of one-stop shopping that I recently read about is Jewell’s Country Market in P.E.I., a business that offers customers a greenhouse, a country market, a garden centre, a bakery, a gift shop and ice cream stand – all in one location. Another is Primary Design Florist and Salon in Portage la Prairie, Man., a place where customers can go for a haircut and leave with a bouquet.

Think about businesses that you can team up – it could be merchandising plants at the local coffee shop or lumber yard, creating a kiosk space at your centre for another retailer or adding a fruit and veggie stand. I know some of you are already have a few creative ideas so please comment on our blog to offer up your tips and thoughts.

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