April 23, 2010 - The garden industry around the worlds is going through some major changes. More retailers are discovering that this is an attractive retail category to be in and are looking for a part of the action. What does the independent garden retailer do to grow sales in an increasingly competitive market?
First, the independent must realize that they have the opportunity to own the market in their territory and therefore the marketing should be based on owning the high ground.
|Research shows that customer
service is on a rapid decline in the
customers’ eyes. This means that
they believe you and I are doing
worse job than in the past.
The following ten steps can help grow sales:
1. Don’t fall into the discount trap
The winter in the northern hemisphere and the summer in the southern hemisphere have meant few people have ventured into their gardens. The result is that as kinder gardening weather appears the consumer is going to start planting. The “box’ stores realize this is an opportunity and Home Depot in the U.S. has already announced that gardening will be one of their main focuses and that they will be presenting special in the garden department to help drive the business. It is easy to follow the “big” stores and do the same in an independent garden centre. This is the wrong message to be giving out to the consumer from an independent retailer, hold your nerve, do not discount and take a different journey to the “box” stores
2. Sell knowledge as a benefit
In research carried out by my own business last month we discovered that 60 per cent of consumers do not have confidence in the technical knowledge of salespeople. This research was not specific to garden retailers, but it sends a strong message that you could promote your place as a place of knowledge. Inform the customer about your training program and make you team technical heroes in front of the customer. You have to be confident they are knowledgeable, but use it as a promotional tool.
3. Create WOW displays
Have promotions that make the customer go WOW and you can promote the plants on price, but you do not have to discount. You do have to have specific plant WOW promotions. I would change these weekly at present and I would tell the customer that they are changing weekly. I would announce what promotions are coming up. Create some excitement in the garden centre around specific products
4. Plants are drivers
Plants are the driver at present. Use the plants to drive promotions and that you are the plant experts. Over the last few years we have seen gifts; coffee shops and other categories become drivers. I am not saying these are losing importance, just that plants are a driver again and they are one place where we can own the high ground
5. Involve the community
Become the centre for learning. In my local community the “Grow it Your Own” group formed by one of our friends has grown to 60 members in its first two months. They are linking it into the farmers market, but why not link in groups like this to your garden centre. You will have some ready customers who will spread the messages by word of mouth
6. Create customer service heroes
Train the team in basic customer service. I know that you provide excellent customer service and the team know how to serve the customer. But, the research shows that customer service is on a rapid decline in the customers’ eyes, this means that they believe you and I are doing a worse job than in the past. If we are or not is not the issue, the perception is that customer service is declining, that is an opportunity to go out and be a real centre of customer service excellence, but when did you last have a training session on customer service?
7. Sell the package
Sell packages not product. Tell customers through display what plants look great next to other plants. Sell them the plant associations; this is something that the supermarkets and hardware stores will find difficult to introduce. As a plant special it’s an opportunity.
8. Simple sells
Keep it simple for the customer and do not put out too much information on written signs. If you need to provide extra information, put it on a leaflet and hand it to the customer.
9. Offer associated services
You are more than a retailer - the customer is looking for a centre of excellence that can help them create and manage their garden. This is an opportunity to grow the services side of your business
10. Keep up-to-date
Be seen as a leader in the customer s eyes. Promote plants and products that have been promoted on garden program during the previous week. This shows that you are a leader and in tune with the consumer and the marketplace
Don't forget to enjoy the journey - the customer loves shopping with businesses that are enjoying what they are doing and share that with the customer.
John Stanley M.Sc
(Horticulture) (CSP) has been called the leading horticultural
consultant in the world today by garden centres in the USA. A
background teaching perishable retailing in the UK, he is WA
Entrepreneur of the Year 2009 and WA Small Business Champion 2009
Education, was voted 14th of The Power 50 (the 50 most powerful and
influential people in British horticulture) in 2008. Email John on
or visit his website www.johnstanley.com.au