Good news for garden centre owners and operators: customers are coming back to your businesses, and they’re willing to spend. Our 2012 Canadian Garden Centre & Nursery Reader Survey revealed that last year was a good one for garden centres, with the price tag attached to the average total sale up significantly in 2011 over 2010 levels. A majority of our respondents also reported an increase in customer traffic last year, suggesting that the tough times may finally be behind us (see page 14 for the full results of our survey).
I’ve spoken with owners and operators across the country, and there’s one thing garden centres that have thrived rather than just survived the last few years all seem to have in common: each one has established itself as a destination.
It’s not enough to stock a range of pretty plants anymore. Big box stores have trained consumers to expect a one-stop shopping experience. These days, many customers want to buy their patio furniture, lighting and other outdoor décor where they purchase their plants. If your garden centre doesn’t offer that option, they will shop at the local big box store instead. Your store may stand out on quality, but that might not mean much to the customer who simply wants to spruce up his yard with a splash of colour one Saturday afternoon.
Our successful operator profile (see page 12) illustrates the importance of stocking products in a variety of categories and switching up your product mix regularly. This strategy has allowed the Prickly Pear Garden Centre to establish itself as a favourite shopping destination for locals in Steveston, B.C., as well as a must-stop shop for tourists drawn to the area’s local attractions. From plants to statuary to fountains to giftware, the Prickly Pear always has something new for customers to drop by and see. Frequent turnover encourages frequent visits.
To generate even more foot traffic through your space, consider positioning your store as a showroom for the season’s hottest trends. Customers who want the lowdown on the latest looks may come by to browse and wind up walking out with a cartload of new purchases. Putting trends on display can really help your garden centre corner a larger share of the Christmas market. As Michelle Brisebois notes on page 18, the holiday season offers consumers an opportunity to try short-term experiments with trends that they may be reluctant to commit to for the long haul. To help you think trendy when lining up your holiday merchandise, Michelle brings us the inside scoop on the looks we can expect to see rocking around the Christmas tree this holiday season.
Since garden centres often aren’t necessarily top of mind when it comes to Christmas décor, it pays to plan how you will spread the word that your centre is a hot holiday destination. Be sure to check out Brian Minter’s column on page 30 for some holiday season sales-boosting ideas that are sure to build buzz about your garden centre. However you plan to gear up for the Christmas season – or any other season, for that matter – be creative. It’s out-of-the-box thinking that transforms a retail location into a shopping destination.
I wish all of you brisk business this busy summer season and beyond. Here’s hoping that come this time next year, I’ll be able to report even better news from our 2013 reader survey!