How to Create the Perfect Garden Center Experience
A successfully planned and merchandised retail garden center can create great customer experiences, attract new customers, beautify your community and be profitable.
But what helps make a successful garden center? Mother Nature has a big effect in bringing the kind of spring weather that gets gardeners (and non-gardeners) out buying bedding plants, shrubs and accessories and consumables that increase the dollar buy per customer. But there are ways that you, as an owner or manager, can ensure a more successful selling season.
“You can’t control Mother Nature, but you can even out her effects and bring customers into your garden center, “ says Luc Pelletier, a retail garden center expert who works for VRE Systems in Grassie, Ontario. Luc has been working in retail for over 15 years, and specializes in helping retail garden centers of all sizes to maximize sales and ensure customer satisfaction.
Below, Luc shares some of the factors he pays attention to when working with garden center owners and managers.
- Customer Comfort
Customers visit stores where they feel welcome and comfortable. Make sure your entrance is clearly visible and accessible, particularly for older customers that may have mobility challenges and young families with strollers and young children.
Keep your customer service carts neatly organized near the entrance. It has been proven that having carts available can increase the dollar buy per customer. Your carts should be easy to move, and – more importantly – your aisles should be wide enough so customers can move about freely. Keep the carts clean and in good repair.
Attract customers on chilly or rainy days by adding a seasonal vinyl structure or shade system. These structures also protect plants from cold and intense sunlight. To reduce wind, consider adding sliding and roll up walls. An added bonus is these structures protect your employees as well!
- Displays and merchandising
Plan your customer traffic flow throughout the center. Keep colorful annuals at waist level. Group complimentary colors together – know what color combinations are popular this season. Display hanging baskets by using benches and merchandisers with a hanging bar option (keep employees close by to help). For perennials, display colorful ground covers at eye level, and put taller plants on lower and higher shelves to show their full potential. Tilted display racks with adjustable shelves are perfect for this.
Keep your shrubs and trees neatly organized in rows or bins, and make sure that your carts are durable enough to carry them safely to the purchasing area.
A well designed garden center should encourage your customers to dream and experiment with new plants, color combinations and features for their own gardens.
- Know Your Customer
You should design (or redesign) your garden center with your customer in mind. If you are in an urban area, merchandise and sell colorful, easy to maintain containers that can be used on a patio or balcony in an apartment building. If you are located in the suburbs, devote more space in your garden center to perennials, shrubs and bushes, because these customers have more room for planting.
- Learn, and Improve
After each selling season, sit down with your team and discuss what worked well in the garden center and what didn’t. Analyze what products sold best, and what could be improved. Talk to your customers about what they liked and what they would improve for next year, and even talk to your suppliers, who have seen many other garden centers and may have best practices and ideas on how you can best utilize your space. Taking into consideration your budget, consider adding space, benching or merchandising areas, new products or storage to improve your overall efficiency and improve the customer experience. By adding small improvements each year you can keep your retail center fresh and interesting every year.
“If you keep your customer’s needs in mind when you plan and design your garden center,” says Luc, “you can’t go wrong. Give them a good experience, with a great layout, great products and attractive displays, and they will come back year after year.”
Luc Pelletier is a retail garden center expert at VRE Systems in Grassie, Ontario, Canada. Prior to joining VRE, Luc was a retail sales manager for one of Canada’s largest hardware stores. In his spare time, Luc and his wife Cass love to spend time outdoors enjoying nature with their two daughters.
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