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Adding value to the shopping experience

August 10, 2012  By Canadian Garden Centre & Nursery

Aug. 10, 2012 — For independent garden centres to succeed in today’s tough retail market, Brain Minter believes they must do something the big box stores never will: create a unique, fun customer experience.

Minter delivered his message during the OFA Short Course in Columbus, Ohio, in a talk titled “Taking Value-Added to the Next Level.”  The one hour and 15 minute seminar focused on the importance of making shopping in the garden centre an adventure for consumers.

“It’s not about putting plants on shelves, it’s about creating an experience,” Minter said. Whether you’re organizing kids activities in store, inviting a local chef to hold a seminar on cooking with the herbs sold in your centre, or even bringing in a personal trainer who can lead customers through the perfect workout to get them fit for gardening season, these kinds of activities get customers excited about coming back.


Minter reminded his captive audience that the opportunities to make a store stand out start before a customer sets foot in the sales yard. Having a human being answering the phone instead of channeling calls through an automated directory is a great way to welcome first-time callers and long-time customers and shows a strong commitment to personalized customer service. An eye-catching display out front can attract the attention of drivers who wouldn’t notice your store otherwise. Planters with fruit or veggie bearing plants that customers can pick and snack on as they shop appeal to the sense of taste that’s neglected on most shopping excursions. First impressions are important, so make your centre’s is irresistible.

Once customers are in store, merchandising is key. Minter suggested owners and operators harness the creative talents of their staff to create displays that customers will want to take photos of – and share with all their friends and followers on social media. In fact, Minter said, every display should be picture perfect: you should be able to photograph any display in your store and hang it on the wall as a piece of art.

Last but not least, the atmosphere of your garden centre should encourage busy, stressed customers to slow down and savour their time with you. Is there space in your store for a small café, where customers can sit, sip coffee and soak in everything your garden centre has to offer? How about a section of your store devoted to displaying the latest trends for the outdoor room, set up to help customers visualize ways to bring their favourite looks into their own spaces?

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