Greenhouse Canada

Features Retail Trends
Approaching garden retail with fresh ideas

May 5, 2020  By John Stanley

The Orangery in Moscow has developed a personalized shopping experience for customers when the store is closed. Photo credit: J. Stanley

A few weeks ago, I was invited by Greenhouse Canada to present a webinar for growers and retailers on ideas for the marketplace. Cathy Bartolic from Ontario Farm Fresh Marketing Association kindly joined us in the Q&A session to provide a local perspective. While the webinar was mainly targeted towards Canadian growers and retailers, it was attended by companies from many other countries including Germany, South Africa and the USA – a testament to the far-reaching effects of COVID-19 on garden retail.

In the present economic climate, with businesses in hibernation or closing, it is essential that garden centres stay open and are seen as essential services to help with the wellbeing of the population. The worst scenario is what happened in the UK, where garden retailers and growers were forced to close as they were seen as non-essential businesses.

In this webinar, I presented 11 ideas that should be considered and implemented by the industry during these challenging times. Here is a summary of some key takeaways from the presentation:


1. Curb Appeal
As a consultant, I have always stressed the importance of curb appeal to a business. While it is still important, we now need to look towards fast food businesses such as McDonalds, Tim Horton’s and KFC, who understand that curb appeal is important for curbside pick-up

Garden retailers need to develop a curbside pickup option. It means re-laying out the store to make it easier for the team to work and it does involve more team members, but consumers are now demanding this option and we need to have it ready.

2. Grab and Go
Consumers, when they go food shopping, are very much in tune with the need for “Grab and Go” options. In garden retailing, we have always wanted them to linger for longer, but that has all changed. We need to introduce more “Grab and Go” offerings and place them in the best retail positions in the store. “Grab and Go” revolves around finished products and arrangements. Since the labour input is about the same between differently priced “Grab and Go” products, the key is to present the customer with more expensive value-added offerings rather than cheaper ones.

Chladeks, in the Czech Republic, are an excellent added value garden centre retailer in developing Grab and Go products.

3. Home Delivery
Customers want to sit at home, order online and have it delivered. This is why Plantorama in Denmark, who has 11 garden centres, has purchased 22 home-delivery vehicles. The key to success is the number of deliveries that can be done in an hour. The benchmark is three per hour, but this can be exceeded with a “milk run” approach to delivery.

4. “Make and Take” has become “Take and Make”
I was the one encouraging retailers to engage with their consumer in the garden centre through workshops where they could make things and then take them home. Now, the retailer still has to engage with the consumer, but in their homes. They need to encourage the consumer to take things from the garden center, and then via a link or online video, make things at home.

5. Sell “Success” Kits
Consumers want to be successful. Often, they do not engage with plants as they are scared of killing them. They wander around the garden care department and are confused. The answer is in developing “Success Kits”. Take the products away from the garden care department and develop different kits for the range of plants you offer. Provide the materials and instructions they need, and inspire the confidence and trust consumers are looking for.

6. Customer Health and Well-being
At present, there is not a focus on “Save the Planet,” but a focus on personal health and well-being. This is how we MUST promote the benefits of plants.The fact that plants make you happy, reduce stress, clean the air around you, improve mental health, help speed up recovery time from illness, etc. Now is our time to really make a difference.

7. Personalized Shopping
While many consumers are fearing job loss, some still have the money to spend and want personalized shopping. Offer this as service, especially when the store is closed. This is an ideal opportunity to grow the average sale.

8. Floral Friday
The garden centre industry in the UK has revived Floral Friday and linked it to their Greenfingers Charity for less privileged children. How it works is, anyone who wears a floral shirt on a Friday donates $1 to the charity. We need to link to local charities, and Floral Friday is an ideal opportunity.

9. Garden Packs Not Products
For consumers with gardens, they want to make plant arrangements that look good outside. They rarely want one individual plant. Now is the time to show them plant borders and arrangements. Sell them the complete solution, not part of the jigsaw.

10. Promote the Growers as the Heroes
Consumers are now more likely to buy local and that goes for plants, too. Be sure to tell them when a product is grown locally, and put a picture up of the growers as part of the promotion. Now is the time to make growers the local heroes.

11. Keep your message positive
Use positive language with your consumers.”We are looking forward to….” provides the hope that consumers need at this time, whether they know it or not. Do not put negative messages out there. They are coming to us for inspiration and we need to cultivate that relationship.

To provide more garden retail ideas in these challenging times, I am updating the “The Gathering” Facebook page at on a near-daily basis. For more on the points summarized above, watch the recording of the webinar at

 John Stanley is a retail business coach, consultant, speaker and author. His expertise is in customer-focused layout, merchandising, marketing and branding, and customer-focused selling and service. Visit his website at

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