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Breaking Down Barriers – Adjacencies for Consumer Benefit

August 12, 2011  By Judy Sharpton

We all know what adjacencies are: the basket of lemons on top of the
seafood counter, socks and hosiery next to the shoes, snack food next to
the wine and mixers, brushes next to the paint.

We all know what adjacencies are: the basket of lemons on top of the seafood counter, socks and hosiery next to the shoes, snack food next to the wine and mixers, brushes next to the paint. The practice is so common we hardly notice. These placements are not designed to entice the consumer into buying products they don’t want or need; adjacencies allow the store and the arrangements of products in that store to assist time-starved customers more efficiently. Think of adjacencies as another element of customer service.

An antique bathtub holds potting soil in this corner container gardening workstation. Note the space is an island allowing access from all sides by more than one person. Containers are located adjacent to the work area.  



In our garden centres, we often elect a different method of product placement based not on how the customer uses the products but on our production-driven history; annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees are arranged at retail much as they would be in a growing facility. Support products such as containers, fertilizers, potting media, tools and chemicals each occupy an individual department.

Let me whisper a secret to you: customers want to use all these products together to create a garden. They plant shrubs and perennials and annuals together. They put perennials and annuals and shrubs and specimen trees in a container, or more likely several containers, including hanging, patio and wall. They want those diverse containers to match, not by plant variety but by colour palette.

One method for creating adjacencies is the store-within-a-store (SWAS), a recognized retail concept for brands from Ralph Lauren to Black and Decker and pioneered in our industry by Proven Winners. SWAS is a double-inventory department that allows traditional departments to remain intact while offering the customer a more convenient option. This concept, so common in retail, groups related products according to consumer need and encourages at least one staff person (the Store Champion) to be knowledgeable about a complete product line: annuals, perennials or shrubs and the support products the consumer needs to be successful. It can be applied to any category: products that bring water to the garden, such as hoses, watering cans and fountains, or gardening equipment, such as tools, gloves and hats. The SWAS groups a consumer-based collection of products in a compact location in the store. An added benefit is that the compact location makes using valuable POP easier. Further, like furniture and bath products, the SWAS can be organized by colour, providing the consumer with her most familiar shopping technique.

This cash wrap provides all the space required for a “Do you need?” department. 


The SWAS with the potential for highest margin sales is built around container gardening. This department includes not only premium plants but also all the ingredients for a successful container garden. Those ingredients in that grouping create the adjacencies that allow the customer and the staff to work together efficiently. In addition to plants, the SWAS includes soils, fertilizers and self-help information. Ideally, the container gardening store-within-a-store is located adjacent to the full inventory of colour-coordinated patio containers, wall planters and hanging planters and includes an island workstation for use by customers and staff. One caution: the container gardening SWAS is a visible retail department and must be clean, stocked and signed to be effective.

This container gardening island serves as the hub of this part of the store, easily converting from small group workspace to seminar space.


The other most important area of the store where you must maximize adjacencies is at the cash wrap. By creating a “Do you need?” list for the staff at checkout and locating all the “Do you need? products on endcaps at the register, add-on items such as gloves, fertilizer and pruners are within easy reach and easy sale. 

Stores participating in the 2009 Proven Winners Store-Within-A-Store program used these concepts to increase sales of containers by as much as seven per cent and to increase sales of chemicals and fertilizers by 17 per cent.

For garden centres, there are no adjacencies as critical as those that help the customer and the staff work together to create an efficient shopping environment. Displaying pots, plants, potting media and fertilizer together in a container gardening SWAS, showcasing annuals, perennials and shrubs together in a colour SWAS, and grouping “ingredients” in a place where they can become a garden – these are the adjacencies that the independent garden centre can implement to maximize sales.

Judy Sharpton is a garden centre design and renovation specialist with 35 years of experience in advertising and promotion. She is the owner of Growing Places Marketing.

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