Greenhouse Canada

Features Business Retail
Building the Brand

August 14, 2012  By Hugh McElhone

Always thinking of the spring retail market, consultant John Caney
delivered his powerful presentation plus tips on marketing prowess to
the large crowd attending his seminar at the Toronto Gift Show in

Always thinking of the spring retail market, consultant John Caney delivered his powerful presentation plus tips on marketing prowess to the large crowd attending his seminar at the Toronto Gift Show in January.

Consultant and retailer John Caney of Peterborough, Ont., delivered tips and advice on how to survive in 2012 during a powerful demonstration at the Toronto Gift Show.



Caney, who owns a party supply store in Peterborough, Ont., has also been doing consulting work for about 10 years. He is not afraid to use all of the media at his disposal to get the word out about his business. During his seminar, Caney freely shared his advice on fresh tips, tools and trends in the marketplace, plus some valuable pointers on how to better service customers.

For your business to survive today, it has to have a website that is up to date and speaks well for you and for your business. The site should also provide literature, tips and ideas. “Throw your service out there. They’ll come in to your store and ask what more you’ve got,” Caney said.

Once your website is up and running, be sure to print the site address on your business cards, letterhead, store flyers and on posters hanging in the store. Another good spot for the web address that often gets overlooked is on the sales receipt and store invoices.

Another important feature of the website is an e-commerce or e-business link so your customers can shop online. Ideally you should post your entire database and inventory so customers know what you have and can select and order it online.

As an example of this feature, Caney cited a Halloween costume supplier who closed his store and now does all of his sales online. Customers order and pay for their purchase online and can either have it mailed or couriered to their home, or they can come to his warehouse and pick it up in person.

“Your sales representative better be your best friend. You want the latest stuff from him in your store. You have to remember that 20 per cent of your stock represents about 80 per cent of your sales [and] customers want to know exactly what you have,” said Caney.

The technology surrounding the Internet is still very new and is constantly changing. As an example, Caney said that Google is developing a new social networking app that he predicts will be better than Facebook. He said store owners should not worry about keeping up with the latest technology but rather perfect the proven features that sell products, such as a regularly updated website with e-commerce and PayPal.

“Stick to whatever sells your stuff best,” he added, and do not be afraid to utilize the young, computer savvy people on staff to do your Internet updates. “These updates can be made on a slow day, such as a Monday. Just make sure you keep an eye on what they’re doing,” he said.

A florist attending Caney’s seminar estimated she had sold 80 per cent of her Christmas stock by word of mouth on Facebook. Included on her Facebook page were photos of staff members assembling bouquets, along with product information and testimonials from brides and family members about the floral arrangements they purchased.

Caney suggested store owners build an e-mail database consisting of customer information such as e-mail addresses, phone numbers and even birthdates. This database can be used to send out block e-mails with your flyer, upcoming sales, new stock items or even happy birthday wishes.

To build that database, he suggested putting a sign-up sheet next to the cash register for customers to receive your newsletter. A ballot box can also be used, and in exchange for their e-mail address, customers get the chance to win gift certificates or prizes. “Your customers want to know about your specials, they want to know what’s new. If you have a good product, they’re going to want it,” he said.

Another advertising option is to make your own commercial on YouTube, then send the link to your supplier and post the link on your website and Facebook page. He has done this himself and received 500 hits in one week.

“Blogs are also a great place to share your expertise. They help make people smarter about you and the services you offer.”

Caney also reminded attendees that all businesses should have a business-marketing plan and that they should stick to it. This plan should itemize what to do each month and how to execute it. “It can be for one year or for five. It can also be 20 pages long but it’s well worth it,” he said.

Include in your plan such items as a daily to-do list, and the proper opening and closing procedure for your store. Regular cleaning procedures are also very important, not just for appearance but because a clean and well laid out store is more difficult for shoplifters to rob, he said.

“Make sure your employees are familiar with your business plan and operating procedures so everyone is on the same page and knows what is expected of them,” he concluded.

Samples of his business plan, plus his many tips, are available on Caney’s website at For the price of an e-mail address you can receive his regular newsletter.

Takeaway Tips for Effective Marketing

  1. Make sure your website is up-to-date and reflects well on your brand. Your site should offer customers new ideas for their outdoor spaces, as well as information to help them care for their lawns and gardens. Your website is a great tool to help establish your reputation as the go-to local experts. Perhaps your site can also feature a blog, where you offer regular expert advice on growing in local conditions? 
  2. Harness the power of social media to sell more and build buzz about your centre. Use social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter to announce when you receive a new shipment of a trendy, in demand item. Also be sure to share photos of the eye-catching in-store displays you and your staff have worked hard to create.
  3. Build up your customer email database. Consider offering an incentive for people to subscribe to your mailing list – enter every new contact into a draw for a store gift certificate or even a free plant.
  4. Work together with staff to create a marketing plan for your garden centre. Brainstorm marketing ideas around major holidays and events you’d like to host. Don’t be afraid to include staff in your marketing efforts wherever possible. For example, your social media savvy cashier may be thrilled to take charge of promoting your Halloween programming on Twitter.

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