Editorial: January February 2012

December 07, 2011
Written by
The best way to plan ahead is to look back. In the past year, the garden centre industry has been faced with a number of challenges – including but not limited to the weather. The weather is always a wild card but in 2011 it proved to be even more unpredictable, keeping owners on their toes from the beginning of March right up until now. This challenge was further compounded by cautious consumers; shoppers still haven’t jumped back into the pre-recession spending patterns and they are looking to retailers to give them that extra push.

Because this is our first issue of 2012, we thought now was a great time to take into account what happened in 2011, but also to look ahead to the opportunities of the coming year. Here are a number of areas garden centres should focus on for 2012 and strategies they can read about in this edition.

Determine what your specialty is and who your customer is – Your competition is growing and these opponents are eager to dig into your customer pool. Now, more than ever, it’s important you know what your strengths are and exploit them. Do what you do best, and stop trying to be everything to everyone. Find out what your customer base wants and figure out how you can become the go-to resource in this area.

Expand your service – Introduce a new service to your customers this year. This issue’s successful operator profile (page 10) is Hole’s at the Enjoy Centre, a retailer that took this concept to the next level by creating a retail destination for garden products, local food and wine, home décor, fashion and wellness. Hole’s realized that consumers wanted more and Hole’s wanted to be the people to provide this experience. This doesn’t mean you too have to change your entire operation. It can be as simple as offering free half-hour backyard consultations with a purchase over $100, a delivery or watering service, or a new in-house seminar. No matter what you do, make sure you market this great new addition to shoppers so they can get excited about it too.

Maximize your bestsellers – Look at what sold well last year and give this product special attention in 2012. Whether it’s edibles, organic products, native plants or a new line of hard goods, make sure you highlight it in a display or end-cap to let shoppers know you’re fully stocked.

Get social – The Internet is the first place consumers look for information. They’ll Google you for your address, for your phone number and to look at what kind of products you have in stock. When they are in your store, these shoppers are online on their smartphones, looking for reviews or asking friends and family for their opinions. You need to have an online presence, and social media is a great vehicle for reaching customers, with time as the only expense.

Staff smart – When it comes time to hire extra help for the busy spring season, don’t be in a rush to beef up your roster. Take the time to find people who are eager to learn and excited to represent your brand. And don’t discount anyone because of their age or looks – “Retired Renaissance,” Andrew Hind’s story on page 18, explains why baby boomers are certainly up to the task.

Offer the best of the best – When it comes to plant products, look for quality and look for varieties that your customers will truly get excited about. Michael Lascelle’s story on page 16 pinpoints new introductions to watch out for and columnist Brian Minter also offers up his recommendations, which range from perennials and annuals to trees and shrubs (page 26).

Looking ahead to 2012, it’s far from a picture of doom and gloom. The past three years have been full of lessons to learn from, and you’ve emerged as a lean, more streamlined and more focused garden centre that’s ready to get growing.

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