Successful Operator- Nov/Dec 05

April 28, 2008
Written by Anja Sonnenberg.
If you can’t beat them, join ‘em.  This is the philosophy that Marc Brockhausen, owner of Gardenland Garden Centre Inc. in southern Ontario, has incorporated into his approach when dealing with box store competition.
Gardenland Garden Centre Inc. - Operating Independent Garden Centres for Big Box Stores

If you can’t beat them, join ‘em.  This is the philosophy that Marc Brockhausen, owner of Gardenland Garden Centre Inc. in southern Ontario, has incorporated into his approach when dealing with box store competition.

Gardenland Garden Centre Inc. owns and operates Sears Garden Centres in London’s Masonville Place, Kitchener’s Fairview Park Mall and Burlington’s Mapleview Mall. The company’s fourth and only permanent location was opened in April of 2005 in Dundas, Ont.

“The Sears locations were started three years ago. Kitchener first, then London, and then two years ago we added the Burlington location,” Brockhausen says. “We just use the Sears name and their parking lot.  They like the idea of having a Sears Garden Centre, and for me it’s a good name to associate with because they have a good reputation.”

Each spring, Brockhausen and Lauren McKay, district manager at Gardenland Garden Centre, travel to each location to assemble the seasonal garden centres. 

“It takes about two days to set up each location,” Brockhausen says.

Operating as independent garden centres from April to October, each Sears location is roughly 10,000 sq. ft.

“Once customers are inside the Sears locations, it’s Gardenland. Our uniforms, plants, displays – everything is Gardenland.  The only thing that belongs to Sears is the banner and the cash register.”
With hopes to expand in the future, Brockhausen doesn’t just want to limit Gardenland to Sears’ parking lots.

“It’s the idea I like and so far it’s worked very well. We’ve created an independent garden centre for a box store,” says Brockhausen.

The Dundas location, which is open from March to December, is Gardenland’s head office.  Specializing in perennials, annuals, pond plants and a large selection of nursery stock, the store also carries glazed pots, soils, mulches, and fertilizers.

“The whole idea of Gardenland Garden Centre is to go back to the old way of selling plants – the personal way,” Brockhausen says.   “To be able to greet your customer and ask them how that shrub worked out.  It really helps to build relationships.  We greet them when they come in and let them know we’re here, but they’re left to browse and shop in peace.  As retail stores get bigger, they lose the personal touch.”

Keeping the personal touch in mind, Gardenland offers customers workshops that are hands-on and intimate – classes are held with a maximum of nine participants.  Workshops range from Fall Planters, Door Swags, Fall Wreaths, Winter Gardens, and a few whimsical items such as Creative Hat (made of moss and fall décor items) and Piece of Cake (made with a cake dome). Gardenland Garden Centre’s in-house floral designer Sabine Kloosterman-Calame CAFA (Canadian Academy of Floral Art) runs all the workshops.

As with any retail business, Gardenland has its fair share of competition to contend with.
“It didn’t take me long to realize that I can’t worry about everything my competitors are doing.  Our focus is on offering the personal touch,” Brockhausen says.  “We know our prices are fair and our advertising is based on what we have and what we can get the following week. I can’t even tell you what will be advertised next week, but that gives us so much power.   I don’t have to buy in advanced – I buy as I see it.  That’s our advantage.”

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