Seven secrets to merchandising success

June 15, 2010
Written by John Stanley
June 15, 2010 - A lot has been written of late about the power of the social network and how it can be used by retailers to grow sales. I am a believer that this will be the marketing tool of the future, but we should not forget that how the merchandise story is to put together in store is still the most important way of convincing the consumer to purchase.

The way you merchandise and display has a large impact on the return on floor space in the  garden centre. The challenge is what can you do to make your displays stand out from the crowd.

Take a walk down any main street shopping area and you will walk past some displays and not even notice what they have on offer and then you will stop at others and go WOW. Your job is to build those WOW displays that make the consumer stop and stare and then feel they must purchase the product on offer.

So what makes you go WOW and how can you ensure that your customers do the same when they look at your displays?

These are my seven essential secrets that can make a difference, you may say that they are not secrets, but common sense. Take a look at the displays in your business and challenge yourself to critique them as a customer and are they saying WOW to the consumer.
Secret Number One..... Stay Fresh

All retailers are in the freshness industry. The display must look fresh to the consumer. This means you need a plan to ensure that the displays stay fresh. Staleness appears when the customer walks in and sees the same display as they saw last time. This means the display should be changed based on the average customer visit turn around. In winter you may get away with keeping a display on a location for six weeks, but in spring that display may need to change weekly.

I recently worked with a garden centre client where the nursery suppliers guaranteed a weekly
"Your job is to build those WOW displays
that make the consumer stop and stare
and then feel they must purchase the
product on offer."
supply of product, yet the stock holding meant that plants could be held for five weeks. Freshness is also about having the product look fresh and if you can stock less and turn it over quicker than this is an added bonus. Keeping it fresh may mean holding less stock at any one time, but having a larger range of products over the year.
Secret Number Two....Keep it Topical

Many customers buy for now and therefore your displays need to be topical. What events are coming up that you can celebrate with the customer? The key is not the horticultural or seasonal events as every retailer should be doing that as part of their display strategy. What can you do that is topical in the consumer's world that you could relate to plants?

These events could, for example revolve around:
-The Oscars, you could select and promote your own Oscar plants around the film Oscars
-The World Football Cup, you could select plants from the different countries and build them into a display and change the displays as the world cup evolved. I have seen this done exceptionally well in High Street retailing, but never adapted to the garden industry.

When clothing fashion colours are released you could bring this theme into the plant area and have a plant fashion show that relates to this year’s colours.
Secret Number Three...Be Interactive
Interactive displays get the consumer involved with the product. Tasting stations on displays in boutique fruit and vegetable shops have refined this and they know it will grow sales. Being interactive in the garden industry can be a bit more challenging, but those that crack this one will find sales increase considerably. One garden centre I work with has an interactive “theatre station” in the garden centre. It is located in a prime sight line and is used as a potting station or a demonstration area on pruning or for talks provided by the team members or suppliers. The key is it is versatile and can be used for a number of functions. Plus the team know it is a key area in the centre and therefore they ensure that there is always an activity talking place when consumers are around. If it was static, it would be a drain on the business rather than an asset.
Secret Number Four...Provide Education
People come to a garden centre to learn. They want to know more about how to be better gardeners or to obtain more information about plants. This does not mean that we need to pump them with technical information, but to provide knowledge in an entertaining way. Provide them with interesting facts about the plants that are on display, a “did you know” sign on the plant can create the desired interest.
For example:
Did you know this plant was used to make paper? (Tetrapanax papyriferus)
Did you know this is the Camellia used to make tea? (Camellia sinensis)
Did you know this plant is the world’s largest herb? (Banana)
Secret Number Five...Solutions
I have mentioned solutions retailing in previous articles, but it is worth recapping here that by providing solutions we can grow the average sale and word of mouth marketing. A display that provides a solution is a great way of growing sales. The key is to position two products together to provide the solution. It may be an opportunity to multi sell plants. For example a ground cover display with signage that indicates that if you plants six plants per square yard or metre then you could cover that ugly piece of ground in two years and save time in the garden.
Secret Number Six...Humour

Put a smile on the customers face with humour. If the consumer leave your business happier than when they came in you have achieved a great deal in their lives and they are more likely to come back to your garden centre. Have at least one display in your garden centre that provides a smile. The humour can come through the way you have built the display or the signage you use. Give your team permission to build some humour into a display.
Secret Number Seven...Be Colourful
We are in the colour industry, people buy plants to cheer themselves up and they will buy colour. Create simple, but effective colour displays. This may mean painting the bench to match or complement the display or using colour drapes. Build colour in and you will catch the consumers eye.

johnstanley11John Stanley is WA Entrepreneur of the Year 2009 and his business JSA is WA Small Business Champion – Education 2009.  He is an acclaimed conference speaker, retail consultant and author.  For more information on how he can help your business grow, visit his resource-site or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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