The Discount Bin: Does it really work?

June 23, 2008
Written by Michael Lascelle
A well-maintained discount section is essential to a garden centre or nursery.
The word discount means different things to different people. To some it denotes poor quality or damaged products, to others it just means a bargain or marketing gimmick. So when you are thinking about creating a permanent sales area, you have to keep your customer’s varied opinions in mind. That being said, I believe a well-maintained discount section to be an essential part of any or nursery garden centres and nurseries. 

How Much of a Discount?
The percentage you choose to discount your items is entirely up to you – but I would like to at least offer an opinion on the matter. First of all, don’t settle on just one figure because discounted products usually have different values, depending on the degree of damage or wear.

Personally, I find the 20-50 per cent range to be the most effective as far as sales are concerned. Discounts below 20 per cent really aren’t much of an incentive these days, particularly when this can represent the difference between regular retail prices for the same item at various garden centres. Once you start discounting over 50 per cent you can create the impression that you are charging an exorbitant mark-up, which can actually have a negative impact on customer opinion and subsequently, sales.

discount1   discount3 
Above: Ceramic pots are common items in discount bins.
Below: Giftware made of ceramics, porcelain and composites are easily damaged.

  Above: It can be difficult to sell old stock at regular price once the new plants have arrived.
Below: Last year’s ‘odds and ends’ perennials are much easier to sell at discount.

discount2    discount4
What Goes Into the Discount Bin?
Special purchase items – Occasionally, we are offered a reduced wholesale price on discontinued items or volume purchases. It is perfectly legitimate to discount a regular price on these “new” items to facilitate a quick turnover.

Damaged goods – A chipped ceramic pot, a less-than-melodious wind chime, a sun-faded box of fertilizer, a water-stained wooden plaque , the products we sell face many esthetic hazards. Rather than waiting to find a customer willing to pay full price for less-than-perfect items, try enticing potential buyers with an appropriate discount.

Display models –
We use a lot of products for display purposes – items such as pumps for fountains, vases for cut flowers and ceramic pots for planter combinations. Rather than use these items over and over again until they are worn out, sell them at a discount and replace them from time to time.

Products with limited sales potential – One has only to try selling shamrocks after St. Patrick’s Day or red roses on Feb. 15 to realize that some items have a very limited sales appeal. This same principle applies to products with “best before” dates, with the lesson being that it is always better to sell at a discounted price than not at all.

Old inventory – As soon as any product starts looking old or you find yourself repeatedly moving the same items to accommodate new stock, then it’s time to consider discounting them. This same principle applies to last year’s nursery stock, which can be terribly difficult to sell at full price when the pristine-looking new plants arrive. Be they shrubs or giftware, make sure you clean them up.

Don’t Think of It as a Bin
I dislike the term bin, as it denotes a large disorganized area where unwanted merchandise is randomly cast and it’s not surprising that this concept is just as unappealing to your customers. Your discount sales areas should be as neat and well-maintained as the rest of your store. Location is also critical, as a discount area relegated to a dark corner is not likely to garner many sales, and that is the only reason you have created this section.

Specials Drive Traffic
Having the opportunity to create a limited sales category – such as daily or weekly – really helps in spring when inventories can be high and the weather rather unpredictable. A daily or weekly special will attract a small number of your clientele who will visit your garden centre more frequently just to avail themselves of your bargains.

Your discount bin will be whatever you allow it to become – either a junky heap of undesirable merchandise that occupies space, gathers dust and garners few sales, or an efficient means of selling less-than-perfect items by displaying them just like they were brand new product. The choice is yours.

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