Late this February, online retailer, Amazon, launched the Amazon Plant Store offering shrubs, flowers, and succulents across the United States. Currently, Amazon Plant is restricted to the United States, but Canadians are beginning to go online to source and purchase gardening products.
We are all aware that retailing is changing and changing rapidly. The key to success is to identify where your business fits into the retail model of the future.
Does Ukraine have Garden Centres? This question has been asked of me a number of times over the last few weeks. Last winter I was invited to Ukraine to work with garden centres and present a workshop to the industry. This was my first visit to the country and new experience for me.
December 2017 – This past August, I spent a week in Chicago where I was the keynote speaker at the IGC (Independent Garden Center) Show. I enjoy Chicago. A walk down Michigan Avenue is, for me, a “must-thing-to-do” to see what is happening to retailing in the U.S. and to possibly identify global trends.
September 2017 – Millennials are changing the way plants are sold, and the more you understand those changes the more plants you’ll sell.
July 14, 2017, Simcoe, Ont. – When organizations invite me to speak at their conferences or train their team members, we start with trends that are impacting their customer relationships. Check out these four customer service trends along with some tips for capitalizing on them to boost your business.
May 12, 2017, Montreal – Retail icon and philanthropist Aldo Bensadoun has stepped forward with a visionary gift to his alma mater, McGill University, aimed at creating new knowledge and developing leaders for the rapidly changing retail industry.
March April 2017 – Questioning whether social media and mobile marketing should be part of your plan? Consider this: the average user spends 50 minutes a day on Facebook – almost an hour! Social media is becoming part of our natural lives – we’re willing to devote a crucial hour to it, even after working 8+ hours and spending time with our families and friends.
February 2017 – The Nannup Flower and Garden Festival is held every year in the southwest of Australia during the third week of August. Last year was the first year that the festival introduced show gardens constructed by both local organizations and landscape designers to provide the consumer with new ideas and solutions.
Jan. 1, 2017, Toronto – The first garden centre in Red Deer, Alberta, Parkland Nurseries & Garden Centre is one of two winners of the 2016 Retailer of Distinction Award from the Canadian Gift Association (CanGift).
January 2017 – Building our greenhouse in 2013 was an adventure from the very start. A rainy summer pushed back our construction by months and we had a deadline that had to be met because we were hosting a wedding in our greenhouse (the greenhouse that didn’t exist yet) in October.
DECEMBER 2016 – It became very clear in May 2012 that I was meant to start a greenhouse with my husband Tanner. Even though I had graduated from Olds College with a diploma in production horticulture seven years earlier, building a greenhouse was not a dream I ever thought would happen. In fact, I had convinced myself after graduating that owning a greenhouse was going to be impossible.
November 2016 – It feels like just a few months since Greenhouse Canada last asked for a “trends” article, but it was actually two years. Time really doesn’t care whether you’re having fun.
November 2016 – In my last article (October 2016) we focused on building sales by removing confusion. In this article I want to focus on the playground strategy in your business.

Consumer research indicates that the main reason consumers are shopping at lifestyle retail outlets, such as garden centres, is that they come for an experience. The product can be purchased online.

One of the keys to building sales is to analyze how you build an experience.

In my DayMaker workshops, group members often disagree that one of the objectives should be happy customers. Part of any marketing plan should aim at making consumers happier – if you do, I guarantee the average sale will increase.

This, then, is the importance of the playground policy. This is a strategy to use space to entertain your customers rather than a space from which you sell product to them. That space can be used in many ways. I recently visited a Swiss garden centre that had converted part of the plant area in winter into an ice skating rink. The plant area was a busy location for teenagers in a garden centre in November … something that is rarely seen.

In my view, the playground strategy should focus on your target market and enhancing what you already do. Many garden centres, for example, have set space aside for garden classes.

Workshops that have intrigued customers and attracted large crowds of gardeners include:

Eat Your Weeds: Consumers are fascinated that many of the weeds in their garden can be used in a salad, soup or garnish to a meal. A workshop organized with a local chef who understands how to engage with the consumer and develop weed tastings in the garden centre will intrigue your customers. Plus, it is something that is difficult to learn from on the Internet, although it is possible.

Grow your Own Blueberry Pie: Following on from the previous theme, more and more consumers are looking to grow their own food. The challenge is how do you prepare it for a meal. The Nurseryland garden centre group in Canada has developed a marketing campaign on “Grow Your Own XXXX.” They have focused on the end product rather than the plant. This especially appeals to millennial consumers who always start with the end in mind.

A garden centre can take this to the next level and the plant manager and a local chef could join forces and do workshops on the growing and food preparation.

Flower Arranging with Vegetables: One of our local florists developed a workshop where they did floral arrangements using vegetables and fruit. This proved to be highly successful as a workshop. They ran the workshops at farmer’s markets, but I can see no reason why this could not have been done in a garden centre.

Secret Gardens: We all love discovering something that nobody else in our circle has discovered. I have one client who starts a workshop in the plant area of the garden centre and then takes the group to private gardens of some of the customers. The day finishes back at the garden centre and shows the plants in the retail area that were on show in the gardens. The garden owners are thrilled to show off their gardens and the visitors are thrilled to see gardens they would not normally see, while the garden centre builds plant sales and loyalty.

All are winners: Brainstorm what can be done with space as a playground to enrich the customer experience and loyalty will build as well as sales.

John Stanley is a retail business coach, consultant, speaker and author. His expertise is in customer focused layout, merchandising, marketing and branding, and customer-focused selling and service. Visit his website at

October 2016 – We are told the millennial is the new consumer and the more we understand that consumer the better our businesses will be. Building sales is not just about millennials, it is about your whole target consumer base and how you can build trust and their confidence while providing them with an experience.
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