Become a plant show stopper

February 17, 2011
Written by John Stanley
Feb. 17, 2011 - Imagine you are a typical impulse customer who walks into your garden centre plant area. The customer walks around and would subconsciously be looking to find a product that makes them stop.

The customer sees most of the plants displayed in straight rows. The majority of the plants are unknown to them because 70 per cent of those on sale were not available ten years ago.

Take a walk around your plant area in your mind and ask yourself how often you would stop and look at a promotional plant? Be honest with yourself. Put yourself in the shoes of a typical customer looking for your plant show stoppers. Alas, many plant managers forget that one of their roles is to stop customers in their tracks. The result of not stopping the customer is a lower average sale and customers who are not likely to give your garden centre a second chance.

With selling plants becoming more challenging than ever, your Show Stopper Policy is critical to the success of your plant sales area. Imagine what happens when you have Plant Show Stoppers. Customers slow down their walking pace, they start to browse shop, then they discover plants they may not have seen before. Your average sale goes up, plus they tell their friends of the experience they have just had and encourage them to do the same.

Customers walk into your planteria and your job is to get them to stop and look at the plants on offer.  Hopefully if you can achieve that they will be enticed into buying other plants on offer.

Your “Plant Show Stopper” strategy is critical if you are to grow your sales beyond 2011.

In our e-training sessions and on our Members Club, I look at various Show Stopper Strategies during the year. Here is a framework to help you become a Plant Show Stopper Master in your garden centre. Ask yourself the following questions in preparation for a new spring trading year:

1. Does all your team know what a “plant show stopper” is and how it affects your business?


My definition of a “plant show stopper” is the space allocation and display in the plant sales area that encourages the majority of your consumers in the plant area to stop and look at the display that has been created. The aim of stopping the customer is to get them to pick the plant up and make a buying decision. Once they have made one buying decision they are more likely to make more purchases.

2. Does all the team know where the “Plant Show Stopper” locations are in your plant area?

Every store has “plant show stopper” locations. Every outdoor sales area has a power spot selling position in their sales area; it is normally four steps into the plant sales area, once your customer has traversed the transition zone. Every retailer sets up displays that have end cap locations, another area that is a “plant show stopper” location in the plant sales area. Walk the sales area and look at your sight-line locations and ask yourself whether these draw the customer through the sales area. To help you team identify where to locate ‘Plant Show Stoppers” there are a number of video’s on our Members Club to help you with your training.

The number of locations for “plant show stoppers” will vary from centre to centre depending on the size and physical arrangement of the plant sales area, but the key is that all the team are aware of where these locations are and appreciate how important they are to the overall sales in the business.

3. Have you developed a “Plant Show Stopper” display strategy?

Knowing where the locations are is not the key; it is what you do with them that is the real answer and a display plan for the year is critically important. “Plant Show Stoppers” are not about the product, that comes once you have decided what is the message you wish to communicate at the show stopper location. The message can be classified within a number of themed promotional groups. The main show stopper groups used by plant retailers are:

Seasonal: A theme based on the four seasons of the year (in some cultures there are more seasons that can be developed). Creating a display theme around the season provides a message to the consumer that the whole plant centre is changing the merchandise mix.
Colour: Consumers often buy plants on a colour theme and selecting one colour theme for a show stopper is an easy and ideal eye catcher.
Favourites: Consumers like to buy based on opinion and a Favourites plant display can be based on one of the sales team, as an experts favourite range of products, or alternatively a best seller promotion based on consumer buying habits.
Peaks: Christmas, Easter, Mothers Day, Spring and so on are all part of a peak display strategy where the display is build based on a known track record based on consumer demand.
Added Value Solutions: The aim of this display is to sell the solution rather than the plant. It allows you to take plants and other related products from two or more different categories and combine them on a display to provide the right solution for the consumer. I recently saw a fashion show that was displaying shoes, bags and dresses together as the added value solution for the consumer. But, rarely do you see this thinking process in the plant area.
Unique Themes: This is where you can let your imagination run wild and develop a theme that is unique to your plant area. It should be a theme that is memorable as the aim is to get your consumer to not only get involved themselves in them, but to promote it to their friends via word of mouth or the social media.
Back to Nature: Consumers are looking to get back to nature and a theme around sustainability and preserving the nature around us is very much in vogue at present especially where local flora is involved.

 4. Is someone responsible for managing the Plant Show Stoppers?


Many “Plant Show Stoppers” do not perform because they are built and then neglected. A plant show stopper needs to be monitored daily. This will only occur if somebody is made accountable for the day-to-day management of those displays. If they are half empty, untidy or have the wrong product on them these locations will reflect on the image and sales of the whole company.

Establish a plan and make a difference. As I mentioned at the start of this article, 70 per cent of the plants on offer were not around ten years ago. We also have a consumer who has less plant knowledge than in the past. This leads to a marketing opportunity to make a difference in the plant sales area.


John Stanley M.Sc (Horticulture) (CSP) has been called the leading horticultural consultant in the world today by garden centres in the USA. A background teaching perishable retailing in the UK, he is  WA Entrepreneur of the Year 2009 and WA Small Business Champion 2009 Education, was voted 14th of The Power 50 (the 50 most powerful and influential people in British horticulture) in  2008 and 2010. Email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or visit  www.johnstanley.com.au for information on his Members Club and how John can help you grow your business.

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