Heat Up Summer Sales

July 22, 2013
Written by Brian Minter
Summer is a curious time in garden stores. Many good operators simply close because the financial numbers dictate doing so may be the most effective means to maintain spring profits. They often open again in fall for autumn and Christmas sales. Larger stores stay open, but after a very hectic spring, many consider summer to be a softer, more relaxed sales time, ideal for staff holidays. Many approaches to summer are based on the demographics of each community, on the style of each business operation and, to some degree, on the summer weather.

Personally, I believe far too many good operators are missing a great summer opportunity. We have worked very hard to get our July sales close to those of Christmas. Think of it this way: most seasonal operators are closed and box and chain stores diminish plant stocks in summer and are doing closeouts on pots, fertilizers and garden furniture. With less competition, you have a new window of opportunity to open. Second, it’s patio time for families with lots of friends and relatives visiting for barbecues. They want to have their yards and patios looking great with the addition of colourful planters, baskets and cool summer colour. Third, folks are so busy today that the plants and baskets they planted in spring often don’t look the best, and it’s do-over time. Have you got all the stuff they will need? Our approach to summer is the same as our focus on spring … it’s a new selling season, albeit a quite different one.

Let’s face it, in summer many garden stores look tired, uninviting, and frankly, not inspiring. Job number one is a complete summer makeover. Not only must the store be cleaned and the displays revamped, but it must also look spectacular, with all plants, both indoors and out, looking fresh and ready for full-price sales, not discounting.

In the hard goods department, it’s problem-solving time! From insect and disease problems to weed controls and nutrient issues, do we have organic solutions? Folks need netting, ties and stakes for vegetables. And baby, is it hot outside! Do we have the best soaker hoses, water wands, sprinklers and hose connectors? There’s an expectation that better garden stores will have quality products to deal with the issues of hot, dry summer weather.

“Staycations” are still the order of the day in our country and while folks have some home downtime, they tend to fix up the yard, as small as that yard may be. Small screening trees and columnar shade trees are in demand, as are colourful hardy conifers and any new lines of hot foliage, like physocarpus “Diablo,” “Center Glow” and “Amber Jubilee.” All the new hardy, compact and colourful foliaged flowering shrubs are also hotties. The interest in ponds is not what it used to be, but natural gurgle stones, accessorized with LED night-lights, are popular and good ticket items.

We grow perennials in bloom for summer sales, and they’ve been a breath of fresh air. Delphiniums, coreopsis, Echinacea, rudbeckias, achilleas and fragrant lilies that perfume the garden are very successful as summer sales. Long blooming hardy perennials, started later to bloom later, look fresh and make nice additions to perk up your perennial area.

Food is always hot, and the new container Brazelberries are great summer items. Early fresh raspberries and blueberries, grown in containers on the patio, are wonderful new additions to the garden. Ever bearing strawberries in baskets and containers are an easy sell. We grow lettuce and other greens in eight-inch and 12-inch pots that can be simply plunked on the patio and enjoyed. Many new container tomatoes and patio cucumbers can be sold all summer long if you have them fruit-ready.

Basil, cilantro, parsley, chives, sage and so many more herbs, combined in bigger pots ready to enjoy with barbecues and summer dining, are really appreciated. Remember: most of the new generation of folks today don’t know the “how to” of vegetable gardening, and they will be delighted to pay for “buy and eat” products.

We create specific hanging baskets for summer heat, and it’s great to see them stand up well in hot weather where others have failed, and to know that they are brightening patios and folks are enjoying success. It’s also time for funky containers with colourful tropical foliage in unique, fun pots.

The bedding season isn’t over. Summer is a new season to be celebrated with heat-loving colour.

Larger, colourful foliage, like cannas, bananas, phormiums and the new cordylines, make great add-on focal points or look great in containers by themselves. The new portulacas, bracteanthas, zinnias, Calliope geraniums, Potunias and Confetti Gardens, all in four-and-a-half and six-inch pots, are great fill-ins, but they must be fresh and fabulous.

Many leading garden stores in our country are doing very well with ladies fashions. This trend has great potential to draw in new business during traditionally slower months and certainly adds interest for our prime customers. It’s the way of the future for lifestyle garden stores.

These are but a few of the opportunities to create summer sales that match Christmas.

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