Turn up the excitement!

January 19, 2010
Written by
It’s our first issue of 2010 and the new year promises to bring new trends, new varieties and a new shopping season to garden centres across the country. The post-recession economy is slowly, but surely swinging back to life and consumers are starting to pry their wallets open once again just in time for your spring season.

As you begin to ready your greenhouse benches, start to brainstorm your displays and map out this year’s events, keep asking yourself one question – How can you get your customers excited? There’s been a lot of doom and gloom out there and your job is to help people forget the negativity and instead feel confident when they reach your cash register.

Irish garden centre owner and retail maverick Jim Bradley spoke on this topic last August at the Independent Garden Center Show in Chicago. Bradley is the owner of Mid Ulster Garden Centre in Northern Ireland and is known for using innovative and unconventional ideas – to much success – at his business. During his seminar he offered up the following tips to get customers excited about your product:

1. Grab their attention – Bradley advocated the use of huge, attention grabbing signs to get people to notice products. He uses colourful signs in every display, with banners that often measure five feet. He suggested inviting a photography student to come to your garden centre to take pictures. Bradley’s garden centre actually purchased its own banner printer, which made it financially possible to print numerous signs, keeping the centre fresh. Bradley never repeats displays and instead opts to deliver customers something new every time.

2. Be clever and appeal to senses – At Mid Ulster Garden Centre, they call their houseplants “living art” and try to make people think when they read their signage. For instance in the goldfish area, Bradley’s posted a sign that says “fishing permit required” – a fun way to say don’t touch the fish.

3. Wear your product – Like a carpenter equipped with a tool belt, Bradley advises that garden centre owners and employees wear their flowers. Have your employees tuck a bloom behind their ear or pin it to their uniform.

4. Pay for innovation – If an employee comes up with a great new idea, reward them. It can be a simple form of recognition like a free movie pass or an extra day off. Giving an unexpected award will make the staff member appreciate it even more. It will also encourage other employees to share their ideas with you.

5. Spend time relaxing – Some of the best ideas came to Bradley when he spent time away from the garden centre. Take time to regroup and you’ll find new inspiration for the business.

6. Talk with your customers – Ask your customers what their favourite part of your garden centre is. Post their responses to a customer board. The customer will love how much you value their opinion and shoppers will also have a place to read about how great your garden centre is.

Don’t be afraid to try new ideas as you prepare to kick off the 2010 season. Check out Ideas to Grow On starting on page 16 for some great new promotional and marketing strategies that you can implement this year. Venturing into something new creates an energetic working atmosphere for your employees and a great shopping experience for customers. Your garden centre needs to be a happy, optimistic place where they can go to escape, and buy lots of plants, of course.

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