Gifts from the Garden

September 28, 2010
Written by Michelle Brisebois
For most retailers, Christmas can easily represent from one third to half of their annual sales.  Garden centres are perfectly poised to capitalize on this season since it’s about home, hearth and beautiful spaces. A successful holiday retail season often evolves from diversification and while you may be accustomed to selling to people who are buying for themselves, gift giving is a huge opportunity. Your dècor items are excellent gifting options as are your services.  It’s really about making it easy for the giver to choose and
to present.
gifts
 
   

Bundle your services
Many people would love to receive the gift of a lovely garden. Put together some packages at a variety of price points. A garden plan consultation certificate could be presented with a collection of small garden tools which are then displayed nicely in a decorative pot. The gift certificate could be for a very general plan or full on landscaping. People like to give recipients something to unwrap even if it’s a service that they’re gifting so think about the presentation and try to make it a “wow” gift. Promote your winter bird feeders which could be bundled nicely with some bird feed, a bird watcher’s book and even binoculars. Advertise these options in the lifestyle sections of the newspaper alongside of the other Christmas gifting ads. If you have a Facebook page or Twitter feed, plant the idea in the heads of your customers early. They’ll appreciate the suggestions and the chance to avoid the busy malls.

Tradition, whimsy and life events
For Mitisha Follings and Melinda Smitjes at The Christmas Store in Stratford, Ont., Christmas is a year round focus so they, better than anyone, understand the dynamics of the season.  Retailing magazines and trend watchers are predicting that traditional Christmas themes and imagery will be extremely popular. It’s a trend that Follings has noticed is accelerating. “We can’t keep nativity scenes in stock. “We had to replenish in August,” she says. It’s hypothesized that people turn to the spiritual meaning of the holidays more readily during difficult times, hence the desire for symbols that re-enforce this aspect. The Christmas Store also reports that nativity scenes have become very popular gifts for showers and weddings too so you may want to consider a bridal gift registry as a year-round initiative. Whimsical Christmas symbols are also in trend. Think Dr. Seuss and the Who’s down in Whoville and you’ve got a picture of how this trend might look.

Challenging times beg for a smile at something humorous and sometimes, whimsy shows up in the strangest places.  “One of our most popular items is a nativity scene with penguins as the characters,” shares Follings. “It’s actually very tasteful,” she reassures. Some people start a yearly tradition of gifting collectible ornaments so make sure you let people know if you carry any collectible lines. If there’s a new baby to buy for a “baby’s first Christmas” ornament could start a nice yearly tradition of gifting a new ornament to mark each year of the child’s life.

Going corporate
Christmas decorations typically go up late November and retailers are in the game right after Halloween. As garden centres, you can lend a helping hand. “We see an opportunity to develop our Christmas decorating service,” says Follings. “Many retailers and businesses have the same tree and decorations year after year but we can revamp that. By renting them the tree and decorations and then putting it together for them, the display can be fresh and on trend each time.” Think of all of the banks, real estate offices and other retail stores whose businesses would benefit by having customers in the holiday spirit. A wonderful Christmas display is definitely smart merchandising on their part. 

As the recession recedes, businesses realize more than ever that thanking valuable customers and employees is important in terms of retaining them. Gift baskets are popular gifts for business to business gifting. When targeting the corporate sector, having a product line that skews a bit male is generally a good thing. It’s helpful to break out the various corporate occasions where gift baskets may play a key role. Christmas is an obvious place to start and it’s important to understand that these decisions are often made in early fall so your marketing materials need to be ready to go as early as possible. The trick in targeting the corporate gifting sector lies in determining who the decision maker is. Tommy Gomatos of Glitter Gift Baskets in Laval, Que. has navigated this issue many times over the years. “That decision maker may be an executive assistant or even a marketing assistant,” says Gomatos. “It’s generally wise to call and ask reception who handles the gifting process internally.” Glitter Gift Baskets has found that sending a sample gift basket can be extremely effective in terms of being top of mind when the decision is made. It would be great as well to book a face to face with the decision maker and bring a sample gift basket for them to the meeting. Carla Karkheck of Baskits in Toronto often sees businesses rush at the last minute too. “Sometimes there’s a flurry of activity because gifts from other business contacts have been arriving at an office and they suddenly panic and decide they want to reciprocate,” says Karkheck. 

In terms of what goes inside the basket, using brand name products in the baskets helps the giver feel better about their decision to send it. It’s also important to make sure the the food items are fresh and premium. There’s nothing worse than receiving stale biscuits from some obscure manufacturer! 

Think outside of the house
Garden centres can also position their business as the place to find great outdoor decorations. Holiday-themed lawn ornaments are big. Lights, glowing reindeer and Santas adorn many front lawns or roofs. Fall and early November are the perfect time to hold winter urn making seminars to help customers transition their container gardens to a more season-appropriate look. These urns can make excellent gifts as well and the giver can boast that “they made it themselves.”

Your garden centre is in an ideal position to serve your customers’ needs. You stock garden-related gifts that greenthumbs love and you’re a great resource for beautiful greenery and nature-inspired products that help beautify a home both inside and out. Expand your services and give your shoppers a reason to come by in the winter months – it will give them hope that spring isn’t far away.

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