Grow Your Customers with Veggies

October 31, 2008
Written by
I recently travelled to the Independent Garden Centre Show in Chicago, Ill. and the CanWest Hort Show in Vancouver, B.C. where I was able to sit in on several informative seminars that highlighted what’s going on in the gardening industry. As a result, I came away with a number of great topics and story ideas that you are sure to see in this issue and our upcoming editions (check pg. 16 of this issue to find out how you can ‘Stop Talking and Do It Now’).
One particular idea that I am anxious to tell you about is a hot topic that continually came up at both shows. A big challenge that I heard from garden centre retailers was finding a way to draw younger customers into their centre. Many of these ‘Gen Y’ customers didn’t grow up gardening and have no clue about planting, watering, fertilizing or care about Latin names. They don’t garden for the pleasure necessarily but instead plant for results. They want to have that beautiful yard and backyard to relax in after a day at the office but they feel intimated with all those varieties and are easily discouraged if that container they’ve filled begins to droop. For garden centres that are used to catering to the hobbyist gardeners, getting these new faces into the centre is a dilemma that won’t go away any time soon.

One strategy to reel in those fresh-faced customers is to put a stronger focus on
vegetable gardening in your garden centre and carry more seeds, vegetable plants and
accessories. Place these products in high traffic areas instead of hidden away in a corner.
Advertise the fact that you carry these products, install more vegetable display gardens or set up a vegetable stand. Canadian and American consumers are becoming more cautious about the food they buy in response to pesticide use and food safety issues like tainted
products and are actively looking for ways to supply their own food. According to research compiled by the IGC Show and StandPoint Inc., an independent marketing and research firm, 36 per cent of the young gardeners that they polled said they would be interested in growing their own vegetables and stated that this was something they wanted more knowledge and guidance on. Kip Creel of StandPoint Inc., said that through their research, they discovered that vegetable gardening can really be a gateway activity that helps transform a non-gardener into someone who feels comfortable puttering around in the dirt. It’s a way for newbies to achieve success with plants and gain more confidence with their growing abilities. Another plus is that men may be less hesitant to make the trip to the garden centre if they can tell their friends that they are growing food, not flowers.

Garden centres are just the people to provide this product segment and growing knowledge to young gardeners. You can give seminars on vegetable gardening, do workshops, provide plant care sheets, share tips and tricks and deliver that customer a one-on-one experience. You can even set them up with all the proper equipment to help them get started on their first garden plot. If you have the extra resources and staff, you could be the person who even goes into their backyard to set up the vegetable plot for them and who coaches them along the way. As a retailer, you will be their expert and the place where they continually come to shop for more seeds, plants and soil. Vegetable gardening may be just the way for you to expand your customer base and get those young consumers growing.

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