Greenhouse Canada

Features Business Retail
A Good Sign

December 7, 2011  By Michelle Brisebois

If you ever doubt the power a good sign wields, consider the possible
outcome if a stop sign were removed from a busy intersection. Signs
guide us through our day.

If you ever doubt the power a good sign wields, consider the possible outcome if a stop sign were removed from a busy intersection. Signs guide us through our day. They direct us, instruct us and reassure us. Retailing success depends on signage to capture foot traffic and to then convert this potential into sales. Fall is the perfect time to conduct an audit of your signage. You can take the results of that audit and create brand new signs ready just in time for spring. 

Start outside of your garden centre by examining your street-side signage. Potential customers will be travelling past at a minimum of 50 kilometres per hour. Your sign will be competing with distractions such as scenery, traffic and other businesses. Is the font easy to read and does your sign clearly state that you are a garden centre? You’d be amazed at how many businesses simply state the company name without indicating what type of business it is. Locals may know that “The Golden Plough” is a garden centre and you may assume it’s self-evident in the name but now is not the time to rely on assumptions. Say what you are.


Street side is a great place to announce special events. A big sandwich board can trumpet a new plant release or let customers know that you’re back in stock with something that was very popular this season. Will Santa be in the house this holiday at some point? A street-side sign can do wonders to intercept some impulse shoppers.

Now turn your attention to the parking lot. Is it clear where to park? Is handicapped parking evident? If your property is big, people will wonder where to go when they get out of their cars.  Make them comfortable from the start with some way-finding signage in the parking lot. A sign to point towards the main store as well as the location of the landscaping materials, perennials, annuals and trees will map out the key categories of interest to customers. Put a sign over the main entrance so it’s clear which door customers should gravitate towards. Assuming you’ve decorated the outside of your store with lovely plants and arrangements, make sure the signage attached to each plant displays its name, price and location in the store. If it’s an arrangement; the sign should list the plants in the arrangement and a call to action that says, “Make it yourself for $29.95.”

Resist the urge to post a lot of signage just inside the entrance of your store. The customer is adapting physically and psychologically to being inside after being outside and that will distract them initially, so let them pause and adapt for a second. Now look for ways to guide them to priority areas. Hang more way-finding signs from the ceiling to show the various sections of your store. Vessels, tools, décor and fertilizers may be key sections – don’t be afraid to break down your larger categories into smaller segments. Trees can be categorized into evergreens, ornamental and fruit, for example. Think like your customers do and not like an industry insider. Avoid jargon and arranging things to make it operationally easier for you.
Inside of your store, it’s about hierarchy of message. It’s not always best to have every sign in huge bold letters – it’s about the right volume at the right time. The first order of business for a customer is to find the section of the store they are interested in, so the main category signage should be the largest and easiest to read. Once the consumer lands in the section, smaller signage should indicate the subsection – for example, lilacs. When the consumer gets close to the plant, you can provide more details. Yes, the plastic tags provided by your suppliers will list the plant name and offers instructions on care but don’t make your customer pull back the leaves and squint at the small print to see this. Highlight hot items with a big “new” sticker (big red letters are needed here) and do the same with any other effective calls to action such as “top seller” and “only four left.”

When it comes to the look and feel of your signs, keep it consistent and in line with your garden centre branding. Using the same style of font and colours throughout your garden centre (and in your advertising) will deliver a uniform and reliable image that customers will come to recognize. This will also help them locate signage when they scan the retail benches and shelving for information. Emphasize to your staff the importance of branding and give them the tools and guidelines so that signage stays in line.

A new form of technology that might be great to implement on plant shelves is a QR code. QR codes are those square scrolled images you see on billboards and packaging. They’re free and easy to create online yourself (see sidebar). Someone with a smartphone simply downloads an application to allow them to scan the code with their phone by taking a picture of it. The code links to something online such as a fact sheet or, better yet, an instructional video showing how to plant the product and care for it. 

For those naysayers who believe that these codes are a niche fad, think again. ComScore, Inc. recently studied mobile QR code scanning and discovered that in the U.S. in June 2011, 14 million mobile users scanned a QR code on their mobile device. This number represents 6.2 per cent of the total mobile audience. ComScore also reports that a mobile user who scanned a QR code during the month was more likely to be male (60.5 per cent of code-scanning audience), to be between the ages of 18 and 34 (53.4 per cent) and to claim a household income of $100K or above (36.1 per cent). QR codes are most likely to be scanned if codes are found in newspapers/magazines and on product packaging.

If your overall store signage strategy has done its job, the customer will pick up that item (plus a few add-ons to go with it) and then march straight to your cash register. That’s what signage success looks like.

Easy steps to use QR codes in your garden centre
Here’s a guide to help you create QR codes and link them to online video:

  • Create a video to be displayed for the consumer.
  • Post the video online (for example, to YouTube).
  • Go to an online site such as
  • Choose the type of content to be displayed (in this case, URL to online content).
  • Choose the size of the final code – small if it’s to go on shelf signage.
  • Simply copy the URL that links to your content into the URL box.
  • Click on the box that says “generate” to make the code.
  • When you see the code appear to your left, right click on the image and print it or copy it to a file for printing on your signage.

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